Sunday, December 6, 2009

Resistance and Choice

The ever-thoughtful Earon Davis asked the following question in response to my last post:

"I am not so clear, though, on the nature of the resistance you write about. Is resistance to the program desirable, undesirable or neither? Is the problem when we avoid it or when we honor it?"

There are several layers here. I think resistance to change - whether it comes from intentional self-inquiry or external circumstances - is neither desirable nor undesirable. It is just our nature. It may, however, be necessary to our human predicament, just as friction is necessary in the physics of our terrestrial existence. Resistance gives us something to "work against", to build up our volitional "muscles".

As for whether we should avoid or honor resistance... The language becomes tricky. We cannot avoid resistance, just as we can't avoid gravity. But we can avoid seeing resistance for what it is - something within us. We rationalize; we blame others; we play the victim to external circumstances. "I can't go to yoga, I'm just too busy/hungry/tired."

Yoga in the Phoenix Rising style can help us see resistance honestly. We then have the chance to consciously choose whether to honor it or to move through it. When holding a posture, we may become aware of an urge to leave the posture. If we observe this resistance closely, we may discover our knees are hurting and decide to leave the posture (or adjust it): an act of loving care for our body. Or we may discover the body feels fine, but our mind is getting uncomfortable with the strong sensations. We may choose not to believe our resistance and remain in the posture. We thereby increase our capacity for staying present with intense experience.

There is no formula that tells us when to honor resistance, and when to work through it. Each of us must do the patient work of learning to discern between resistance that is useful, and that which is not. And the "usefulness" of resistance depends on what we wish to do in our lives - another choice we can make.

No easy yes or no answers in this messy world. It makes things more complicated, but certainly keeps life interesting!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Nick, for your posts and all your good teaching/ guidance. I thought last Saturday's class was so appropriate for the Winter Solstice - esp. the idea of questioning what you want to leave behind in 2009 and what to carry forward into 2010.

    Carrying unnecessary "baggage" is a strange way of creating a kind of "visible" resistance, I think, or as a the rationalization/ avoidance of the real reason for the resistance, as you discuss above.