Saturday, December 5, 2009


A recent topic in the training: how to help participants stay present with their resistance to the program. As Newton put it in his First Law of Motion: objects at rest will tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion will tend to stay in motion, unless acted on by a force. Humans are the same way - we resist change, it takes work to move us. This is not a problem in itself. It is only natural. But often, when we encounter resistance - in ourselves or in the world - we are tempted to give up. Somehow we get the idea that resistance is a problem, a sign of personal failure.

I found an interesting description of this dynamic in the book The Magician Within: Accessing The Shaman Archetype in the Male Psyche. It discusses the classic stages of the shaman's journey:
The seventh stage almost always holds a trial or a persecution... Why a trial or persecution? Because human beings are virtuosos of denial. People work carefully to be unaware of any problem when awareness might require taking an active part in finding a solution. The trial comes because the Magician knows too many uncomfortable truths and calls for action... If we consider the story of Jesus in this respect, we see a man who knows a lot, reveals a lot, and is killed for his efforts. But interestingly the myth's tenth stage [resurrection] suggests how hard it is to kill the truth. (page 68)
The essence of the Magician archetype is the Knower of Mystery. It's part of all of us. And just as other people can get uncomfortable when a Prophet speaks what is true and calls for action, the same is true for the inner community that is our personality.

Resistance arises in a yoga practice - or any personal growth work - when the truth we are uncovering starts to challenge the status quo. "Wow, I am so much stronger than I realized. I guess I don't have to be a victim to my life. I can be more proactive and ask for what I need. But I've always been so easy-going... what will other people think?"

The art of facilitating change lies in helping people feel safe enough to stay with resistance and keep going, to allow old ways of being to fall away, and a new self to be born. (This is one way to understand the story of Jesus archetypally.)


  1. Nice insights, Nick. 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? Sorry if these questions seem very elementary.

  2. No, the questions are not elementary. In fact, they are essential. I will address them in my next post. Thanks for reading!