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Resistance to What Is

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

According to Buddhist philosophy, human life involves pain. We can’t escape it. But what we can make a choice around is the suffering that accompanies pain. But alas, I often find myself in that very suffering. It shows up for me as resistance to what is. I set my goal, get on the path, and then when obstacles present themselves along the way, I tend to find them to be a problem instead of just an adjustment along the path. I put an extra layer of meaning on the obstacle that’s not needed. And that’s when the suffering begins.

Suffering comes from thinking that something is wrong or that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be or how I wanted it to be. The practice comes in the form of accepting the current situation and allowing things to be just as they are. The suffering is wishing something to be different. Some examples:

  • Waking up in the morning with a migraine when I have multiple clients scheduled over the next few hours;

  • Delayed travel due to weather or airplane maintenance issues;

  • Traffic when I didn’t plan on it;

  • Going on retreat, thinking it was going to be silent, and it was only partially silent; and

  • The list goes on and on.

I want things to be how I want them to be. There is a rigidity in that and an element of control. I think I know best. But where, then, is my openness to dancing with the Great Mystery? To embrace the unfoldment that is beyond my knowing?

The first silent meditation retreat I ever went on posed a significant challenge in the first full day of silence. A woman sitting just two rows in front of me was eating something very crunchy during multiple sits. I had an entire inner dialogue going on for several hours. At first, I was seriously irritated. Then, I became angry, enraged. Then, the frustration at my inability to block her out and with her for ruining my retreat experience. But then, something began to soften. I began to find the seriously loud chewing and crunching really funny. It made me giggly inside. And that lightening was the opening to a deeply blissed-out state that lasted about 24 hours. You see? I was naming this thing as wrong when actually, it was a doorway for me. Gifts rarely come in the package that we are looking for or expecting.

I also think we over-focus on what’s wrong. At that same meditation retreat, I remember one of the teachers encouraging me to find moments when everything was great and then to sit and marinate in that goodness. Turns out, there is an inherent okay-ness in most present moments. The more I notice the okay-ness and sit with the okay-ness, the less I go looking for what’s not how I expected it to be. I find that I am a lot nimbler and more flexible. It feels better when I’m grounded in okayness.

It's still a work in progress for me, and from what I see of the world most every day, I’m not alone. When we stop looking for what’s not okay – the slow waiter, a little too much salt, a warmer day than we hoped for, sweat, etc., etc., etc. – and just appreciate the micro-moments that are filled with beauty, the sweetness of life makes itself known.

For me, I find that the tension is often found in a polarity of honoring my needs and going with the flow. I value both. I see the importance of both. And yet, I can often get stuck on one pole or the other.

To help me notice what is occurring when I get stuck, I created a Polarity Map* (pictured below). In the figure, you see the two poles. Above each pole is a list of the positive results I get when I am in right relationship with the pole. On the downside of each pole are the negative results of being over-focused (or stuck) on that side of the polarity. The downside aspects can be early warning signs, if I’m paying attention, signaling a need to shift my energy to the other side of the polarity.

So, if I notice that I am being rigid and focused on lack, or if I notice that I am feeling unmoored and more focused on others’ needs than my own, it’s time to shift!

A final thought… What I’m talking about is so totally and completely (and beautifully) human. I am able to share my experiences in this blog because deep down, it’s okay that this is something I dance with. That’s the bigger picture: It’s not about me trying to fix or change who I am fundamentally. It’s the lightness of the dance in accepting myself and my foibles moment-to-moment. It’s the hilarity of the loud meditation cruncher.


*For training on polarities, I highly recommend Polarity Partnerships. The polarity map included here was a tool I received as part of a training I did with them.


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