Resistance is Futile

“Change is never painful. Only resistance to change is painful.” ~ Buddha

My husband, Burke, and I were stuck in traffic at Short Pump Town Center during the last few shopping days before Christmas. We had an appointment, which Google Maps said was 7 minutes away, but after 3 light changes, we knew we weren’t going to make it. As the light turned red for the third time, Burke started swearing and I became frustrated with him for losing his temper. Why couldn’t he accept, rather than resist, something neither of us could control??

The larger question dawned on me at 3am when, as is typical these days, I lay awake in bed: Why couldn’t I resist his resistance? (And why the @#$* am I not able to sleep again??)

Learning to accept what is, moment to moment, is probably the most enlightening thing I’ve learned from my 18+ years of practicing yoga. As you can see from the above, it’s still a work in progress.

What I continue to learn is this:

  • As Buddha and numerous other spiritual teachers have pointed out, we can return to a more peaceful state of mind by letting go of what we think our experience ought to be and accept it as it is.
  • When I find something that disturbs me or makes me unhappy and I resist, it seems to linger longer. If I can allow it all, even the ugliness, even the most challenging, to come fully just as it is, I’m better able to let it go.
  • Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Row down the stream with flow, not against the stream with resistance.
  • Try to say "yes" to the present moment. Eckhart Tolle asks, what could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to something that already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now?
  • Accept, then act if appropriate. Late for an appointment? Call! Hamstrings singing to you in Down Dog? Bend your knees! Not happy with hate speech? Be vocal in your opposition!
  •  If action is appropriate, you’ll no longer react from your conditioned mind, you’ll respond to the situation out of your conscious presence.
  • Peter Russell says that this is what is meant by a quiet mind. Not an empty mind. We’re aware of the world just as before. Aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts and feelings. We’re simply allowing our experience to be as it is. Not wishing for something different, not creating unnecessary discontent, but observing what is and then perhaps in the next moment, moving forward from there.      

I realize that traffic is an easy example of things not going our way and that there are life circumstances much more difficult to accept. Harder to grasp in those more difficult cases, though, is the same lesson: resistance is futile.