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Sitting with Our Resistance

“What we resist, persists.”  -Anonymous

Last weekend I found myself at a meditation retreat steeping in my own resistance. Don’t get me wrong- I love to meditate and have been using a variety of guided meditations to bolster my positivity practice for many years. Meditation is how I got through many sleepless nights, sometimes with profound revelatory moments of peace and insight. So, it wasn’t meditation that I was resisting, rather a very old belief that spiritual truths shouldn’t be taught by those seeking money. It is a resistance I have known for so long that I can’t remember not having it. I was a small child when I learned for the first time how much it cost to belong to temples and churches; and even more vividly, in my early twenties at a meditation retreat in France when the teacher bartered my attendance- in exchange for not having money he required me to stay alone for hours in a dark cave. I didn’t.

 It was an offhand remark from one of my teachers regarding the difference in effect between her meditation and mine that emboldened me to leap over my habitual response and pay the substantial fee to participate. Several other treasured teachers, who I work with on other healing modalities, also gave their convincing testimonials of how this particular meditation practice had changed their lives. Throughout the weekend of very long talks, varied Hindu rituals, and chants in Sanskrit, I struggled- almost right up to the moment of my own private initiation- with the competing feelings of wanting to be open to what this experience might hold for me, and the insistent irritating voices of resistance.

In the quiet, a shift occurred- instead of fighting the voices of resistance, I started asking it some new questions and listening as if to an old friend. As these old memories surfaced, I realized that my resistance wasn’t really protecting me as much as it was keeping me from learning more about what I wanted to know.  When the event leader compared the difference in life of those who dabble in the spiritual (like tinkering with stuff in a basement) to those who fully commit themselves to learning ancient teachings, I recognized myself. He went on to explain how much maturity it takes to learn in a disciplined way and that some knowledge, passed down for millennia, is sacred and deserves protection. At it’s core, every organized religion shares this conviction of protecting and serving its sacred knowledge.

 John Dewey once wrote: “The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.”

In part, this is true because we don’t always have insight into the ways we resist. And like everything that we don’t see about ourselves, it comes to shape us. Like our deepest values, which often go unspoken, our resistance acts like a buffer, shielding and separating us from a great deal of life and our own potential.

 The truth of this spiritual initiation was resonant from the first utterance of the mantra, which I was given as a tool, to guide me into the heart of my own stillness. And even though I have been using a variety of spoken mantras from dozens of meditations for more than a decade, nothing compares to the internal resonance that this sound gifts me. In each meditation I find myself so still, I nearly don’t breathe. Within moments of beginning, I slip easily into a deep peaceful stillness that I have been seeking all this time. I am amazed and grateful and am thinking about my resistance in an entirely new way. In the end, I don’t know if befriending my resistance opened the way for the mantra or if the mantra dispelled the resistance, but it doesn’t really matter… What really matters is the freedom that comes when resistance releases.