Synonyms for resistance are fight, struggle, and oppose. Yep, that’s a good description of what I am doing when I resist. It’s not allowing things to be the way they are and trying to change them, at least in our minds.
Annoyance, confusion, and judgment are all forms of resistance, better known as aversion, to what is happening in the moment. Rather than deciding how it should be, can you notice what it feels like to resist? Is there contraction in any of the muscles of your body? Are the shoulders moving down and forward? How is your breathing? What are your thoughts? How do you feel?
Notice the inability to see other possibilities, the grasping of the concept that it should be this way, not that way. Notice the irritation. This is known as dukhha or suffering.
Driving my car is my Achilles heel and I have come to notice how I react (resist) when I get behind the wheel. I have a “favorite” intersection in a town nearby that requires a merging of two lanes. Until recently, it was not clear who had the right of way and who had to yield. Well, I took it upon myself to decide who had the right of way (me) and who had to yield (them) and I was resistant to anyone doing otherwise. I think there were a few other people who also decided to play decision-maker, but apparently they decided that they had the right of way and I didn’t. I frequently met these decision-makers at the intersection and it was always a “fight” to get my way. I would step on the gas and try to get ahead. The other person would do the same and there we were playing chicken. Sometimes I would yield, other times the other person would. What I noticed was that I felt lousy whether or not I “won” and got ahead of them. I finally realized it was a tremendous waste of time and energy and why was I doing it anyway?
I then decided I would notice, rather than react. After a time of observing my thoughts and reactions, I realized it had to do with me being right and not who had the right-of way. Once I saw that and let that go, it didn’t matter how I (or they) merged. I actually could let the other car get in front of me. Shortly thereafter, the town put up a sign making things clearer. I still let people merge in even if I have “the right of way”. It’s a good practice to see if I still want things my way (the right way).
This may not seem like an important event, but it is in the everyday experiences that we have the opportunity to awaken to where we resist. We can start to see the patterns, habits and judgments such as the one I observed; that it was important to me to be “right”.
This resisting focuses your mind on what you don’t want and identifies it as being “bad”. But also notice that grasping at things we deem “good” is also a form of resistance with it’s own bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions. It’s the middle road of acceptance, of not doing, of just being with what is that brings freedom to the mind. For me that allows me to use my energy in other areas of my life, like my work and my family.
“We continue to create suffering, waging war with good, waging war with evil, waging war with what is too small, waging war with what is too big, waging war with what is too short or too long, or right or wrong, courageously carrying on the battle”. – Ajahn Chah