As Yoga describes, there are two basic kinds of resistance to what is.
The first is Grasping. This is trying to hold on to what passes through our lives. We try to hold on to passing experiences, perceptions, possessions (good word), memories, and so forth. We try to keep things we like from changing. When this fails, we experience loss and grief.
Similarly, desires for future possessions can be a grasping at wants, often with an expectation of satisfaction that never lasts. (cue Rolling Stones)
Grasping at the past (memories) and grasping at the future (desires) shifts us out of the present. Yet life is only ever lived now.
It is perfectly normal to remember and dream. It’s also perfectly fine to have desires. The issue arises when they bind us and we obsess over them. If we don’t enjoy the present, we seek happiness elsewhere. And yet ironically, the reason we don’t enjoy now is usually because of our unresolved past.
The other kind of resistance is Repulsion. This is pushing against what we don’t want. We repel pain, the lower emotions, and much the same list as above. Ironically, pain is a signal something is wrong. If we refuse to allow it, it will stay strong. If we let the signal be heard, it will ease way off.
When what arises is not what we want, we try to resist it. And yet, we can simultaneously invest in these experiences as justification for our stories about life. It doesn’t matter if it creates internal conflict and unhappiness if we can feel justified in our position. This is part of how the ego can feel in control – because it has a story to cover most everything.
For example, we desire a new car but know we can’t afford it. We feel shame, loss, and resistance to the experience. And yet the desire continues, perhaps along with a story of why the car is a bad choice (against the desire). This may lead to seeking new solutions in an external effort to resolve an internal conflict. Complex stories often develop to “explain” our position and justify our feelings. You can hear the mind working it all out, usually disconnected from actuality. We often end up with something half-baked that doesn’t fulfill the desire and never satisfies as we’ve lost sight of the original desire and what was bringing it up in the first place. Perhaps we just wanted to look good to others.
So often, our needs are unconscious, leaving us reacting to their side-effects rather than recognizing and meeting them.
Another form this takes is in relationship. Our partner is likely to have traits we desire and others we dislike. Early infatuation amplifies the first. But we may ignore the red flags in the second. Plus, if our needs are unconscious, we don’t know how to ask for them. If our partner changes, they may well stop meeting our unspoken needs. The relationship may devolve into a dance of resistance and manipulation, conscious or not.
All of this resistance requires a lot of energy to sustain. When we release the grasping and repulsions, we free ourselves from entanglement, from suffering, and from energy hogs. It can be surprising the loads we put down and the energy we gain.
Yet in the West, our mind-driven culture has encouraged many of us to tune out emotions, leaving them to fester. It seems easier to resist feeling than be present. Or we may live in the middle of a drama of blaring, unresolved emotions.
We can’t let go with ideas and concepts. We need to learn to relax into our present experience and make it conscious. In deep samadhi and through direct experience we can release our backlog. Mostly, it’s just our unresolved past, things we never completed and put down.
We may get the help of an energy healer or learn formal techniques. But its learning by experience.
Being able to feel our internal state thus plays a big role. Only by being able to feel can we recognize where we’re resisting or contracting. So the first step is taking the scary move to become aware of how we feel at the moment. How we are now.
At first, emotions may even seem an empty, blank spot as they’re so well suppressed.
Some will also use their senses here. For example, with refined perception, we can literally see resistance (fire and shadow, rajas and tamas). That seeing can help facilitate its release, partly due to how it directs attention. But refined perception itself requires letting go of resistance to such experiences. We have to be willing and able to see.
Yet not everyone is oriented to sight. A friend of mine uses sound and directed attention to help facilitate healing.
Keep in mind, these are first world processes. If we’re struggling to survive or fit in, we’ll not be paying much attention to how we feel. Spiritual development is much more effective if we have a stable life; enough to eat, no safety threats, and so forth. This is akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
With that platform, we can move past our old ideas of self and begin to unfold our full potential.