Two Kinds of Resistance

Two Kinds of Resistance

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.

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  1. Michael

    Hi David!

    Remember when we talked on an old post about how hard it is for most people to start to feel and just going a little into their stuff? And that you had a much different view because of the long witnessing you were in?

    I have stopped giving people the advice (in person stopped fully; sometimes online still) to buy and and slowly do the presence process by Michael Brown.

    Of course it is a process to resolve the backlog and come into the present but this is soooo hard for most people even those who are at least a little open. I am in a facebookpage of people doing the presence process and the living inquiries from Scott Kiloby and what people ask there just shows that they have not begun to understand this work.

    For most people it seems nearly impossible without outer guidance that they allow some pains to come up even if these pains have plagued them for a long time.

    I see that for the people around me who are open to feeling their stuff how incredible hard that is for them. Going through a few Kristin Kirk sessions seems to optimize their potential enough to start this work in more earnest, but it is still very, very hard for them.

    Scott Kiloby told me that he had worked with a lot of awake people over the years and that most did not want to feel their stuff either. They bypassed their emotional experience with thoughts like “i allow everything as it is” (oh the irony 😉 …”there is no-one here to feel sad etc.” etc.

    So what i want to say is that a lot (most) of people have incredible problems to just feel their feelings without acting on it, without making stories out of it or without bypassing it with whatever is available (just looking for a distraction so that they do not have to feel, …even bypassing feeling by “staying” in awareness). And for most it is not as easy as it sounds in your writting.

    And i think that will be one of the coming evolutions that we really learn to feel without acting on it etc.

    Just wanted to give a different view on this very important subject. This is not meant as critisism, i know you write from direct experience, but for other readers who may struggle with this and wonder why it is not as easy as it sounds.

    Hope that is ok for you as i felt a little nervous writting this even though there was clear signal to let if flow through.


    1. Hi Michael
      Not a problem – I understand where you’re coming from. I write from what is here now so it doesn’t always reflect how things used to be here.

      Yes, I’ve seen similar at various awareness events. I was surprised how many had no clue how they felt. After repressing for decades, it requires new tricks to learn how to feel again. Then how to process the backlog. It can be like a monster under the bed, something they learned to fear when they were very young.

      What will work for this or that person varies. Depends on how their defense is configured. Typically, it’s a gradual process over a few years of slowly becoming more conscious of it. Part of that is simple acceptance of what is here.

      And yes, there is some bad advice out there too. I’ve seen people helped to air their pains in such a way that they get validated and strengthen them rather than letting go. Of course, this comes with a story of blame which can be part of our identity. That makes letting go so much more difficult when its entangled with sense of self. I am my pain…

      Experiential processes are useful there, perhaps an energy healer to take some of the worst off and increase clarity.

      For myself, I find samadhi to be the biggest help as it untangles the bindings making the letting go so much easier. So an effortless meditation gives a good foundation and a more stable inner platform. Then more targeted healing as a supplement.

      It’s easy to forget how shadowed many people are. It amazes me to go to a satsang and have people want to talk about their suffering.

      And yeah – I agree on the awake. It was a topic at the Sophia panel I was on a couple of years ago. Too many spiritual teachers have no support or peers and can get caught in their own world, dismissing the human as illusory, etc.

      There are huge advantages to being awake. #1 being much easier letting go. But we have to engage that and not get dumb ideas about being done or beyond anything. You got a body? You’re still human.

      Maharishi used to say that the mind won’t allow a mood on an “abstract basis”, to just be there. It wants to have a reason for it, so it develops stories (and often blame) for everything we experience, including emotions. This is not helpful for letting go as that conflicts with the story.

      It can be quite the maze. But just by living life and quietly process what arises, we peel the layers of the onion. Like cleaning a very dirty window…

      And yes, the writing can make it sound easy. When it’s clear enough to write about it this way, it has become so. Notice, process, and release. But it took decades to get here. (laughs)

      On the other hand, telling people how difficult it is isn’t always that helpful because the story of it being difficult then arises and gets in the way of the ease of it. The basic process is very simple. But because we’ve not been dealing with this stuff for a long time, theres a Lot of it.

      The other dynamic is rising world consciousness. As more and more shift into working from the cosmic, there will effectively be teams working on the backlog. It will get less and less opaque over time. Easier for everyone.

      On the other hand, we’re in a time of transition that is pushing a lot of stuff to the surface. If we don’t know how to process it, it can make life more unpleasant.

      1. Morten Fidjeland

        Nice, this is a response on a deep, friendly level. I’m not about to brag about anything but there was this meeting with about 70 people when Maharishi said out of the blue; “I want us to be good friends”. The divine reaching out to all struggeling men, just like you did in this response David. Very nice, and thanks.

        1. Thanks, Morten
          Nice to have had that connection. I was lucky to have had a conversation with him, although most of what he said blew right on by as the simple experience of being in the wind of his attention was rather distracting. (laughs)

          1. Morten Fidjeland

            Haha, that’s funny 🙂 I never had the experience of being in any kind of wind in his presence, but sometimes when he causally glanced at you, o’boy, you really had to hold on to your hat 🙂

          2. (laughs) I noticed his presence could be felt outside the building he was in but the “wind” effect only happened if his attention was directly on you.

            When I was directed up to tell him of my progress and ask questions, he was speaking on another topic. He stopped and I stepped up to the mic but then he continued. I stepped back. This happened again. And then he turned his attention on me. Blam! I basically blurted out some things and I dropped into bliss. He went into a commentary I didn’t hear. I noticed he’d stopped talking so I said a few more things. He told me there would be much more.

            When I spoke to others afterward, no one understood what he was talking about or took notes, uncharacteristically. A remarkable and curious experience. (laughs)

            On my course, he hung around longer than planned so 3 of us got a chance to speak with him. I was quite fortunate.

    2. Amaryllis

      Michael, I am glad to read your comment. First, I didn’t know that what you speak of is such a problem, but when I read this, it explained something I have been observing in a group I participate in: “They bypassed their emotional experience with thoughts like “i allow everything as it is” (oh the irony …”there is no-one here to feel sad etc.” etc.”

      Thanks for pointing out the dynamic of what is going; I had thought maybe they were stuck in some ‘advanced’ stage of merging with the void, but maybe they just don’t want to feel their ‘stuff.’

      1. Hi Amaryllis
        There are a number of teachings that encourage you to imitate the experience of someone who has shifted. This not only may bypass emotions but also the rest of the experience. Often it is almost all mental.

        This has come up most commonly with teachers who woke up without knowing how they got there. However, it’s also spread to become a more general practice.

        I touched on the issues a bit in the more recent Mindfulness article too.

      2. Once there is some wakefulness or presence there, some of the techniques have a little more value. If someone has a gentle awakening, it can be helpful to culture it too. Otherwise, there can be the tendency to fall back into the mind more.

        But the key to all of it is touching into source, then engaging in activity to integrate it.

        I found a value of mindfulness arose spontaneously but never needed to make it a formal practice. Just noticing what is here, helping to make it conscious while spending most of the life involved in the life itself.

  2. K

    Yes – these are first world processes. By first world I would assume material circumstances rather than geographical location. One of the surprising observations I heard from someone was that I tended to defer emotional processing – so the aftershocks come many years later sometimes. This may be related to the luxury of having time or not for this emotional work. I thought that emotions were a messy correlate of being human and did not have much to do with spiritual aspects of life – but actually it appears that emotions are what teaches us what human is and it almost seems that there is only human. I.e. even spiritual aspirations are really driven by emotional needs (at my stage anyway) so to be human is to have a spiritual practice to varying degrees (like people may have an exercise regimen ranging from 0 to 100).

    1. Hi K
      Interesting question. It’s related to material but really is more about an internal sense of sufficiency. If we’re able to spend the time and attention to center within and have the resources show up to support a process. (externally or internally)

      We can certainly have periods of time where such things are more back-burner, like having a new-born. But there needs to be a chance for a conscious process to get underway.

      Most people have a backlog of unprocessed emotions. It’s very typical. When there is such, it seems a big soup of sludge. Like an endless pile of work.

      But once there is enough cleared, everything becomes much clearer and a bunch of benefits come online. Emotions then add a richness. They’re basically a subjective way of experiencing flows of energy, so they can also have a lot of meaning. Our inner state, trends of time, intuition, how others are, and much more is right there.

      Really, none of it is separate. If spirituality is about our universal nature, then it infuses everything – our physicality, emotions, mind, and more. Anything that binds us to emotions, thoughts, etc is a limitation on universality. So the spiritual process is one of letting go of bindings. Then what is universal can live through us.

      It is true that our spiritual quest is often at first (apparently) driven by a person with needs. But really, thats just the person laying claim to it. (it took me awhile to get clear on that myself) 🙂

      The degree of our spiritual practice is also driven by things beyond our typical awareness. It will be a mixture of formal practices and the way we are with life and the world. I know some with little formal practice who have a profound and evolutionary way with the world. But such people tend to come in that way. Most of us need lots of practice. (laughs)

  3. The main point of a post like this is to help make our internal dynamics more conscious. By “waking up” another layer of ourselves, we can resolve any impediments to clarity and the smooth flow of life.

    There is little point in having an expectation of how this is supposed to be or what our internal dynamics are. Each of us are unique variations of expression with our own ways of resisting and suppressing. Each us of us will find our own path and process.

    It’s becoming familiar with those aspects of ourself that have been long shadowed or forgotten. Then they can come alive.

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