Here's a fresh take on what can be a debilitating force.
By Cindy Yantis
"Focused attention yields the best results." - Melinda Hughes
Melinda is my personal trainer and the owner of The Strength Shoppe, a high-intensity training (HIT) facility in Pasadena, California. And, this quote, from their website, exemplifies what most I've learned from training with her.
HIT is a slow burn, really intense, focused workout where with each weightlifting exercise you exhaust an isolated muscle or group of muscles to a slow count of ten. It's also called Super Slow, Slow Cadence, Power of 10, or Resistance Training.
It takes such focused concentration to get through a set of the slow ten. The tendency is to put all of your body behind trying to lift the weight. That's when Melinda says to direct your brain to focus on the specific body part so that the target muscles are worked to their max. That wasn't something I'd done before.
I was amazed at how when you place your undivided attention, singly, on one body part, you can actually feel the isolated muscle doing its thing. The brain is so powerful. Then, the rest of the body is just there to support.
Toward the end of the set, the weight is so heavy that it barely moves, if at all. This is when the body's flight or fight response starts to kick in, wanting to give up or drop the weight. And, that's when Melinda says to "lean into the fire instead of pushing past it." It is, in fact, what provides the most benefit, leaning into the resistance.
In a recent yoga class, we were holding a lower body twist, for several moments. My hip flexors were screaming at me. That's when the instructor said in her soft zen voice, "Allow your awareness to go to the place of resistance. Focus on softening the edges, the tissues around the resistance. Now, find the place in yourself where you can settle deeper into it."
This all got me thinking about the broader force of Resistance and how it shows up in other ways. Everywhere, to be more exact.
In truth, I've been thinking about resistance a lot lately. What I’m noticing is that as I’m moving up and forward with projects in some new ways and at higher levels that I haven’t tried before, I’m meeting an internal resistance that feels like a gust of wind connected to an electric fence. It can be a really powerful force that pushes and pulls at the same time.
“Where there is power, there is resistance.” - Michel Foucault
THE LAW OF RESISTANCE
There are schools of thought that put Resistance right up there with the other powerful laws of the universe including the laws of Attraction, of Polarity, of Vibration, and of Compensation to name a few.
Jasmine Contor Dawson in "Aliens to Zebras: Dictionary for a New World" defines the Law of Resistance is: "That which an individual pursues in anguish or anxiety, will inevitably remain elusive."
In thinking about this, I was drawn to read again from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” He’s my go-to expert about resistance, which he calls “most toxic force on the planet.” In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to this beautiful, terrible monster.
He says: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” He talks about how it's the root of so much unhappiness and “to yield to resistance deforms the spirit.” Pressfield considers resistance as strong a force field as gravity or electromagnetic, in that it can’t be “seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt.”
It’s an internal force, is always there and its aim is to repel.
He also says this. “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
So, when you're at the threshold, or the crossroads, feeling the pull to where your soul wants to go, succumbing to resistance can keep you at the crossroads. Forever.
LIVING IN THE CROSSROADS
Resistance can also show up as doubt that results in inaction.
According to Stephen Cope in "The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling" - one of the most life-changing books I've ever read - in yoga tradition they term doubt as "a thought that touches both sides of a dilemma at the same time " or "the invisible affliction" that is very powerful.
People have gotten stuck in doubt, and at some point, they came to a crossroads and found "themselves rooted there, with one foot firmly planted on each side of the intersection. Alas, they never moved off the dime. They procrastinated. Dithered. Finally, they put a folding chair smack in the center of that crossroads and lived there for the rest of their lives. After a while, they forgot entirely that there even was a crossroads-forgot that there was a choice."
Ugh! When I first read that a few years ago I felt the floor fall out from under me. It was a huge wakeup call. I realized how I'd allowed resistance to stop me enough, over and over, so much so that I'd set up camp at the crossroads! I became Mayor of Crossroads, USA!
HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS
However, as Stephen Pressfield also says, “Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer resistance.”
In addressing how to get out of the crossroads, Stephen Cope quotes the teaching in the "Bhagavad Gita: the Path of Inaction-in-Action," where Krishna says, "There is a certain kind of action that leads to freedom and fulfillment… an action that is always aligned with our true nature." Cope says this "is the action motivated by dharma. This is the action taken in the service of our sacred calling, our vocation."
So, then it's possible to embrace resistance, as an ally rather a foe.
"In dharma, it is possible to take passionate action without creating suffering." - Stephen Cope
To my way of thinking there’s something kind of comforting about that. When you think about it, if you welcome the resistance and recognize it as a threshold or crossroads through which you must pass to accomplish the next step toward your dream, purpose, and destiny, then when you make it your ally, it becomes part of your journey rather than a hindrance keeping you from moving forward.
"Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you." Hans Solo
When you fight resistance or procrastinate because of it, you're not present. Get present by talking about and releasing the fear that's underneath and fueling the resistance.
LEANING INTO THE FIRE
I know for me, I know when I'm in resistance about something, nine-times-out-of-ten it's something I need to do - for my body, for my work, for my life, for my soul. So leaning into it feels easier, and not only doable but necessary, and powerful.
“If you try to force the soul, you never succeed.” John O’Donohue, "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom"
- Focus on it. As in my yoga and HIT experience, focusing on the resistance softens its edges because your awareness and attention are pointed towards it.
- Be with it. Get present. Being in the now with the force restores inner strength and balance.
- Get vulnerable. Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It's the birthplace of everything we're hungry for…Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. So -
- Be courageous. Lean into the resistance and go forward.
- Get creative. Creativity and spontaneity are energizing positive forces that help counterbalance the negative force of resistance.
And, Trust. Trust in all of these - focus, presence, vulnerability, courage, creativity and spontaneity.
They carry you through the threshold of resistance and across the crossroads of to your soul life, your purposeful life.
Interestingly, Pressfield also says that the resistance is only there when you’re faced with an up level. There’s no resistance going down, only up. Think about that for a moment. So, when resistance comes, welcome it because it only means you're on your way up.
“To fly we have to have resistance.” Maya Lin
So, I’ve decided to lean in, to be with resistance. I know it’s always going to be there. So instead of fighting it, I’m going to walk through it. Take one more step. Stretch beyond what I did yesterday. And, tomorrow will stretch beyond what I did today.
Who's with me?