Against the Current: Honoring Our Resistance

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 064We’ve been experiencing regular rainfall—so far—this past month, and that means the winds have blown from the southeast at times. It’s startling to gaze out the window and see the river flowing north, against the current, kind of a “what’s wrong with this picture?” puzzle until it’s named and understood.

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 065I couldn’t help but see the metaphor this presented for the resistance, or blocks, we encounter on our journeys through life. Our minds, bodies, and spirits resist change, challenges to our status quo, surprises to our routines, and threats to the directions we’re headed, and our wiser companions (dead and living) consistently invite us to notice our resistance, name it, and move along.

However, I’ve not often encountered the idea that I should honor my resistance, be with it fully and unpack its messages with gratitude before setting out again. Prompted by the river’s seeming ease while flowing in either direction, I’ve been pondering the value of acknowledging my resistance and its partner, denial, with hospitality, rather than responding to them as unpleasant messes I need to scrape off my shoe, quickly purging them from my spirit while apologizing to the Universe for being such a dim-witted gob, before zooming brilliantly on towards enlightenment, unencumbered by such glaring hesitancy.

So many gifts and blessings on our spiritual—and emotional—journey seem to derive from an acceptance of “what is,” a constant adaptability and reframing that, ultimately, lead us to enter the unity of all, and join our energy with that of the Love/Creator generating reality, that I’m not sure why a more gentle handling of our reluctance to take the next step isn’t more greatly emphasized and kindly embraced. She who hesitates may sometimes be found. Discernment shouldn’t be about merely overcoming resistance, but about listening, in stillness, for its wisdom as well.

Strom warning, gardens 119I’m not advocating Better Living Through Prolonged Avoidance. As a spiritual director, I know that a tight embrace of our denial ultimately leads to illness, a breakdown of the mental, physical, and spiritual health that nurtures our stability and growth. Long years of forcing our minds, bodies, and spirits to conform to beliefs, systems, relationships, and patterns that we’ve outgrown or that were never “true” to begin with causes us to project the shadows ever-outward. Refusing to recognize our complicity in hurting others or ourselves and declining to take responsibility for making peace and asking for forgiveness are forms of denial that are destructive. In a real sense, our health is dis-eased and we’re (often largely unconsciously) infecting the energy around us with our illness as well.

Strom warning, gardens 217These shadows require a deeply honest encounter, often assisted and guided by a trained professional, for healing to be possible. Without this, we can’t and won’t even recognize and name the “monster” we’re denying to begin with, or our resistance to seeing it for what it really is, and the resulting diminishment of its power—from monster, to human, to only a facet of our multi-dimensional selves—is inhibited.

Instead, I’ve been pondering that initial “No, thanks” we offer to transitions or insights that have been forced upon us, or sometimes even those we desired, worked towards, or chose. Our behavior, practices, and patterns might regress to a time and place we knew to be “safe,” or we might reach for the ice cream instead of the yogurt, or indulge in procrastination rather than productively tackling whatever re-ordering is necessary to adjust to the coming (or already-assuming-residence) change.

We’re far enough along on our life’s journey to be aware that these responses indicate our resistance; we catch ourselves, and…

What then? Do we berate ourselves for back-paddling? Do we feel like spiritual losers and shame ourselves for not embracing transformation and gliding peacefully into the offered enlightenment without missing a beat? Do we call ourselves names other than Beloved?

I think we do, and too often.

Little foxes, early bees, squirrel, chipmunk, spring 038Instead, I wonder if we should welcome and embrace our resistance as a necessary partner on our journey, a wisdom voice we ignore at our peril and an integral stage of authentic transformation.  Resistance can offer a kind of respite, like winnowing through our possessions before moving to a new home, pulling off the road when we’re too tired to continue driving, or taking a “mental health” day to renew our spirits. It’s as though we’re saying, “I need to mend, or re-weave my tapestry here; I need to gather more information about where I’ve been and who I’ve become before I step back into “becoming” with mindfulness.”

April Snow and High River 080

Usually, after a day or two flowing north, the river shifts and runs true to her orientation. What I’ve noticed is that either way, she flows peacefully along; she doesn’t seem corrupted or disturbed when the winds blow her northward. Neither, perhaps, should we resist our resistance, but instead welcome the lessons it has come to share.

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13 thoughts on “Against the Current: Honoring Our Resistance

  1. What an enlightening post. There is much to think about here but I hear you and your advice. I think most people dislike change but nothing stays the same does it so we do have to go with the flow and try to cope with what life throws at us.

    I love this…acceptance of what is….yes…..

    Those last three pics are magical and the last utterly beautiful. I wish I could have seen your river flowing the wrong way, how very odd!!!

    And finally…..awwwww….lovely little Fergus in a bag! SO sweet, what a darling!!!xxxx

  2. Fergus resists nothing, speaking of going with the flow; he’s a little Buddha! Thank you, Snow Bird, for visiting and having a run at my ideas with your lively mind and generous spirit…

    And I should say, the wind blows the surface of the river north, but the real “flow” is still south…but the visual imagery appealed to me. 🙂 Peace to your week.

  3. Such a thoughtful post, Kitty. I’ve been thinking a lot about similar things lately, trying to analyze some of my own resistances lately. Perhaps it is need to “fix things” that lies behind our attempt to disable or cure our resistances. It seems that you have put your finger on something very important here, a caution to take ourselves as a whole and as we are. It reminds me of a quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” – “And to you, Meg, I give you the gift of your faults.”

    • Thank you, Lynn; yes, all of our faults, as one of those clever Mrs. W’s said, are gifts if perceived and “turned around.” (One of my favorite books, along with The Secret Garden and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was young!) I hope this eased your travels a bit…of course, it left me still pondering! joy to your week and in your resistance, too. 🙂

  4. Wonderful as always my friend….I feel there is so much insight to be found in sitting down and asking questions. One of my favorite things as you can tell from my posts. Just as we ask questions and look within the bad times for answers and lessons and most often good things, there is a wealth of insight waiting within resistance. If we explore the WHYS of our resistance, what is creating it, what am I hoping to gain from it, why am I fearing going forward, each question answered brings us closer to who we are. I totally agree we need to accept resistance and use it for self discovery.
    Thanks for your thoughts on this. A good reminder 🙂
    I forget the name of your new family member, such a sweet face! Maymay loves shopping day for the same reason…Paper bags! She will rip them a while and then often she will fall asleep inside. Great fun….Have a wonderful day. Blessings…VK xx

  5. Self-discovery is a wonderful way to look at it, VK; thank you…Fergus is quite a character, that’s for sure! We’re so happy he came to live with us…although we both resisted taking on another cat! 🙂 Good thing we explored that and opened our hearts anyway. Thank you for your visit and comments; much appreciated.

  6. Aaah…(if this sound could sum up some of my deepest thoughts after reading this post!)

    Honour.

    I recently had a glimpse of what honour entails truly. It is when a child hides behind his mother’s skirt, hesitant and resistant in meeting a roomful of rambunctious children and new faces at a party. To honour the child is to allow him time to thaw. Give him the space to become comfortable. To feel safe enough to venture out. To respect his discomfort without being pushy. To treat this child’s feelings with care. To be kind and gentle and understanding. To tell him it’s perfectly natural and ok. Just stay with me awhile till you feel you want to go meet everyone.

    That child is us. It needs to be honoured. An exceptional post Kitty. I always cherish the solid wisdom that underlies your thoughts everytime. Much love, Sharon

    • Just about the time you were writing this, Sharon, I was showering off a workout (something I do not resist 🙂 ) and thinking about how our inner child requires this gentle, aware tending…I so appreciate your wisdom and depth, my friend; your compassion and strength seem always to be in partnership: you inspire me: Thank you!

  7. A very insightful post, Kitty. Resistance and acceptance are two things that will always come to define us. There is the resistance to temptation and anything evil which is a hallmark of an upright character and acceptance of defeat and disappointments with humility that define a strong character. Or a weak character will easily accept or yield to temptation because that is the easier option and resist change for the better because that is tough to do.

    • Yes, Malou, good point, resistance always seems to signal a need to pause and examine our spirit’s balance and orientation: are we resting, or “settled” in authentic love or are we allowing the energy of fear, anger, desire…etc. (all the usual suspects) to unsettle our own and so what we offer our God/understanding of the Sacred, our self, and the world? For me, a gentle examen and “re-calibrating” is more fruitful than meeting resistance in “attack” mode.

      I’m so honored when you read my reflections and share your wisdom, Malou; it is greatly appreciated and always deepens my own understanding. Peace to your week’s end.

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