By Elizabeth C. Herron
When the time comes
and you are still not ready
and everything you did has added up to
just this, because who wants
to go into the cold dark
and after all this maybe
is your only one - this life
and did you love it
what you were given? How much
did you waste wishing and weeping
and gnashing your teeth
when you could have danced -
when you could have
what you are leaving now.
I was recently discussing with a client the powerful nature of resistance to change, even when... or especially when... we want a different experience. Like many of the women who find their way into the Mysterial work, my client’s old ways of being are no longer working. She is exhausted, soul weary, and her physical health along with business and personal relationships are suffering. And she is asking the question of the poem above “…this life and did you love it what you were given?” Or asked another way by the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
She knows she can’t go on like this. And yet still she resists stepping forward fully into creating a life that is more congruent with her authentic essence. What is going on?
To invite change is to set in motion the disruption of old forms and ways of being to make room for the new. This process involves a necessary tension between one’s current reality – the way things are in the present – and one’s intention and vision for the future. This tension – the natural consequence of our thrust toward becoming – is experienced in myriad ways and is what I refer to as resistance.
The moment you step toward the new path, the unconscious resistance kicks in and says things like: Maybe it’s not so bad now the way things are; I don’t want to rock the boat; It would be self-indulgent to focus on myself. Or resistance can show up when you try to do something different, in the form of scheduling conflicts, not having enough time, logistical challenges, needing to fulfill the expectations of others, feelings of guilt about what else you ‘should’ be doing, making your problems someone else’s fault, anger that you have to change in the first place and a long list of other justifications for maintaining the status quo.
It is important not to view the occurrence of resistance with impatience or judgment as though it were a ‘willful act’ that belies a ‘lack of commitment’. Resistance is the means by which our psyche and soma seeks to preserve stability and homeostasis.
In this sense, we can say that resistance is expected: evidence of a prevailing structure of life or way of being that has served a purpose but now no longer serves our new intended purpose. And it is necessary: the form our resistance takes gives us information about what we actually have to address in order for lasting change to occur.
And it also lets us know that something big is at stake. Resistance is not the thing you have to conquer in order to make changes, but rather it is a sign that the changes coming are directly challenging your status quo. In that sense it is an early warning signal that you are moving in the right direction.
So I often say – welcome resistance! Welcome discomfort!
In fact, once the forces of transformation are set in motion you can rest assured that the equal and opposite force of resistance will arise. A deep desire to change the current experience automatically activates the homeostatic-seeking function of the psyche. Resistance kicks in to make sure things don’t destabilize.
We will all have our habitual ways for the ego to respond when it feels under threat. The following steps allow us to engage the energy of resistance and not fight against it.
Watch this short video of a penguin’s natural resistance to change - she doesn’t want to leave the comfort of home, she perseverates and then suddenly the momentum changes! Her bravery ignites and once she fully commits herself the gravitational pull of the old ways of being let go, and she launches herself into the surf of her new life.
Releasing the Grip of our Resistance to Change Practice
Let’s say you plan to start meditating as a way to prepare for going through The Mysterial Sequence process. You start out enthusiastically and decide to meditate 20 minutes every day of the week. Yet every time you try to sit down to meditate, you think of some crucial thing you have to do around the house.
Welcome the resistance! It is an indication that you have ignited a compelling intention to carry what you long for into reality!
This requires enough free awareness to notice that the idea to go and put in a load of laundry is a kind of resistance to settling down and being still. The act of noticing it is the moment of embrace.
Acknowledge the belief, habit or way of being that has helped to support the “status quo” and that is now being challenged. Clarify what issues, concerns or beliefs need to be reframed in order to support making different choices.
You recognize your father’s voice in your head—how he used to tell you to “stop being so lazy” if you were just sitting quietly daydreaming.
Center in the face of resistance when you meet it – ground and settle your body. Bring awareness to your breath. Consciously reframe your concerns in the context of the intention for the sake of which you are inviting change.
You sit down and close your eyes and do some deep breathing. You realize that you do not need to do your laundry right now and that the world will not fall apart if you sit still for 20 minutes.
Commit to specific behavior changes in incremental steps that you can tolerate.
You decide to just meditate three times a week while you are getting started.
Enlist the support you need to effectively carry out your intended actions.
You tell one of your friends about your plan and ask her to help hold you accountable to this practice, and that you will check in with her each week
Celebrate progress, taking the time to register satisfaction, with every step you make toward your ultimate goals.
You do something deeply nourishing to celebrate your accomplishment.
You can use this simple process to work directly with your resistance to the steps you are taking to move forward in your life. Remember that resistance is not bad – it is just information that signals to you that you are going in the right direction! The task is to harness the energy that is stored in your resistance so that you can use it as you move toward your intention.