Resistance During Practice
Each week we feature Andy's answer to one of the questions he has been sent by a member of the Headspace community about their meditation practice.
Here he answers a question from a Headspacer struggling with resistance during the Creativity series....
I am halfway through the Creativity series, and it's just become very clear to me that every fibre of my body and mind is screaming resistance! I can't accept anything unless I judge it to be "right", or "perfect". I am resisting pretty much the whole of my life, experience, and existence. I know you have said many times in the journey so far about accepting whatever comes, and I am seemingly haunted by Rumi's poem The Guest House(!), but it doesn't sink in, I'm still trying to get it all right. It makes me feel that the meditation isn't working, because I am as irritable and self critical as ever.
Please can you offer me any shreds of hope or wisdom?!
Thanks for your email. Well, although I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it right now, I’m very happy to say you’re making great progress. As you say, you have just realised what is happening internally and the truth is, until we realise these things there is very little opportunity for change. The only problem of course, is that this process of realisation can sometimes come as a bit of a shock and maybe even feel quite overwhelming at first.
The good news is that this is very much part of the journey and pretty much everyone who meditates on a regular basis will have a similar story to tell. Sometimes it’s about discovering physical discomfort and tension, at other times it may be an overwhelming emotion or habitual pattern of thought or, as in your case, it is a realisation of perception, the way in which we react to our thoughts and feelings and the world around us.
The way you describe it sounds very natural to me. Always wanting things to be exactly as we would like them? Of course, why not! Who wouldn’t want that, even if we know it is a completely unrealistic expectation? This is part of the human condition, part of our conditioned thinking and nothing to be disturbed by at all. The surprising thing is seeing it so clearly. Needless to say, it is the cause of much misery and stress in the world.
At the same time, without the desire or ability to strive, we would never move forward, never have any inclination to improve and enhance, so we need to acknowledge both sides, appreciating its potential as well.
So, having established that it is a very natural reaction, we next need to decide what we’re going to do about it. Well, once we’ve become aware of it, ignoring it is no longer an option. To get caught up in it is to experience a restless mind, regardless of whether the intention is conscious or not. And, as you’ve already discovered, trying to fight it is equally frustrating.
So we are only really left with one option, an approach where we see this tendency clearly, acknowledging it, getting comfortable with it, appreciating that everyone alive experiences this desire to have things exactly as they want it. Sure, some people experience it more than others, but it’s just a sliding scale and we’re all on there somewhere. And as we do that, as our horror or surprise gives way to understanding and empathy, so we start to let go of that tendency. We start to experience that resistance less often and when we do experience it, it is less strong, less overwhelming. This is the approach of mindfulness.
And sometimes, just sometimes, in that new clarity, we will see that yes, there is room for improvement in certain areas of life, proactive steps we can take toward our own happiness and the happiness of others. And with this sense of calm we can take the appropriate action.
So yes, it is incredible and maybe even disturbing how much we resist, but it is also natural. So be kind to your mind, smile at the reaction if you can. The more we have a sense of watching the mind, the more objective the process feels and the less intense it is.
I hope that’s helpful and reassuring and well done for making it to this point.
Warm wishes, Andy
Do you have a question you'd like to ask Andy about any aspect of your meditation practice? Simply visit the Andy's Answers section of our community forum where you'll find instructions on sending your question in, as well as all the questions he has answered to date.
We also recommend you check out our FAQ section, which is full of insights to help ease you along your Headspace journey.
Finally, a reminder that we also hold a monthly Q&A session with Andy on our Facebook page. The next session is taking place on 10th June at 8pm GMT. Full details here