Resistance

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What you resist, persists.
— Carl Jung

Sometimes darkness is our teacher.

Confronting our own shadow can be frightening, but it creates more space for growth. And joy.

No matter how much we follow the light, there will always be shadows. Avoiding them gives us less access to ourselves, limiting the range of our emotions.

I love when people come into my life and help me question myself.

But of course, I also hate it.

I am goal-oriented. I love to work, plan, engage, collaborate, argue, press forward, move on. Surrendering is my shadow, my greatest fear.

This year, I’ve been looking for rooms where everyone in them is better than me at whatever it is they’re doing.

A few days ago, a friend signed me up for a yoga workshop on bondage, submission and liberation. As much as it scared me, I trust her. So I showed up. We were all modestly clothed, and of course there were clear rules for consensual engagement, but there were also ropes, blindfolds, and flogging implements. After we each verbally expressed specific elements of our fears, we agreed upon the safe word ‘cacao,” and consented individually to being blindfolded and tied up in ropes, exercising trust, and learning the power of vulnerability.

Everyone in that room was better as this than I was.

I watched participants in this workshop find radiant joy in their bondage. They articulated it as a form of freedom to be held by restraints, a sort of release from the pressure to perform, to act, to do anything at all.

I listened, in awe.

They talked about how acceptance can be more powerful than resistance, about what we can and can’t control, how fighting reality is a waste of energy, about the beauty of surrendering to what is.

Any time we try to control something that's out of our hands, desperately fight reality, or cling to something that's already passed, we inadvertently create our own suffering.

In an attempt to grapple with difficult and painful experiences, we often fight them or to push them away. Often people believe that if they don’t accept something, it will go away or change. But refusing to accept something doesn't create change, and it often makes the situation worse.

Fear will always come up. And resistance doesn’t always help.

Fear exists for a reason. But fear isn’t the enemy. It doesn’t have to be reason to stop.

This workshop deepened my understanding of a concept I studied with Ana Forrest years ago:

Identify the fear.

Turn around, hunt it, stalk it.

Don’t make a decision based on fear.

Find the invitation fear offers.

Snuggle up to the fear.

Stay.

I thought about what we can and can’t control, how fighting reality is a waste of energy.

I let myself feel the beauty of surrendering to what is.

I hated being tied in those ropes. I felt all sorts of things come up. But I also understood that by becoming aware of these feelings, by becoming aware of my resistance, by noticing the ways I was fighting with reality, I could feel the tension constrict me.

Until I stopped resisting, the ropes couldn’t hold me. Until I stopped resisting, the ropes felt restrictive, rather than tender.

When I accepted my limits, the bonds became looser. When I accepted my reality in the moment, I was no longer afraid.

And then the ropes were untied and I was free, I felt an exhilarating release.

When it was over, the woman who led us through this process talked about aftercare, and how important it is to comfort oneself and one’s partner after taking risks.

I gave myself credit for staying, for snuggling up to my fear and not running away.

I now recognize a little more fully that my body is a messenger, and my mind can listen without reacting. I learned a little more about what I need to do for myself when fear comes up.

And I ask myself, what is the most honoring, truthful and kindest action I can do for myself right now?

Michelle Dowd