Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Responding to Resistance

Resistance. It may have been futile against The Borg (okay- geeky Star Trek reference) but it certainly can cause havoc with the creative process. I am working on a new book, The Choice, and some days the writing is like being in labour. It's a good metaphor to use when dealing with resistance of any kind (where a deep soul-serving aspect of self wants to proceed and the smaller self is being dragged kicking, screaming and sabotaging wherever she can.)

What does someone giving birth need? (And I draw here on the experience of two home births- one to a 12lb, 10 oz baby.) Support- firm gentle support; constant reminders to stay in the moment, to breathe through this contraction, not to get caught in anticipating the future.  A voice that says with the authority of experience, "You can do this, stay here, just this breath, this contraction. . . . this line, this sentence, this story. . . ."

Can't help but think how, with my first son in particular, I wanted to say mid-labour, "I've changed my mind. I want to adopt!" But I can no more say "I quit" to this book than I could to having those babies mid-labour. Ironically, (given the book's title) when we've really chosen life fully, we can't just back out of that choice when it requires us to do something difficult, without doing real damage to ourselves.

When I think of stopping, or trying to back up out of writing the truth that’s hard to live with and acknowledge, of deciding I want to give it all up to become a lawyer or a cat groomer I have an image of the spikes they put at some parking garage exits. They puncture your tires if you try to back up. You can only drive forward.

So resistance really is futile. But it can cause anguish. We have to touch it gently like a screaming baby, make comforting noises, whisper, "Shhhhh. . . you're okay. . . just breathe. . . . .just keep writing. . . . all will be well . . . .”

So, I keep on writing- through moments of exquisite ecstasy (usually when the first draft of a story is complete and sometimes when the words come in a steady effortless stream) and moments of excruciating resistance (most often when I am trying to get started on a story I know is going to take me down into the depths.) 

It’s all just what is- the resistance, the agony, the ecstasy and the learning- all just life passing through us, holding us, tossing us about like a small boat in weather that is constantly changing.

Birthing, driving out of the parking garage, tending a screaming child, sailing through varied weather: pick the metaphor that helps you keep moving ahead where there is resistance. Me, I like my metaphors mixed.

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. I'd like to share that in Connie Kaplan's book, The Invisible Garment, Resistance is a spiritual principle that comes with a very different definition than the typically used one. For all of us who are highly creative, I find the spiritual principle definition of Resistance to be very useful in shifting the energy away from the other definition. Here is an abbreviated version of the spiritual principle:

    "Resistance is a friction that causes energy to experience itself, transform itself, and realign itself with greater purpose. Resistance means acting as an insertion (interference pattern) into the collective. Something is being inserted that interrupts the flow of energy and allows a creative interfacing with form. ... We are 'resistors' in the flow of divine energy. We receive energy from the cosmos and transform it into appropriate messages and/or information for humanity. ... Our goal is to transform the energy, not conflict with it."

    1. Lovely Jennifer- thanks for sharing. :-)

    2. Jennifer - that's beautiful. What a wonderful reframe of Resistance. I never thought of it that way before. That is perhaps why it feels so difficult when we experience it - because it is undergoing a transformation... a translation of sorts. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jennifer ... what a wonderful definition! I'm gonna use it from now on!

  3. Oriah,

    Your words warm my eyes, leaving them blinking through the morning mist. Your moments of resistance in writing is what like I feel frequently as I march towards the podium, only two plus years away and receive my Ph.D. I have held this dream for over 35 years. I will not backup over the spikes in the parking garage or back out of my choice to achieve my doctoral degree. I will keep going in those moments of self-doubt when my little boat is bouncing around in the winds of the storm. I will keep my eye on the lighthouse on the horizon, and I will keep going until I succeed.