Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Enlisting Resistance

I doubt if I’ll ever find myself automatically or casually fully aware in my body. Experiences in my early life planted seeds of ambivalence about being in my body. It wasn't always a safe place to be. My survival adaptability included being able to separate my awareness from my body, to effortlessly travel to other seen and unseen aspects of reality. Handy skill for a shamanic practitioner, particularly after doing the psychological work to heal the initial wounding so the shift in perspective is voluntary- a chosen opening instead of an involuntary escape.

The yoga I do, cultivates my body-awareness. In class, the instructor encourages participants to drop into the body-self, to give full authority to our own body-wisdom allowing it to shape our movements no matter what  postures are suggested. It is always a delicious home-coming.

Hence the mystery: over the holidays I’d wandered away from my regular yoga practice. The studio had been closed, and I found myself more and more reluctant to do my own practice. And, when the studio reopened, it seemed hard to get there.

Lying on the floor at the end of the first class back, filled with a sweet feeling of returning home, I considered the missed classes and thought, “This is how I abandon myself.” And I wondered why- why would I hesitate for a minute to bring myself back into full awareness of being an embodied soul, an in-souled body? The experience always opens my heart to myself, others and the world. Even when tightness or tension is discovered, there is always some unfurling, some arrival I did not know I ached for until it was fulfilled.

I suspect that the practices we resist- particularly the ones we enjoy when we're doing them and benefit from immediately- are the ones we need the most, because they take us past “the edge” of old survival strategies. To the amygdala, that part of the brain that sends out reflexive fight, flight, freeze or collapse responses based on past experience, that “edge” can feel like the perimeter of an abyss. It’s not rational or true, but it can be a powerful and largely unconscious determiner of our choices.

So, when we feel a puzzling resistance to doing what we have learned over and over is truly good for our mind-body-heart-soul wholeness, we can choose to gently but firmly take ourselves to those experiences. Each time we do so- each time I do this yoga even though my mind is offering a dozen reasons why today is not convenient- we go home. And going home, truly being with all aspects of ourselves with tenderness and mercy, including the aspect that resists, replenishes our ability to be with each other and the world. It also makes us more truly available to awareness of that which is larger than ourselves, to the Sacred Wholeness, the Great Mystery.

So, I’ve stopped trying to get rid of my resistance. Instead, I’m letting it confirm the way I go home, acknowledging it as an indicator that I am gently pushing my edge past old fears and conditioned responses. I greet my resistance with gratitude and keep walking toward the practice it is trying to avoid, knowing that deeper access to Life is opening before and within me.

Oriah (c) 2013


  1. Oriah, thank you for this timely (for me) post. I have been working with trying to discover reserves of energy that I keep hidden from my consciousness instead of assuming that the most obvious energy is what I have to follow. This fits nicely as an added way to nudge myself to remember what part of me is resisting something that I know I enjoy - like my daily meditation for example - instead of using the resistance to foster diversion. Your words sum it up beautifully: "I greet my resistance with gratitude and keep walking toward the practice it is trying to avoid, knowing that deeper access to Life is opening before and within me."


  2. Such beautiful insight. Thanks for sharing. "I got it."