Without resistance (think environmental pressures and evolutionary challenges) life as we know it would be very different. As Dr. Iain McGilchrist argues in The Matter with Things:

resistance in nature is the cause of suffering, but, by the very same token, of creativity“.

Indeed, every breath, every movement, every heartbeat and indeed every thought is a testament to this intricate dance between resistance and creation. Just as a river’s flow is shaped by the interplay between water and its banks, our lives too are shaped by the challenges and opposition we face. Resistance, in many ways, serves as the crucible for growth, forging our character, and pushing us to adapt and innovate.

Yet, while the world around us provides natural forms of resistance that are essential for our development, we must be discerning. Not all that we resist is inherently beneficial, nor is all resistance productive.

It begs the question: Are we resisting the right things, or are we just resisting for resistance’s sake? Perhaps out of habit?

Resistance as Suffering: What Have You Been Fighting?

My childhood was marked by both resistance and suffering. For starters, there were deep stories of trauma within my mother and her family that were never discussed. They were kept hidden and instead replaced with eloquent stories of triumph over adversity.

This was part of a broader tapestry of creating narratives that bore little relationship with what could be sensed in the outside world, and ignored the darkness in certain eyes, the sadness on certain brows or indeed the disappointment that wafted through the air.

How different it might have been had:

  • What needed to be seen been seen…
  • What needed to be said been said…

This resistance to what was and its replacement with Disney-like fantasy did nothing to reduce the suffering. The very resistance perpetuated the suffering and prevented any resolution. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet:

[J]ust bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.

What Echoes Are You Hearing?

  • What parts of your life story have you been avoiding or resisting?
  • Are there tales you have told yourself to avoid confronting pain or discomfort?
  • How have these stories protected or possibly hindered you?
  • What has this cost you in terms of personal growth, relationships or opportunities?

Resistance comes in many forms. Whilst we might hope for the world to align with our desires and expectations, reality often disappoints. The question, “What Am I Resisting Now?“, prompts us to examine our current relationship with the world – to understand our immediate reactions and responses and our desire for it to be somehow different.

Let’s make this more tangible by reflecting back on your day so far.

Did you feel:

  • Annoyed with someone?
  • Disappointed something did not work out as expected?
  • Frustrated you weren’t able to make the progress you hoped?
  • Angry with some stranger for something they did or did not do?

This is not about judging our thoughts and feelings but rather about identifying our thought patterns. About becoming aware of the mental and physical energy we expend trying to make the world fit the way we want it to be.

Rumi’s Guest House speaks to this exact question. Rumi invites us to truly give ourselves over to “what is” and not judge it in any way. Indeed, he asks us to go further and to instead welcome and entertain whatever comes our way. This philosophy is perhaps the truest expression of this idea of acceptance.

The Guest House by Jalaluddin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

* Translated by Coleman Barks

Questions for Reflection

How Do I Resist the World?
#R3 How Do I Resist the World?

Questions in the Image:

  • How do I resist the world?
  • What have I been resisting?
  • What am I resisting now?
  • How might I be more accepting?

Want to Further Explore This Theme?

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle (link to Amazon.co.uk). The book offers insights and practices for living in the present moment and breaking free from the grip of the past and future. It emphasizes the importance of being fully present in order to experience true joy and fulfilment.

Next Steps – From Reflection to Action: These reflections model pausing and thinking, and hopefully show how this can quickly translate into fresh insights and decisive actions. They are centred around three “archetypal” questions:

  • What have I learnt?
  • What do I need right now? and
  • What are my intentions?

The aim is to practice translating newfound insights into viable options.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day.

Awareness around resistance is part of my moment-to-moment experience. Just now I am sensing some resistance around revising this piece, so it is probably time for breakfast. My sense is that I can get better outcomes by resisting less and going with the flow more whilst staying true to the overarching vision.

About Tom O’Leary

I coach, mentor and teach leaders committed to a higher purpose who sense they can do better.

Together, we unlock deep insights that spur how they think, act and lead.

These are leaders who want to make a difference.

And yet, to make a difference we need to be different. This starts with how we think, what we question and how we decide!

This means spending time being curious about everything from where we place our attention to the choices we make and contemplating what might be possible so that when we take action, we can bring all our energy and power to bear.

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