Thursday, September 15, 2011
I was on a walk the other morning, thinking long and hard, again, about a project I'd been putting off. Following a first mile dedicated to denouncing and dismissing it, I moved onto mile two and the many good reasons I had for not working on it any longer. By mile three, I was worked up into a sweat, as well as a lather.
Yet, no amount of denouncing, reasoning or walking got me beyond the heaviness that continued to set in. Try as I might, the more I pushed against the project, the more it stayed with me; its grip, as well as the knot between my shoulder blades, tightening.
Then something happened. Exhausted from it all, I stopped thinking and reasoning and made a choice to just get the project done. And in that moment, the whole world changed. I felt light and energized. My shoulders released.
It's tempting to dismiss the notion that a simple thought can cause such a 180 degree shift ... tempting, and wise. For the emergence of a new thought didn't cause the change; letting go of something did.
That something is called resistance.
It's incredible how such an intangible thing can have so very real an impact. It's not out there in the world, like a boulder blocking our path. It's not an appointment we can't reschedule, or a business trip we have to take.
Yet, we're so used to living inside our own heads that we don't realize that a whole lot of what's going on "up there" isn't real, resistance included.
Out there, the reality is that it usually takes more time and energy to come up with reasons and excuses to not do something than to simply do it. To round out the absurdity, 99.9 percent of the time, the "it" we're so doggedly resisting is something we ourselves have chosen -- directly or indirectly -- to do.
In "The Art of Singing", I talk about the futility and pervasiveness of active resistance. In creative and intellectual endeavors alike, we so often struggle to learn things that wait and want to be taken in effortlessly. The result? Thinking ourselves into ineffective inaction, exhausted by the effort and no more accomplished for it.
Whether active in the world or in our minds, resistance saps more than our energy and ability to be productive in a specific area. Just as resentment for even one person tends to affect your way of being with others, pushing hard against a specific project or idea reduces your ability to be productive, free and creative in other areas of your life.
Right about now, your own resistance may be pulling out its partners in crime: cynicism and reasoning. They -- along with procrastination and quitting -- round out its arsenal, often making it difficult to discern wisdom from naiveté.
Indeed, our minds aren't always our friends in this discernment. If they were, every goal we set would be achieved, every plan fulfilled. Instead, our fears rise up against notions of change, masking themselves as good sense.
The next time resistance rises up, pause to remember when you last encountered this slippery foe. Think about what it benefited, as well as how much it cost you. Nine times out of 10, its pretty promise is nothing more than insecurity in disguise, carrying resignation and frustration as its parting gifts. Thinking ourselves wise, we so often take them, trading our fear of failure for failure itself -- our dreams of productivity and creativity for a lack of both.
If you want stasis, the illusion of stability and the glories of being "in control," turn up the volume on resistance's dirge. If you want freedom, wonder, self-expression and success, turn it off and get to work.