Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letting Go of Resistance

One of the greatest not-so-secret secrets of the spiritual path is this: let go. Just let go.

Most of our minds are trained to be these complex structures, and subsequently, our complex ego-minds want a complex path to spiritual awakening. We've thought up all kinds of tools and techniques from breathwork to meditation to chanting and so forth. And these are all beautiful things to do, ways to connect with people, and spiritual practices to pass the time. But they don't have anything to do with awakening.

Sure, awakening can come during the times that you do those things, but it doesn't have to. Awakening comes because at some point in time, you fully let go. You let go of all the things that you thought you are and all the things you're trying to do. You come to this effervescent, shining sense of okay-ness with yourself, and you wake up.

Spiritual Awakening Can't Be That Easy
And why not? Why does awakening have to be hard? I can tell you in my own life that in all the ways that things have been hard, I've been holding on to some idea of how I should be living my life. In trying to cram the expansiveness of my life into a small idea, I've been miserable. In all the ways, that I try to pretend that I'm not "fully awakened" yet and attempt to act in ways that don't support who I am, I'm simply crushed and defeated. Spiritual awakening is about fully letting go into this present moment. No retreat or spiritual practice actually gets you there. There's no process to go through at all. I'm sure that last line seems ironic given the name of this website. But the truth remains. You wake up in the singular moment when you let go of all resistance.

So What's the Spiritual Process About?
The spiritual awakening process is about how long it takes before you fully let go. It can also be a way of managing the ego-driven reality of your life for the short term until you can manifest a way of living that aligns with your deepest self. With that said, the process should be temporary at best and often un-needed. A process for awakening is usually manifested to make the remnants of a despondent ego-mind feel better about itself and feel like it has some measure of control over life. Of course, if you've awakened, you know that you ultimately have no control over anything. Control is an illusion. You don't even control your body. If some neural pathways go dead in your head, try to lift your arm. Whoops. Can't do that anymore. So much for the idea that you even control your body.

We certainly can guide things in our life, and we do create a spiritual ego to hold our experiences and create some kind of meaningful way to focus and interact with the world. Our choices are powerful, but they are not control. We can't force other people to do things, and if we try to do this, we fall out of alignment with ourselves as well as with others. Prepare for your life to get particularly miserable the more you try to hang onto control.

What Is Resistance?
Most simply, resistance is an inability to accept what is. If you're unexpectedly pregnant, in a car wreck, or fired, sometimes the first thing that happens is denial. This creates resistance and an inability to deal with the reality of the moment. By being in this resistance, what can already be a difficult situation gets worse. So you're pregnant? That's not going to go away. You have some choices to make, and you can't avoid the reality of a child growing and developing in your body. You've been fired? Denying this won't help you get a new job. It will most likely make you feel even more miserable, making it harder for others to be around you or to support you.

In more simple examples, think about how upset you can be when there's traffic. You can make a long commute a lot easier if you accept that there's traffic. You can't do anything about it, and you don't have to punish yourself with getting angry about it. You can make this part of your practice (I've always liked using traffic bottlenecks and long lights as part of my practice). See if you can accept what is and then see how your body feels. Can you sense the difference in heart rate and muscle tension? It's fascinating to see what our resistance to life does to our bodies and what acceptance does to our bodies. This always drives home for me the power and everyday practicality of spirituality.

Be Enlightened Now
I'm probably always going to be a fan of meditation, conscious movement, journaling, kirtan chanting, and many other beautiful spiritual practices. A lot of them are pretty fun, but they have nothing to do with spiritual awakening. They are great ways to pass the time and meet other like-minded people. You should do them because you like to do them and not because you think you'll get enlightened through them. If you want enlightenment, then take this very moment to let go.

Let go of what? you may be asking.

Everything.

Thanks to Arran Edmonstone for today's picture. You can see more of his photography on this Flickr link
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