Anatomy of Resistance


I have been curious about resistance over the last few days…

The components of resistance

It seems that…

Resistance is always to an experience (how could it be to anything else?).

Resistance is really an resistance to being with an experience. To meet it simply, to experience it, to allow it to unfold within awareness, to allow it its own life.

Beliefs (attachments to thoughts) and resistance seem to be two sides of the same coin. When there is a belief, there will automatically be resistance to experiences that seems related to that belief. There is an attempt to hold onto some experiences and push other experiences away, both of which are resistance. Say I believe there shouldn’t be pain, then I will try to hold onto absence of pain and push away pain itself, even if it is there.

Resistance is always to the present. It is always to what unfolds within this eternal Now, to current experiences – whether they are labeled sensations, emotions or thoughts.

Resistance is mental gymnastics. It seems to involve (a) stories about the experience. (b) Shifting attention away from the initial experience, as a way to avoid being with it. (c) Sensations and the stories about these, labeling them pain, fear, terror, anger, resistance and so on. (d) Stories about these cascading sensations, such as if I experience these fully I will be overwhelmed, if I experience them fully I will be incapacitated, if I don’t resist I will become passive. (e) Shifting attention away from these experiences. And so on.

Resistance involves a cascade of effects, as listed above. (a) There is an experience. (b) There are be stories about the meaning of this initial experience, and the reasons why it is desirable or undesirable – although the initial experience is now long gone. Stories and thoughts can never keep up with what is actually happening in the present, they are too slow, they are always about the past. (c) There may be innocent sensations happening, and these are labeled pain, fear, resistance, longing, sadness, anger, terror and so on. (d) There may be stories about these sensations, such as if I experience these fully I will be overwhelmed, if I experience these fully I will be incapacitated, if I – which makes them take on a whole other significance. It also helps solidify the initial story about the initial experience. (e) There is a shifting attention away from all of this. (f) There are more sensations and stories to which attention first goes, and then goes away from. And so on. From a simple belief and resistance, a huge complexity emerge, and I cannot see the details of this complexity very clearly yet.

An example: a dog charges at me and barks. I have a story that I should be safe from dogs, that dogs should not attack me, that I should not be physically harmed, that I should be safe from physical harm, and so on. So I resist the experience of the barking dog. There may be sensations coming up, and I label these emotions – such as fear and terror. I believe that fully experiencing these emotions will overwhelm or incapacitate me. Attention goes from the barking dog to my own experiences, to something else, to the barking dog. Back and forth. So from the initial belief and resistance, general mayhem and confusion ensues.

There seems to be a low-level underlying resistance to all experience, in most of our lives. Sometimes, it flares up and becomes more obvious and apparently stronger. And this resistance – whether low level or stronger – is what creates the whole sense of drama and struggle in our lives. It is what creates the sense of I and Other, of a separate doer, of seer and seen, of likes and dislikes. It is one of the keys to samsara.

Resistance is futile. I may try to hold onto absence of pain and push pain away, but both are clearly futile. When there is an experience of pain, there it is, no matter what mental gymnastics are initiated. Whatever is happening is inevitably fully experienced, no matter what.

When there is resistance – or really the mental gymnastics described above – there is a sense of stuckness. The initial experience, especially those labeled emotions, may hang around for what seems a very long time. The machinery grinds to a halt, in various ways.

When an experience is allowed its life, simply, without all of this mental gymnastics, it moves through. It moves through anyway, but in this case with more ease. There is not all of the drama and struggle associated with the mental gymnastics called resistance. There is just a sense of clarity of ease, no matter what labels we could place on the experience.

So whether there is resistance or not, everything is already fully experienced. The only difference is whether there is a sense of struggle and drama or a sense of ease, clarity and simplicity.

Allowing it all to unravel

The good news is that even if there is a huge complexity arising from initial beliefs and resistance, allowing it to unravel can be a relatively simple process – although not always easy or quick.

As beliefs and resistance seems to be two sides of the same coin, we can approach it from either of both of those.

:: Beliefs ::

If we approach it from the belief end, we see that it is really unexamined beliefs and resistance that goes together, so one way is to examine these beliefs. Do they reflect what is? What are their effects? How would my life be without them? And so on.

When the attachment to thoughts fall away, the resistance to experiences falls away with it. Left is just utter simplicity, clarity, ease – even as there is a full engagement in daily life.

:: Resistance ::

If we approach it from the resistance end, we can simple be with the experience. I can ask myself, can I be with whatever I am experiencing right now? Or I can notice a sensation come up and just simply see it as sensation, which cuts the bridge to any story that could be placed on top of it. Which in turn cuts the bridge to the whole drama.

Through this, the attachment to stories gradually falls away as well.


There is a sense of liberation in allowing the attachment to stories fall away, and allowing the mental gymnastics of resistance to fall away with it.

Thoughts are liberated to live their life without attachments to them. Sensations are liberated to live their life without a belief in stories about them. This life is liberated from a belief in stories about itself, and from the sense of drama and struggle that comes with those stories.

Eventually, this bodymind is liberated from the story of I placed on it.

Left is only a sense of ease, clarity, simplicity and a full engagement in the life of this human self. There is no sense of I or Other, no gap anywhere. It is all revealed as what it always is – the play of Spirit.

Nothing to liberate that wasn’t already

And really, there was never anything to liberate. There was never any belief that was not already seen through, never any experience that was not already fully experienced, never a belief in any separate I placed on this human self.

It was all just part of the game. It was all just pretending.

Although it seemed real enough as it was happening.

Just another story

And all of this is of course just another story.

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