That which we fight only makes us weaker. -tpb
I’m a single-parent raising the youngest of my four children. I mention this because it impacts everything I do and have done for the last 11 years. Something I see in my now 17-year old son is the inspiration behind this post.
What are you fighting?
It doesn’t matter if I ask Jay to take out the garbage, pick up the dog droppings, transport the waste and recycling cans out to the street, or simply hurry up in the morning, he fights against something.
This isn’t a fight in the physical sense, but one that takes place in the mind. It manifests in his outward behavior as a general disregard, perhaps a slow response to my request, or ignoring it altogether. Sound familiar?
You don’t have to be a single-parent to recognize this situation. Most parents eventually witness this behavior.
What you’re fighting is resistance
Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Turning Pro, and Do the Work, writing in his book The War of Art labels this enemy as resistance. It’s the unspoken hesitance to do anything we think ultimately will produce value in our lives: work, chores, being responsible, working out, or meditating are all examples of why we experience resistance.
My son isn’t fighting me, my directive, or even himself. He is fighting resistance. And it keeps him from moving forward. Indeed, we all fight resistance and it also keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us dreading our daily meditation; it encourages us to avoid taking care of important things like filing our taxes on time and paying that damn speeding ticket you got in the rental car in July. (Yes, resistance affects me, too.)
Resistance is the enemy. It is the the reason we don’t accomplish what we set out to. It’s the driving force behind our attachment to outcomes. It is the fight.
Relinquishing the fight in favor of the present moment
The practice of mindfulness by checking in with our thoughts helps to keep us in the present moment; it brings us back from reliving the past or worrying about the unknown future. It also helps us overcome resistance.
If my son would simply acquiesce to his responsibilities, he would experience much less resistance. If you simply did what was in your best interest all the time, you too would disarm the power of resistance in your life.
Because resistance is a form of suffering, it is intensified by our attachment to a specific outcome. The outcome we wish to achieve is linked to the amount of resistance we experience. If you wish to overcome resistance, you must overcome the desire for attachment.
If you are resisting, you’re suffering and have formed an unnecessary attachment.”
Dissolving resistance, attachment, and the fight
How do we solve this dilemma and get past our proclivity for attachment, suffering, and feeling overcome by resistance? It isn’t magic we need or some obscure solution found in an ancient text. We dissolve resistance and eliminate suffering staying here, in this present moment, as much as we can.
We do this by:
- meditating each day for five to ten minutes – this helps us with our concentration and focus
- practicing mindfulness by checking in with our thoughts several times a day – this helps us with staying in the present and not forming attachments to outcomes
- performing acts of compassionate kindness – this helps move us out of resistance and into action
Imagine everything you did was a sacred act that impacted others. -tpb
I realized some time ago that to win the war with resistance each day, I’d need to live my life in a way whereby my actions and words would always matter. That may seem like a lot of self-induced pressure, but in fact, it liberated me to be the kind, generous, loving person I wanted to be anyway. In retrospect, and this was before The Practical Buddhist was written, I was living the compassionate-kindness lifestyle.
Instead of fighting the good fight…
Acquiesce to your responsibilities and conduct your moment-by-moment life in a way that matters. Do the work that matters.Say the words that count. Live a life that impacts others. In my experience, when you do these things, you overcome resistance, you are no longer engaged in the fight, and opportunities for acts of compassionate kindness abound and in the process, suffering is eliminated.