The Emotional Antidote to Resistance in Spiritual Practice
I recently signed up for Layla Martin’s Jade Pleasure class, which teaches how to use the jade egg as a powerful tool for women’s erotic embodiment and personal transformation. In one of the introductory videos, Layla wisely warned “you may encounter resistance when it comes to doing your practices.” I heard her say this, and it reminded me of how much resistance I have moved through over the past two or three decades of various spiritual practices: the hours spent bargaining with myself while sitting on the couch eating chips, instead of practicing yoga or exercising, or reaching over to hit the snooze button instead of getting up early to meditate, or scrolling through my Instagram feed instead of making a difficult phone call to a clear something up with a friend. It seemed unlikely that I would experience resistance in this course; it has been highly recommended to me by at least two dear soul sisters, AND I felt so guided to enroll, I am really looking forward to the learning. However, as the days have passed, I’m realizing it’s time for me to face what’s happening here. I experienced resistance to even STARTING the practices. Layla went on to say that when we experience resistance, it’s a sure sign that you’re on the edge of a big breakthrough. Sure, that sounds great, in theory. And, based on my previous experiences, it rings true. And yet, resistance feels about as good as wet socks on a cold day.
Resistance comes in many flavors and colors. There’s the red, fiesty, irritated variety, with my inner child in a tantrum on the floor, kicking feet and pounding fists. Then there’s the morose grey fog of apathy and confusion. Or sometimes anxiety-induced tightness in the chest shortens my breaths. All of these feelings inspire me to shove some unnecessary food in my mouth, or check facebook messenger for the fifth time, with no intention of actually responding to anyone in a meaningful way.
Resistance has one sworn enemy, the magic wand that it can’t withstand while remaining intact… one simple emotion that you can invoke at any time…
Try this. When experiencing resistance around some form of spiritual practice, get curious, because apparently today, the learning is not even necessarily in the practice itself. It’s in the pre-practice that you’re about to create for yourself.
Why am I feeling this way? What am I resisting? What is the color, the texture, the flavor, the anatomy of this particular resistance? What story does it want to tell? What story is it revolting against? Which of my shadow characters is this coming from?
For a while, maybe the practice becomes just focusing on the resistance itself and what it might have to say. Journaling, drawing, painting, dancing it out can be helpful. In my current example, I realized that my resistance is around not being able to live up to my own expectations about how juicy and rich this course is going to be, based on what my friends have told me about working with the jade egg. I’m worried that I won’t “do it right” or be able to live up to my story about being a sensually-awakened person. Once I identified this, things began to shift and open again.
This post would not be complete if I didn’t also delve into the question of discerning the difference between resistance and a message from the Universe that it’s time to retire that particular practice or choice. Spiritual seekers have been dancing with this question for millennia. My journey with this question is why I now almost always choose a period of time to commit to a particular practice. I no longer assume that any practice of mine is going to be “every day for the rest of my life”. I’ll commit to a practice for a month, or a week, or just try it on for a day or two. I am clear with myself from the beginning about how long I am “expecting” this to last. Like everything else in life, spiritual practices have cycles and seasons. So the thing to look for is a sense of completeness. Have you reached a natural break point, a moment of release, satisfaction or completion? Did you get what you needed to from that thing, person, ritual or exchange? Noticing that often subtle sense of completion can release us to move on to exactly what is needed to bring us to the next level of learning and clarity.