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What do you do when life doesn’t go the way you want it to go?
You know those moments in life when every cell in your body shouts in unison, “NO!”? When, as a high school senior, the envelope in the mailbox is thin rather than thick? When, at any age, the phone rings at 2:00 in the morning. When your child’s doctor calls and opens the conversation by asking if you’re sitting down.
These are huge, pinnacle examples of moments when we understand that the way we want life to go, and the way life is going to go are quite different. Thankfully, mostly, this kind of moment is much less significant – the ice cream stand is sold out of peppermint stick, the Indian restaurant you love has closed, or you find the perfect pair of shoes only to discover they don’t have your size.
Resistance is a reaction that causes some of our greatest suffering
My point is that we (all of us) experience reactions and no amount of practice – yoga, meditation, prayer, etc. – is going to stop this from happening. Resistance is human. In case you doubt, I offer as “Exhibit A” the human toddler. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back that, as you’ve grown up, your temper tantrums have become much less public than they once were.
While it is human, resistance (in wise words from Star Trek) is also futile. In fact, it is resistance that causes some of our greatest suffering.
Spiritual practices help us to pause when we experience reactions
While your spiritual practices will not stop you from experiencing your reactions, they will help change the way you respond to them. Essentially, they help you develop the habit of pausing. Depending on your practice, what you do during that pause will vary. You might take a breath, count to ten, or send up a prayer of help.
Keep that up.
A question to ask yourself as you pause
And, for the split second after you finish your breath, your count, or your prayer I’d also like to offer you a question to ask yourself:
“Am I inviting this to change me?”
This question has the incredible power to infuse your straight-armed, full-body rejection of what is happening with curiosity, astonishment, wonder, and even awe. Even hints of these states of mind will be enough to soften you.
This softening allows you to begin to receive life as it is. It allows yourself to entertain the idea that your preferred way may not actually be the only way, or even the right way. It allows you to consider that endings might indeed be beginnings in disguise.
The incredible relief of not fighting against life
Ultimately, this question allows you to begin to wonder if, rather than armoring up to go into battle against yet another of life’s twists and turns, it wouldn’t be easier (and dare I ask, more fruitful) to allow life to change you. Can you imagine the incredible relief of setting down that heavy armor and that mighty sword?
What is your armor made of? Old patterns. Habits of behavior you might have begun forging when you were also learning to walk and talk. Assumptions about the way life is “supposed” to go. Judgments of what you deem “good” and “bad.”
This is really, really heavy stuff. Can’t you sense how astonishingly light (and maybe even right?) it would feel to allow yourself to go with the flow of life, even just this once?
It is a relief to invite life to change you
This lightness can be yours. It’s all in what you do after you take that wise pause you’ve already trained yourself to take when you feel a reaction flowing through you – Armor up? Or ask yourself, can I invite this to change me?
I promise the change will draw you closer to who you really are.
“taking a moment
to figure out how you really feel
instead of letting
old patterns decide for you
is one of the most
authentic things you can do.”
-Yung Pueblo, Clarity & Connection
Spiritual direction is one way to explore the ways that you habitually resist life. Others are journaling, meditation, and yoga. Give me a call if you’d like support developing the spiritual tools to support a life well-lived.