I was talking recently to a woman who, unhappy with the abusive behaviour of the man she was in a relationship with, was unsure as to whether to walk away from it. She was confused about the notion she had heard so often of ‘not resisting what is’ and was anxious that in wanting to end this relationship, this might be what she was doing.
So, the question is, does ‘not resisting what is’ mean that we have to accept everything that happens and not seek to improve the quality of our lives? This is a concern which can be a real stumbling block to people who have read this in spiritual works such as those by Eckhart Tolle and others and think it means that we should not create change for ourselves but stay forever in our miserable rut.
No. (There, see, I said that word. No!)
Saying no is not the same thing as ‘resisting what is’. And here’s the difference.
When we resist what is, we are, in effect, saying one of the following: “No. I don’t want this. Something has gone wrong here. This is not how it should be. I’m not going to accept this. Nooooooooo!” It’s what psychologists call ‘being in denial’.
And the real clue that these expressions of resistance mean that we are refusing to accept what is, is that we can feel the effect of the words in our body. If you’re on your own, just try it now and see what I mean. Think of something you’re not terribly happy about and as you do so, say any of the expressions of resistance above (either out loud or silently depending on whether you’re alone or not). Notice whereabouts in your body you feel a physical sensation.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I imagine that you may have felt any or all of the following sensations in your body:
• Your face scrunching up, particularly your forehead, cheeks, eyes, nose.
• Your teeth clenching
• A wave-like feeling moving through your head.
• Your shoulders hunched
• Your arms tightening and fists clenching
• Your chest contracting
• Your stomach and solar plexus tightening
• The muscles in your legs tightening.
It is all this physical tightening, clenching and scrunching that is the indicator that these statements are expressing deep resistance to the situation you’re facing. They are the physical manifestation of your emotional response to it.
And the good news is that you can say no to a situation without having all of these symptoms of resistance – these emotions swirling around inside you. Here’s how in three easy steps:
What to do. Consider that what you have here is a situation or a problem/situation. If you label it simply as a problem this can cause the symptoms above to flare up. Say to yourself something along the lines of: “Ok. So this is how it is. Let’s look at it properly”.
Why this is effective. These words express acceptance of what is happening and
create a state of equanimity in your mind. They are allowing you to start to move
towards the problem-situation without fearing it.
2. What to do. Ask yourself: “So, what’s good about it? What can I learn from it?
What is it showing me that I need to pay attention to?” Think about these questions
carefully and jot down as many answers to them as you can.
Why this is effective. These words are creating a sense of curiosity within you
which continue the journey inwards towards the problem situation and start the
process of exploring what the situation has to offer you – things that perhaps you
wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
3. What to do. Spend some time looking at the answers you’ve jotted down and use
these observations as the basis for your strategy as to how to handle the situation.
Why this is effective. It is keeping you firmly in the place of acceptance of the
situation and is creating a great platform for you to work with it and make whatever
changes to it that you feel would serve you better.
Why is this is three-step process so effective?
It demonstrates quite powerfully that an emotion is the body’s response to a thought and shows how you can choose your emotions by choosing your thoughts. It also keeps you rooted in the present moment of experiencing just how it is. The present moment is where love lives and where there is love there can be no fear.
If during stage three you decide that the most effective path is for you to make some changes to the situation, walk away from a relationship, look for another job, move to another area then this is probably the right decision for you. In contemplating any of these actions you are saying no to the situation as it is, but you are saying this from a place of acceptance and not resistance. You are accepting that it is in your life and, after considering all the implications, choosing not to allow it to remain there. The effect on your body is entirely different from that which you experienced in the exercise a few moments ago – and it is this difference that is so crucial to your wellbeing and to the effectiveness of your strategy. It is also crucial to the wellbeing of the planet – but this is the subject of another article.
And one last thought about saying no. When you say no to something you are saying yes to something else. When you say yes to something you’re saying no to something else. So, in saying either yes or no, consider what these contrasting statements are.
In finally deciding to walk away from the relationship with the man whose behaviour she did not want to be around, the woman I was talking to, was therefore saying yes to herself and to her life.