What happened when I stopped resisting resistance

This morning, a friend asked, via email,”How are you doing?”

I’m fine, I responded. Really fine. Then, I sighed. I am fine.

All summer I’ve been watching myself like a nervous mother hen. What was going on with me? I kept asking – and writing about.

But now, finally, I felt as if I was coming home.

I was reading – and finally writing again. I was working from the back yard, seated at the French metal table my daughter had painted black, under the umbrella that my husband brought home to shelter me. I was eating good healthy food – and not in a deprived, “You have to do what’s good for you” way – just because better food tastes better. (There’s a recipe for my favorite treat: Raw chocolate mousse, at the end of this post.) And when exercise called to me, I wasn’t arguing about it. I was just getting up and moving my body.

This was a decidedly new home I was coming to.

  • I was clearing closets that had sat stuffed with useless crap for years
  • I was effortlessly shedding weight
  • Best of all, two days ago, I celebrated my first ever stress-free birthday. I didn’t punish the people I love with grand expectations and enormous disappointment. I didn’t fuss when they made an imperfect fuss over me. Instead, I was delighted with every moment – every beautiful gesture, every phone call, every hug.

Something remarkable was happening, something new: Our whole family is voting for freedom.

  • My son walked away from a soul-deadening internship the first day.
  • My daughter found a relationship inside of which she can glow.
  • My husband and I keep shaping and reshaping our story: Lately, I’m telling him, “It’s your turn to live your creative life now,” and asking, “How can I help to facilitate that?”

It’s not that Resistance is gone. It’s still here. Only now, I no longer confuse Resistance with inner truth.

Resistance is a shape-shifter, a trickster with many masks. It’s a dark diamond – with a kind of reverse ‘glitter’, a shadow of our genuine shine.

I don’t believe in the devil. If I did, though, the devil would be Resistance with its rubbery face. A seducer, leading us down dead ends with promises it never keeps, delivering emptiness: Couch potato butt, empty rooms, a pile of ashes where a roaring fire could have been.

Resistance populates the world with vacancy.

Of course, it only gets away with that because we let it. This summer, I discovered a wonderful secret: when resistance slimed up to me, I just let it be there. I didn’t try to understand it. I didn’t take it to therapy. I didn’t push it away or shoot it with my happy-rainbow-ray gun,  I just let it be there.

I sat beside resistance and let it talk to me. As it talked, I treated it as I now treat any caller: I listened with curiosity.

And the most amazing thing began to happen: it got out of my way.

Used to be that resistance would flatten me. I’d think: I should go to yoga or I shouldn’t eat that or I should call my mom, and resistance would whisper: You’re too busy, too hungry, too tired, and right away, I’d start arguing. Leave me alone. Go away. Where did you come from, you stupid Resistance? which was all it needed to distract me. In fact, it was SO distracting – and so exhausting – to wrestle with Resistance that I’d have to give in, give up.

I’d fall under a thick spell of powerlessness – chiding myself as I lay, inert on the sofa, wishing I had the energy to do what I wanted to do.

Oh, Resistance is a tricky wizard.

But this time, I found myself on a different path. This time, when resistance arrived, I didn’t argue with it. I called my mom. I went to yoga. I didn’t eat potato chips…  Well, actually, I did eat some chips. Only now, instead of beating myself up about eating chips, I just blessed the damn chips. And you know how I did that? I enjoyed them. I savored every morsel.

I did not resist resistance.

I felt like Glinda, the good witch of the north facing down the Wicked Witch. “Begone, you have no power here!”

I felt like Toto, pulling back the curtain on the ersatz wizard. I looked at Resistance and said, “You’re not such a Flying Monkey after all. You’re kind of fascinating – and you know so much about me.”

Resistance took me on a tour of every shadowy cave, wobbly line, broken toy in my own Emerald City. It was a noble guide.

And then, in the spring, Resistance walked me into a hidden poppy field in the corner of my heart – another little pasture of self-doubt and it put me back to sleep. No opiates were involved. It only took a little dose of resisting what Resistance was trying to tell me.

From inside the dream, I’ve been writing about this all summer: my retreat and my breakthrough to light.

What I haven’t written about was the nature and texture of that hidden poppy field where I slept. It was shame. As the poet David Whyte said, “There was a part of me that was beginning to impersonate itself.”

I was embarrassed by certain things about my life, my work, my family. The truth about my messy home, my (lack of a) PhD, my extra ten pounds. You can’t admit THAT! You’re a teacher now – you’re in a LEADERSHIP ROLE! 

Like the boss who calls you on the carpet for breaking rank; the parent who grabs you by the arm when you are doing a joy dance and hisses, “We don’t act like that in public.”

Resistance was right there: Here’s a mask, Resistance offered. Wear this. No one will know.

Seriously? I asked, heart-broken. I didn’t even have the oomph to argue. So I lay down in my personal poppy field and fell asleep.

I dreamed that I was sipping magical tea in California with wise friends; I dreamed that I was flying above clouds with a 21-year-old fairy beside me, glowing with love. I dreamed that an army of heart-centered, brainy (my way) and courageous allies had assembled to walk beside me. I dreamed that I’d fallen for a handsome prince who opened a magic parasol over my head, to shield me from the sun.

What I mean is: I woke up – to the beauty of my life, the life I already had. I came home. (And there’s no place like it!)

And there, seated beside me, was my old friend, Resistance. And this time, instead of freaking out and dumping a bucket of water on its head, I poured Resistance a cup of tea: Welcome Old Witch, Old Wizard, Old Companion, I said. What have you come to teach me today?

In the comments section on the blog, feel free to tell me:
How is resistance showing up in your life right now?
What is it teaching you?

Oh, and here’s the recipe I promised you:

Raw Chocolate Mousse. Toss all of this into a food processor: The meat of two avocados, 1/4 c maple syrup, 2 T cacao (or cocoa) powder; 1/8 c vanilla almond milk (or coconut water or skim milk), pinch of salt.  Process into a thick creamy gorgeousness. (Adapted from a recipe at Rawmazing.com)

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  • sas

    i love this post – it echoes my own state of mind.

    as i am ready to burst out into the world to follow my true purpose, i find deep levels of resistance to my day job.

    the one that pays all the bills and allows me some financial security. that is likely to be flexible enough to allow me to slowly decrease my hours. where i am not stressed or challenged, leaving me free to dream big and with enough energy to keep going in my new venture. and where i have ample opportunity to grow and develop skills that will serve my new purpose.

    instead of resisting this as an obligation, i am trying to welcome it as a gift. i have no doubt the olympic levels of impatience are also a massive motivating force too.


  • Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)

    What a wonderful post for me to read during this crisis in my life! Oh yes, I know Resistance all too well. It’s the more energetic form of its cousin Depression. Last week I let it bowl me over. This week, I’m listening. The problem is, I don’t like what I’m hearing. And the Resistance isn’t coming just from inside *ME*… it’s also coming from my extended family. A lack of enthusiasm & support for what I’m doing, making me question why I bother. I know how blessed I am to have a spouse & adult son who both encourage me to keep plugging away, but my own doubts & fears become double when outer sources add to the cacophony. So right now, I’m taking a moment of silence. Let the phone ring; the machine will get it. Don’t read those emails; they’ll be there later. Refrain from engaging the Resistance. Am hoping it loses energy and finds someone else to rail against. For now, I rest. Tomorrow, I stand again, ready to face the day, & whatever it may bring.

  • Randy

    Resistance. Just learning to “see” it, is a wise comment! THen, untangling it from
    “shame–stories”—stories that really hold you captive. Beginning the journey towards
    self acceptance—and the often Labyrinth struggle for realness. Openness—hiddenness, but hiddeness isn’t naturally pathological. Often we need to protect our selves.

    Leads to other authentic questions. What is the self?? How do we discover this self?? How do we learn to “value” all of ourself??—Often the resistance has a message—an important one, and I’m thinking that this rsistance is protecting our wholeness….in a weird way.

    Really like the way you say that Wisdom “rebuilds”. That would be my experience. It’s kind of “sacred–rewiring”.

    It’s true too. We are often “slayed” by great writing. But, it’s the death we really need.

    ——thank you—I like Whyte too. randy

    • Amy

      Such great questions to puzzle with. So glad you left them here for us. 🙂

  • Hilary

    Hooray! Welcome home and happy birthday! Love this post 🙂

    Me and resistance… I suppose I’m still learning how to recognise it. How do you tell the difference between good old-fashioned resistance and a genuine inkling that this isn’t the right thing to do?

    • Amy

      Ask it to talk to you; ask it what it has to say. I really do find that it helps to separate from the Resistance and address it; and listen without giving it the authority over your choices. In other words, listen – without the assumption that it knows more about the situation than you do; or that you have to do what it suggests. Ultimately, you know what you want and need to do. Listen for that voice – which is more clear and not at all judgmental.

      • Hilary

        Thank you.

        Isn’t it wonderful how much wise advice boils down to, “Listen!”?

  • Pam Belding

    Thanks for writing and sharing this, Amy. Resistance is showing up quite a bit lately as I get ready to publish my first book. It’s teaching me self-discipline and tenderness. Discipline to stretch beyond my comfort zone and learn new stuff, and tenderness with myself and my family and friends because all of this new growth leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I will make mistakes but most importantly, I will learn from those mistakes and allow myself to blossom. My highest intention is to have a lasting, positive influence. Every day offers me a new chance to do that.
    Thanks again Amy! xoxoox

  • jane

    This is an amazing affirming delicious post Amy… thank you for writing it
    resistance has been showing up for EVER in my life but right now i have the flu and i am just having to surrender – and what a gift it is… i am recieving love in so many forms and realise how immensly blessed i am without all the hard work i usually do! i am getting my Glinda on too! yay!!!

    • Amy

      Oh, so sorry you have the flu. Sending the healing angels right over with tissues and chicken soup. 🙂

  • Heather

    LOVE this post, so much inspo and moments of yes, I have been there/am there too.

    Resistence has shown up to do the things that are not easy but so needed, resisting what my body,mind and soul have been trying to tell me (eat fresh food, pave your own way, write from the heart etc..)
    Thank You for the inspo and the authenticity you shared today..

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