10/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Learning To Go With The Flow: What Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, And The Buddha Have To Teach Us About Resistance

Just putting the names Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and Buddha in the same title might seem like quite a tossed salad. In a way, it's true. And, yet, I wonder. Each and every day we face a kaleidoscopic set of stories in the news. You'd think they're unrelated. Maybe they are. I know that in the early days of having a private practice, I assumed each person's story was separate. The funny thing is that, over the years, more often than not, I've noted that each day seems to bring a particular, unifying theme throughout the sessions, if I am really listening, noticing. We are not as different as we might think, after all. We are related in this world, including to the natural world.

Listening to the lapping of the waves before me, on the shores of Puget Sound, one thing is clear; there is a rhythm to life that cannot be denied. When it is, we get ourselves in a heap of trouble. Take Mother Nature: everywhere, a teaching. The water does not stay in a steady state. Continuously, it dances in and out. Like our heart, it expands, contracts. And with each new expansion toward the beach, the tide brings us some new shipment. Around a year ago, it brought a dead seal. Last week, she brought a tire from who-knows-where. Two days ago, we saw the remnants of a white gate. We might not be able to know its source, nor the mystery surrounding its arrival, but, be assured treasure trove of shells, and seagull feathers. We just don't know what's coming next. All we do know is something is coming.

Not unlike the news. I don't know about you, but sometimes the daily news seems such a hodge-podge of bits and pieces, that's its hard to know just what is the take-away. I am, however, a believer that the news contains tidbits that we can use, if, that is, we want to do better than yesterday, and, dare I say it, have a better time.

Today's Remnant of News to Use. Let's take a gander at today's news shipment. In one column, we have commentary about Edward Kennedy's passing, burial, legacy. In another, there's continuing speculation about Michael Jackson's homicide, right next to predictions regarding this bugaboo healthcare reform debate. The list goes on. Throughout each story there is, however a common theme: resistance. Stories present one position, as though it were the gospel, unwavering, static. What is it that makes resistance to 'what is' so commonplace? What price tag do we pay for it?

"What we humans are unaware of in our moment-to-moment existence is a constant, incessant resistance to life...We are displaced people wandering aimlessly in the desert of our minds...Resistance keeps us in a constant state of anxiety, and spiritual, mental, physical, financial and material impoverishment...." - Dr. Hew Len

The Problem with Resistance. Resisting life's flow creates rigidity, diminishes our experience of life, wears out our bodies, minds and Spirits, and pushes opportunity from our door. As long as I stay stuck in "ain't it awful," I retract from life, move against a natural, healing way to be in the world. This holds us small. I recall how filled with judgment I was when Ted Kennedy fled the scene of Mary Jo's death by drowning. Not only because, back then, I was not on the same side of the political aisle as he, but, because, as a much younger woman, I was incensed about the "old boy's club," and how they seemed to get away with murder so much of the time, at the cost of so many. It was easier for me to judge than receive what had happened without my own spin. Of course becoming really open is scary business. Take Michael Jackson's story, for instance. Apart from his music, his story has been an opportunity for resistance and judgments to show up, if ever there was one. It is easier to resist than let ourselves imagine the suffering of another human being. It's easier to stay apart, than enter.

Fortunately, both men kept on keepin' on. Despite commentary, criticism, and speculation, they stayed true to their calling. They found something bigger than their own demons in which to pour their vitality, their passion, and yes, their service, albeit completely different forms. What cannot be denied is that each man loved what they were giving, demonstrating the importance of cleaving to a cause, until there was not one drop left of life. I suspect it would have been far easier for either of them to get distracted by other's opinions, tempting a permanent retraction from life, grow bitter, and justify hiding their own light. We each know characters beyond those in Charles Dicken's works who go through life like this. In a completely different context, the marvelous writer, Eudora Welty, put it this way: "What animates and the love of (their) art and the love of giving it, the desire to give it until there is no more left...."

The Buddha enjoined us to let go of illusion, to release our sticky thinking, our shempa. In short, he reminds us, as all the great teachers, to go with the flow, to grow, to find compassion where the justification for it seems missing. Michael Beckwith might put it this way: "Bless the mess." Let us do likewise. Let us look at whatever our demons might be, and forgive ourselves, be kinder to ourselves. Let us accept our mistakes, our blunders, our struggles, and return our awareness to the moment. Let us become like the tide; breathing in, breathing out, touching the edges of the new shore before us, letting go what we leave behind. Let us bury what is gone, and enter our new edge.

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." - Anatole France

I'd love to hear your story of learning to go with the flow. What's helped you release resistance, when it was in your way? What's your greatest challenge these days with it? I'm listening. When I return to town, I promise to read each of your words in the archives and respond, as well as enjoy your "conversation" with each other! To create some ease, you might want to click onto 'Become a Fan' at the top of the page. Please do share this on your Facebook pages with the new HP social news, as well as Twitter. Blessings, Cara

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