A few years ago I started running again. I love running. Or I should say that I love the effects of running. No other exercise clears away the stress and the cobwebs like running does. Typically, I prefer to run outside, but during the colder months I like the comfort of the gym's treadmill.
Unfortunately, my body doesn't prefer the treadmill, and after a few months of that routine I recently ended up with a pain in my hip that wouldn't go away. Lying on the massage therapist's table while she worked out the kinks, I started thinking about the perils of resistance.
"Just relax," my massage therapist says, "let me get into that muscle." The harder she pushes the more I challenge my muscles to let go, which isn't always easy when there's pain. But I let go nonetheless and promise myself to be mindful of relaxing that muscle whenever possible. After all, I want to let go of the pain, not hang on to it. Epsom salt baths, lots of stretching, breathing through the pain, releasing, relaxing -- I'm determined to let it go, and I focus on the fact that all healing takes place as a result of letting go.
Resistance is our tendency. Especially when we feel pain. "Whatever you resist, persists," my Kabbalah teacher would say to our class from years ago.
When we feel pain, emotional or otherwise, we want to resist it. In some ways it feels right to resist what hurts, what scares us, what we don't want. And it's just not human nature to embrace pain. But pain is not the cause of the problem; it's the effect of a deeper problem. When you resist it, you perpetuate it, you feed it. My yoga teacher used to reiterate this concept by saying that it wasn't the yoga move that caused the pain, it was the deeper hurt within that caused the pain.
Even Buddha says that since our mind creates everything, no external cause is really creating any pain for us. It's the illusion within that creates the pain we feel. The external cause is what draws our attention to the pain that already exists.
That can be a hard concept to get your brain around, especially when someone is doing a good job of pushing your buttons or behaving poorly. It certainly seems like they're the cause of our frustration. Nonetheless, after 25 years of testing this theory, I've continued to find Buddha's logic to be sound. Resolve the pain within and the external situations tend to drop away, as does our suffering.
Blame is a form of resistance. The more we blame, the more our pain and suffering hangs on. I listened to an interview on the radio the other day of a woman who had been abused in her childhood. She went on to describe the suffering she endured at her own hand throughout her adolescence, a perpetuation of the abuse she endured when she was younger. "How did you finally get free?" the interviewer asked. "I had to forgive my abusers. And then I had to forgive myself," she answered. After that I was finally able to move on. So profound.
I decided to go through my life and take stock of anything limiting I might still be hanging on to. People may not always behave in the kind and considerate ways we'd like for them to. But when we hang on to old anger or even subtle resentment, we resist a better tomorrow. It's very easy to complain about the pain, or how something didn't work out, but hanging on to that frustration will keep you stuck and hurting. It's like signing up again and again and again for the same old problems.
Whatever you resist, persists. Very true. Sometimes we need to resist in order to protect ourselves, like unhealthy temptations, for example. But by and large, resistance is a way of contributing fuel to the things we don't want, whereas letting go is a conscious, ever-mindful practice that sets us free.
Everyone has something they can let go of or let go of more deeply. Whether it's something someone else did, something we did, or something we thought we should have been able to do. Or maybe it's old sadness, resentment or disappointment. Letting go is an empowering practice that you can do right now.
Whether you're being hard on yourself or someone else, practice letting it go. Then the next time you think of that situation, let it go again and then let it go even more. It's a practice and it can take practice.
You might try writing the name or situation on a piece of paper and burning it in a fireplace. Take a deep inhale and exhale as it burns and let it go.
Or try the "Let go and let God" meditation. In prayer, hand these issues over to God and let Him take them from you. You have to challenge yourself to let go completely and not hang on to any tiny bit of these challenges. As you do you might find yourself receiving Divine assistance with these situations.
You might also try the same visualization with angels. Close your eyes, inhale and exhale 10 deep breaths. Visualize beautiful angels in front of you, ready to help you. As you let go, allow the angels to take these challenges from you and willingly release them with trust.
If you find yourself sitting at a stoplight or riding the train, use five or 10 minutes to let something go. Inhale white light and exhale your attachment to the situation or person. You might envision the color black or grey leaving on your exhale. An elevator ride also offers a good opportunity to practice letting go. These exercises are truly effective ways to let go of an outdated perspective and to let in the Divine assistance we sometimes need.
As far as my love affair with running goes, we may have reached the end of our relationship. As much as I love running, we all need to pay attention to the signs our body sends us. Interestingly, when you (are ready to) give up something that's no longer positive for you, moving forward is just not that difficult.
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