resistance

This Primal Commitment

This Primal Commitment

What happens when, just for a moment, we stay with our pain, our fear, our doubt, our discomfort, our grief, our broken heart, even our numbness, without trying to change it, or fix it, or numb ourselves to it, or get rid of it in any way? What happens when, even when we feel like leaving, abandoning the moment for the promise of a future salvation, we stay, sitting with the raw, unfiltered, boundlessly alive life-energy that is simply trying to express right now?

~ Jeff Foster

What's Worse?

What's worse, the falling rain, or your resistance to getting wet?
The changing winds, or your battle against them?
The grass as it grows, or your demand for it to grow faster?
This moment, or your rejection of it?
Consider the possibility that Life is never 'against' you.
You are Life.

~ Jeff Foster

Rain Room at the Barbican, 2012 from rAndom International on Vimeo.

 

 

People are Obedient

Matt Damon reads from Howard Zinn's speech "The Problem is Civil Obedience" (November 1970) from Voices of a People's History on Vimeo.

Excerpt from "The Problem is Civil Obedience," by Howard Zinn, fromThe Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy:

I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don't have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down.

...

If you don't think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy.

And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem...Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience...We recognize this for Nazi Germany. We know that the problem there was obedience, that the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed; that was wrong. They should have challenged, and they should have resisted; and if we were only there, we would have showed them. Even in Stalin's Russia we can understand that; people are obedient, all these herdlike people.

...

Law is very important. We are talking about obedience to law-law, this marvelous invention of modern times, which we attribute to Western civilization, and which we talk about proudly. The rule of law, oh, how wonderful, all these courses in Western civilization all over the land. Remember those bad old days when people were exploited by feudalism? Everything was terrible in the Middle Agesbut now we have Western civilization, the rule of law. The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law, that is what the rule of law has done. Let us start looking at the rule of law realistically, not with that metaphysical complacency with which we always examined it before.

When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another thanwe have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get togetherthey smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.

...

What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.

Read the whole essay...

Aversion to Pain Perpetuates Suffering

Excerpt from "Why Mindfulness Can Make Life More Painful," by Julianna Raye, MindBodyGreen, July, 10, 2013:

The more clearly you see how your aversion to pain perpetuates suffering, the more willing you are to experience it. If pain happens and you fight it, you just make matters worse. Or, if something painful is happening in your life, but you’re avoiding it, you render yourself unable to take effective action. 

When I first started this path, all I wanted was relief. But mindfulness isn't simply palliative; it’s curative. Mindfulness reaches down to the very roots of suffering while keeping your feet firmly planted in the groundless.

The Way We Daydream It Should Be

 

Cabeza Vainilla, Cabeza Córdoba, Cabeza Chiapas by Javier Marín

Excerpt from "Negative Capability: Kerouac's Buddhist Ethic," by Allen Ginsberg, Tricycle Magazine, Fall 1992:

The Four Noble Truths are as follows. First, existence contains suffering. Second, suffering is caused by ignorance of the conditions in which we exist—ignorance of the transitoriness and ignorance of anatma, the empty nature of the situation, so that everybody is afraid of a permanent condition of suffering and doesn't realize that suffering itself is transitory, impermanent. There is no permanent Hell, there is no permanent Heaven. Therefore, the suffering that we sense during this transition of life is not a permanent condition that we need to be afraid of. It's not where we're going to end up. We end liberated from the suffering either by death, or in life, by waking up to the nature of our situation and not clinging and grasping, screaming and being angry, resentful, irritable or insulted by our existence.

It is possible to take our existence as a "sacred world," to take this place as open space rather than claustrophobic dark void. It is possible to take a friendly relationship to our ego natures, it is possible to appreciate the aesthetic play of forms in emptiness, and to exist in this place like majestic kings of our own consciousness. But to do that, we would have to give up grasping to make everything come out the way we daydream it should.

So, suffering is caused by ignorance, or suffering exaggerated by ignorance or ignorant grasping and clinging to our notion of what we think should be, is what causes the "suffering of suffering." The suffering itself is not so bad, it's the resentment against suffering that is the real pain. This is where I think Kerouac got caught as a Catholic, ultimately, because I don't think he overcame that fear of the First Noble Truth.

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Go Around

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress.

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.

Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone.

Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water.

If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

Margaret Atwood, from The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

Not About Positive Emotions

Not About Positive Emotions

"The process of finding the truth may not be a process by which we feel increasingly better and better. It may be a process by which we look at things honestly, sincerely, truthfully, and that may or may not be an easy thing to do."

~ Adyashanti

Feeling What It's Like to Be Weather

rain.JPG

July 24, 2012

Excerpt from The Wisdom of No Escape (chapter titled "Weather and the Four Noble Truths") by Pema Chödrön:

The first noble truth says simply that it's part of being human to feel discomfort. We don't have to call it suffering anymore, we don't even have to call it discomfort. It's simply coming to know the fierness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval of earth, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other...

Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another. If we feel that's a problem, we resist it. The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb, and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon. We do that, and there's no reason to resist it. If we resist it, the reality and vitality of life become a misery, a hell.

The second noble truth says that this resistance is the fundamental operating mechanism of what we call ego, that resisting life causes suffering. Traditionally it's said that the cause of suffering is clinging to our narrow view. Another way to say the same thing is that resisting our complete unity with all of life, resisting the fact that we change and flow like the weather, that we have the same energy as all living things, resisting that is what's called ego. 

Yesterday I began to be very curious about the experience of resistance. I noticed that I was sitting there with uncomfortable feelings in my heart and my stomach—dread, you could call it. I began to recognize the opportunity of experiencing the realness...feeling what it's like to be weather. Of course that didn't make the discomfort go away, but it removed the resistance, and somehow the world was there again. When I didn't resist, I could see the world. 

Then I noticed that I had never liked the quality of this particular "weather" for some reason and so I resisted it. In doing that, I realized, I re-created myself. It's as if, when you resist, you dig in your heels. It's like as if you're a block of marble and you carve yourself out of it, you make yourself really solid.

In my case, worrying about things that are going to happen is very unpleasant; it's an addiction. It's also unpleasant to get drunk again if you're an alcoholic, or to have to keep shooting up if you're a drug addict, or to keep eating if you have overeating addiction, or whatever it is. All these things are very strange. We all know what addiction is; we are primarily addicted to ME.

Interestingly enough, when the weather changes and the energy simply flows through us, just as it flows through the grass and the trees and the ravens and the bears and the moose and the ocean and the rocks, we discover that we are not solid at all. If we sit still, like a mountain in a hurricane, if we don't protect ourselves from the trueness and the vividness and the immediacy and the lack of confirmation of simply being part of life, then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out our way.


Navigating by Resistance

Three observations about resistance from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences resistance.

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually. So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing…relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Fear is a Natural Reaction

Excerpt from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön:

Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.

If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.

See also:

Split from Our Bodies

Tara Brach, from Presence and Aliveness (Part 1), January 20, 2010 (download audio):

Our children do, more than ever, grow up in a virtual reality: video games and TV and computers and texting. Leaving the body’s very reinforced by the culture.

In spiritual-religious communities there’s a mistrust of the body. Especially where there’s a real imprint of the kind of shadow-masculine of controlling the body and not getting seduced by pleasure. You see this in the monastic communities.

Ulysses and the Sirens, John William Waterhouse (1891)

And of course we know, in this culture, there’s a mistrust of the body with pain, that pain is wrong, it’s bad, it’s to be controlled. And again, it’s totally wise and compassionate to use medication when appropriate, and we so overdo it. We’re so afraid of pain. We think that aging and death are kind of an embarrassment, an insult in some way. We anesthetize births and way over-interfere with dying.

So it’s a split. We get split from our bodies in this culture and it gets very much amplified with emotional wounding. If you really consider that the pain of our emotion lives in our bodies, when that emotional feels like too much, especially when we’re traumatized early, we have to leave. We have no other way to handle it. Emotional trauma makes us leave our bodies. The more emotional wounding there’s been, the more we’ve left our bodies. It’s pretty directly correlated.

So we push away the immediate experience of the pain in our body because we’re designed to try to anesthetize that much pain. The point, again, is not that we should avoid what comforts. It’s not even that we should stick with something that’s overwhelming.

The truth is our lives get very organized around avoiding unease and unpleasantness. It becomes important to recognize our flinch responses, our intolerance to physical discomfort or to difficult emotional weather. Because the habit is so quickly—without even be conscious of it—to leave our body and go into what I sometimes think of as the mental control tower, where we try to work things and maneuver things to feel better. We don’t stay. One of the best phrases I know, in terms of describing meditation, is learning to stay. Not in a way that’s uncompassionate. Not when it’s too much. But gradually getting the knack of noticing we’ve left, noticing we’re off in thoughts, and reconnecting with this aliveness. 

Killing Time

Simple
by Rae Armantrout, from Versed

for Aaron Korkegian

Rae Armantrout has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for “Versed,” her 10th collection. Complex systems can arise
from simple rules.
It's not
that we want to survive,
it's that we've been drugged
and made to act
as if we do
while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.
If we're not copying it,
we're lonely.
Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?
Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.
If we're not killing it,
we're hungry.

The Comforts of the Status Quo

From “Change We'd Rather Do Without,” by Michael Kinsley, The Washington Post (August 28, 2009):

The reason Americans have turned against health-care reform, after electing President Obama in part for promising it, is simple: Despite protestations to the contrary, Americans don't like change. You wouldn't know it, of course, if you Hatfield Clanlisten to politicians in high-pander mode, or to talk radio hosts of the right or TV pundits of the left. Or, for that matter, if you listened to the president of the United States. You would think that while we might disagree about what kind of change we want, Americans are in total agreement that the current situation is intolerable in all areas and that change—big, immediate change—is essential. Americans do agree about this—in the abstract. But as soon as it seems that change might actually happen—as soon as we leave the abstract for the particular—we panic. We suddenly develop nostalgia for the comforts of the status quo. Sure, we want change—as long as everything can stay just as it is.

[More…]

@TheWeekMagazine

Leaving the Doors and Windows Open

Jonathan Carroll on writer’s block. Read the rest of his essay at Timothy Hallinan’s The Blog Cabin:

jonathan_carroll I like to write.  I have always considered writing my friend. We sit down together in the morning and do our job.   But (and this is a big but) if my friend Writing (notice the capital W) says not today because I’d rather go for a walk, or coffee, or nothing at all, I say fine — no work today.  If that extends to a week, then so be it.  Like the wild animals living so oddly but comfortably in the gamekeeper’s house on the Serengeti Plain, Writing stays friendly to me so long as I let him come and go as he pleases. If he doesn’t want to stay in the house he walks out and I do something else like read a book or go to the movies.  I never, ever grab Writing by the neck and say you sit back down here and go to work.   I would never treat a friend like that, nor would I treat a tiger like that.  So why treat the thing I love as much as my creative drive like that?

I believe people get writer’s block a lot of the time because they panic when the flow stops.  Then they run around the house shutting the doors and windows, trying to keep their creativity inside and at work.  Bad idea.  I do think that if they were just to get up and walk away from their work for however long, a lot of their problems would solve themselves.  Some of you might say yeah but I’ve been blocked for six months — what about that?  I’d posit that it’s likely some of the block, maybe not all, is because you are scared and trying to close all your windows.  Which in turn has scared your Writing and made IT panicky.

The Courage to Explore

“In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.”

“But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.”

~ “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage,” David Blankenhorn, author of The Future of Marriage, and Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.

The Ability to Change

"In a sense, stories are about change. And the measuring stick that savethecattells us who succeeds and who doesn't is seen in the ability to change. Good guys are those who willingly accept change and see it as a positive force. Bad guys are those who refuse to change, who will curl up and die in their own juices, unable to move out of the rut their lives represent. To succeed in life is to be able to transform. That's why it's the basis not only of good storytelling but also the world's best-known religions. Change is good because it represents re-birth, the promise of a fresh start."

~ Blake Snyder, from Save the Cat!: The last book on screenwriting you'll ever need