Sweet Surrender: How to Let Resistance Be Your Teacher

Sometimes we don’t want to do the “thing.” This resistance can show up as procrastination and avoidance (kind of the same thing, really). Or, maybe it’s boredom. Anxiety. Whatever mask it’s wearing, if you dig deep you will find that there is resistance to something.

On the surface, it may look like resistance to cleaning the house or writing that report. Maybe it’s not wanting to make a phone call or schedule an appointment. Sit with it. What’s the message there? My guess is that what you’re feeling is about something deeper. There’s a fear there.

For example, maybe some part of you is afraid that you don’t have what it takes to write that report. Or, you’re afraid it won’t be good enough. You’ll get something “wrong.” Maybe you don’t want to make that phone call because you dread having a certain conversation. But maybe what it’s really about is knowing you need to set boundaries and fearing how the other person will respond.

In the end, it’s all spiritual practice. It’s about meeting resistance and calmly proceeding. Surrendering. And surrender is not weakness; it’s strength. It’s not fighting, it’s opening. Vulnerability. Gently walking forward on the path. Trusting that all will be well.

Resisting, fighting—that’s about contraction, about wanting to stay small, to hide. It’s fear-based. Meeting resistance with curiosity and calm and moving through it with grace—that’s the lesson.

Notice the physical sensation of resistance in your body. It may be a sensation of tension in your chest or gut. A clenching. Or, you may find yourself holding your breath.

So, when you have moments like this, what can you do? Here are 5 simple suggestions. Try one the next time you feel resistance.

5 Ways to Surrender and Work with Resistance

  1. Remember to breathe. Find somewhere comfortable, or at least find somewhere with a little bit of privacy. Close your eyes, if that feels right to you. Then, gently and slowly inhale and exhale for three breaths. See how you feel. Do you feel calmer? If not, do this three more times. When you feel a sensation of relaxation, return to your task.
  2. Journal about it. If you’re like me, often you find it helpful to write out your thoughts and feelings. I find that this is a great way to “empty” my mind. So, take five to 10 minutes and write about how you’re feeling. What is it about your task that’s creating the sensation of resistance? Go deeper. Is there more to the story? Now, what’s the worst that can happen if you complete the task? Alternatively, what’s the best thing that can happen? Finally, what’s one small step you can take to get started? Then, return to the task and take that one step. Then take another.
  3. Take a walk. Sometimes, the best medicine is to get up and walk away for a few minutes. Instead of trying to force yourself to do something or to sit and spin your wheels, basically doing little things related to the actual task, just set it aside for the moment. Go for a brief walk. Or, maybe take a longer walk. When you feel refreshed and refocused, come back to the task and begin again.
  4. Set at timer. Set a timer for 10 minutes. During that 10 minutes, allow yourself to feel all the frustration and angst and irritation that this project or situation seems to be creating in you. Notice how it feels. Notice what goes through your mind. How much of it is “real”? Now, set the timer for another 10 minutes and work on one small aspect of the task. At the end of the 10 minutes, notice how you feel. And notice how your task may have shifted. You may want to continue to use the timer to break the task down using whatever increments work for you.
  5. Do something else. It’s possible that the best solution may be to simply do something else. Sometimes what we need is a fresh perspective, rather than continuing to grind away, or appear to grind away, at something. Work on something else for a while. Or, do something else that’s totally different. But first decide when you will return to your source of frustration.

Let your frustration be a teacher. Let resistance help you grow. Surrender with grace and surprise yourself.

(Photo by Andreas Selter on Unsplash)

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