If somebody asked me for the secret to awakening or the best way to see the face of God and live or how to be so happy that even dying can’t turn your frownie upside downie, I’d probably say “give attention to your experience of resistance and see what you can do to cut it down to zero.”
By that I’d mean three things.
First, actually make time and space to sit quietly and notice your experience of resistance. What form does it take? What elicits it? How does it avoid being noticed? What does it prefer you notice? And so forth.
The point here is not to wallow in pain and suffering but rather to become intimately familiar with your own subjective experience of resistance. By “intimate” I mean to a clinical degree, an expert degree.
Second. When you begin to become deeply familiar with your experience of resistance, it will point to certain gaps in your knowing. For example, you might discover that you are resistant to that which causes you to feel shame. And all you really know about shame is that you don’t like it.
So I’d study shame. I’d go out and learn what the best and most informed thinkers have to say on the subject of shame. I’d avoid popular writing (or I’d only skim it to sketch the general boundaries of the topic) and instead dive into the academic literature. A good library that gives you access to academic databases is essential.
I’d read carefully. I’d keep a running annotated bibliography. Essays that really resonated, I’d print and store in a loose-leaf binder. When I found a thinker who really turned the interior lights on, I’d read everything they wrote that I could get my hands on. Everything.
My goal would be goose my knowledge of their work and thinking to a point where I could ask intelligent thought-provoking questions of them, including follow-up questions. My goal would be to merit a dialogue, not as a supplicant but as an equal, another person committed to learning and sharing.
And I would do this for every thing that appears in my giving of attention to resistance: shame, grief, guilt, fear, lust . . .
It is a lot work. But I will tell you that a point inevitably arrives when you begin to perceive underlying patterns and recurrences. Connections appear; themes arise. Then you can start to move away from general topics (shame, fear etc) and begin to focus on the matriarchs and patriarchs whose teachings most clearly and succinctly point to the “underlying patterns and recurrences.” What does Husserl say? Emily Dickinson? David Bohm?
The work is still academic but at this juncture it actually acquires an almost monastic bent. You basically become as a disciple unto these thinkers. It’s not a short-term learning process but a lifelong commitment. It’s not a visit to the library; it’s “I-can’t-find-my-bed-because-of-all-these-books-and-papers. And I don’t care.”
These two stages – giving attention to the personal experience and academic study – can take years. If they don’t, you either got supremely lucky or you’re faking it (for yourself and/or others – which it’s okay, it happens and can be corrected for).
The neat thing is that the two stages begin to inform one another. They begin to run in tandem, buttressing and sustaining one another. You’re studying shame and it facilitates a new way of giving attention to your experience of shame which brings up some new insight about a family dynamic from childhood replaying in your current home setting which reminds you of that essay you read last year that was confusing but maybe you should look at it again . . .
Here’s the thing. At some point in this process, you realize that you no longer experience resistance the way you used to experience it. You are in a different posture with respect to it.
At that point, you can take the third step – which, actually, has already been taken. But now you can engage it intentionally. You can begin to actually actively undo resistance. You can give attention to its appearance in your living and, because you are in this new posture (of understanding) with respect to it, your attention undoes it, usually right there on the spot.
And bliss and joy and love abound.
Of course, it won’t always happen that way. It can be a two steps forward, half a step sideways, three steps back and doh-si-doh sometimes. But other times it’s clear sailing; some days you undo so much resistance you feel like you’re gazing directly in the face of God while drawing breath, like you were asleep all those years and now you’re awake . . .
I don’t say it works this way for everyone. Clearly it doesn’t. We aren’t all turned on by libraries. When I started to really study David Bohm’s work on dialogue I lost a lot of readers at this site. A lot of folks with whom I was sharing the ACIM path, so to speak, shuffled off. It didn’t get any better with Husserl, Maturana, Varela et cetera.
But you have to follow the trail your feet make, not the trail that’s most crowded or most comfortable.
These days, I am exponentially less resistant to experience. I judge what happens less. I don’t cling to insight when it arises, and I don’t pursue extremes of sensation. When I do judge or cling or pursue I notice it happening and it more or less dissolves.
Resistance creates friction which is painful. I don’t want to be in pain, and I don’t want to contribute to the pain of others. So a policy of nonresistance is practical and kind. It heals the collective as well as the individual node floating around in it.
We give attention to our experience of resistance so as to become intimate and expert with our subjective experience of it, and we then become expert – or at least supremely competent – with the overall subject matter driving our resistance and, finally, we work on a regular basis integrating experience and study so as to undo resistance in our daily living.
It’s something to try anyway.