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Bracing against life


Is resistance in your body more familiar than ease? Are you relating to life with an attitude of no more than yes?


When we brace against life we create tension. We resist, we fight, we generally close off. If we close our eyes right now and sense into our muscles we might feel a lot of tension, tightness and constriction. We feel like we might fall over with a bit too much wind, or stress, or conflict.


When we open to life, we create ease. We are flexible, we let life flow through us. We can bend and form to what is happening with some resilience. When stress is present, we know it is present and decide how we'd like to be with it.


When something is happening that we don't want, it's usually pretty hard to take care of the situation and yourself if you can't see clearly. The stress, body tension and stories our minds create when we are resisting block us from seeing clearly.


With mindfulness, we have an option to practice allowing** which acknowledges with non-judgement what is happening internally as we experience the moments of our lives. I once found myself in a hospital room, quite to my surprise. I noticed that I could either resist the experience with all my might (which wouldn't change the fact that I was sitting in a hospital room) or I could allow myself to feel the frustration and fear, feel the tension of those emotions in my body and bring some compassion into the moment with mindful breathing and well wishes. The situation was as it was, but my decision for how to be with these moments in the hospital became discernible rather than reactive.


How do we move from resistance to allowing? Well, it starts with awareness.


- Developing body awareness helps strengthen our mindfulness. Body scans help us drop out of the cognitive mind, shine some attention and care on our body and cultivate some literacy around the wisdom held in the body. When we're aware of the tension in our body in real time, we have an opportunity right then and there to ask ourselves "Am I resisting? Can I relate to this differently?"


- In formal meditation, practicing labeling the experience assists us in meeting life with awareness. This gives our busy minds something to do, and creates a tiny pause that can interrupt the default reactions from occurring.


- Connecting with metaphor, poetry and nature shifts many of us into a more relaxed, open orientation to life. For example, thinking of water helps us remember to let life flow through us. Water is powerful but also ultimately flexible. The surface of the ocean can have huge waves, small currents and everything in between and yet the ocean itself remains whole and steady, like our awareness.

- Knowing when resistance is present also helps. Sometimes our inclination is to resist the resistance. Instead, bring mindfulness to it: Ok, I don't like this and wish it was different. My body is tense. This is what it's like when resistance is here.


- Noticing when you bring the energy of yes or no into a situation teaches us about our attitude and inclinations toward allowing or resisting as well. Even if a much needed no is present we can open to that and allow it rather than tangling it with more resistance.


Am I resisting?


Am I allowing?


How does this feel in my body?


If I could choose, how do I want to be with this experience?


**There is a caveat to allowing. In the context of mindfulness, allowing isn't about passivity or letting yourself be hurt by others. It is the allowing that moves us into an open place where we can see clearly what is happening externally and internally and activate the compassion necessary to make decisions with thoughtfulness and care.