February 4, 2015
I call 2006 ‘the year of the surgeries’. I bring it up now because I’m exploring the theme of resistance as a barrier in my life. And I know that my family, friends and clients struggle with it as I do.
If anything in my life has screamed for resistance to show up it was out of the blue, no warning, emergency cervical spine surgery followed a couple months later by breast cancer.
Resistance, as I’m using it, is defined as: ‘the effort made to stop or to fight against someone or something’. It shows up in my life in response to anything I don’t want. And my ‘don’t wants’ are endless…thoughts, feelings, experiences, people, places, and weather that isn’t sunny, 75, with a light, cool breeze and no humidity.
2006 fast-forwarded me into a profoundly different relationship with resistance, and with my mind and my body. The epitome of resistance is to be at war with something we don’t like. I realized that making the enemy out of what I didn’t want would not only slow down my recovery, it might make it impossible.
Before the spine surgery I had two days to think about what was coming. It was sobering to hear the word quadriplegic applied to me as a possible outcome of surgery. Or from not having surgery.
I knew I needed help and I asked for it. Then I hunkered down and waited. And all that came to me was a bunch of trite phrases I’d been preaching for years but hadn’t applied to my own physical well being, because my body was just fine thank you very much.
‘Whatever you resist persists.’ ‘Whatever you put your attention on grows.’ ‘If you don’t want it; you’ve got it!’. I had nothing else to do so I sat with trite.
They became the most important ideas to come out of that first surgery, and they accompanied me to the next diagnosis and surgery a couple months later. The opposite of resistance—openness and willingness and curiosity—became my focus, to the point where they took on a sort of embarrassing passion and life of their own that’s still with me.
I came to know in my bones that I wasn’t going to end up hating my spine for crumbling, or fighting the cancer, or going to war with it or overcoming it. I was going to make friends with it, and with my immune system, and my crumbling skeleton, and I think most important, with my resistance.
I may not be in charge of much, but 2006 was the year I learned what I am in charge of. I learned where I want to put my attention. And it is most definitely not on resisting anything, not even my resistance.
It wasn’t an easy year. It wasn’t pretty. I’m not talking about ignoring reality. Or assuming a fake, ‘I’ll pretend myself beyond my own evolution to where I wish I was’, persona. I developed a relationship with reality that allowed me to treat myself with the respect and kindness my body needed to do it’s job as best it could. It was not a year of passively waiting for what would come. It was a year of seemingly endless occupational therapy appointments and radiation treatments. It was a year of action and full engagement with life.
In Part 2 we’ll look at the idea of managing mental, emotional and physical discomfort with a new perspective.
But for right now, notice if there’s something you’ve been resisting; something that hasn’t surrendered or left just because you want it to. And if you find it, consider shifting your attention to your body, relax the parts that are coiled like a tight spring, and see what you see, feel what you feel, and experience what happens in your body when you’re no longer at war with your thoughts, your feelings or your physical sensations.