Resistance and Acceptance: How to Know Which to Choose


As I’m writing this, the election was 10 days ago and there has been a lot of resistance to the results. Including in my own mind. It feels like many things I hold dear are under attack—reproductive rights, equal rights for all people, the environment, our standing in the world.

To me, it feels like our plane has been hijacked, and my reaction has been to storm the cockpit. Let’s roll! Because I don’t want to end up a smudge in a field. (Hey listen, I realize this is dramatic, but this is how it has felt in my mind.)

Basically, every cell in my body has been saying NO to the suggestions, commands and shouts that have been flying around Facebook to “get over it.”

What I’ve been feeling, in very stark relief, is resistance

In the mindfulness tradition, resistance is not liking things as they are. It’s bemoaning the rain, hating your hair, judging the driver ahead of you, feeling sorry for yourself, getting irritated at the sight of a long line at the grocery store.

The hitch is—things will always be exactly as they are. You not liking the things won’t change them. Meaning, it’s not the thing itself that causes your suffering, it’s your reaction to the thing that causes you pain.

I know the principle of “resistance creates suffering” to be true. And yet I have been up to my eyeballs in resistance as I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Whew, what a ride! It looked a little like this:


Then I lost my phone for most of the day yesterday—it was definitely Life trying to tell me to step back from reading the articles and the Facebook comments. I went to bed early last night. And today, I think I might have sufficiently allowed myself to feel all those feelings, and am now able to contemplate acceptance.

Here’s what I know to be true about acceptance:

If you’re resisting something, you aren’t seeing it clearly. You’re seeing what you think about it. Therefore, acceptance requires awareness of what truly is. And that awareness gives you objectivity on the thing that’s triggering your resistance.

And that objectivity is key. I say it all the time, but you can’t change a habit you don’t know you have. You can’t heal a wound you don’t know is there.

What acceptance isn’t is lying down, throwing up your hands, and saying “whatever”. You may accept that what you’re experiencing doesn’t jibe with your values, but if you don’t get over your resistance to the fact that it exists, you’ll be fighting your own perceptions, and not reality.

Make sense?

Here’s the step-by-step to hopefully make it clearer:

  1. Realize you’re in resistance.
  2. Do the work of softening your mind and heart to accept what is.
  3. Use that clarity to determine what you want to change.
  4. Take steps, knowing that your actions create positive results so long as you stay open to insight (inner guidance) and grace (divine intervention).

You will keep experiencing resistance

Both internal and external. Just go back to step one.

I’d say I’m in somewhere around the end of step 2. I’ve definitely taken a lot of steps—because I had to do something—but I’m not sure they’ve been particularly clear or particularly guided by insight. The beautiful thing is that we continually get chances to do it all again and start fresh.

In other news, is anyone planning to go to the Million Women March in D.C. on January 12? I’ll meet you there. =)


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