In yoga we sometimes play with the phrase, “what you resist persists”. The idea is that we spend a lot of effort trying to avoid discomfort by not seeing what’s in front of us, but if we pause and accept what’s in front of us then it might not be as scary as we thought and it may even teach us something about universal beauty. This sounds like a pleasant outcome to giving up resistance – it seems to suggest that the unpleasant thing will magically no longer persist. But in some cases this simplicity diminishes the complex and full spectrum nature of resistance.
Sometimes resistance gives us something to push off of in a helpful way – like the concrete of the pool wall when it’s time to turn around. And resisting something external and unhealthy, for example oppression, is actually required in order to change it. In this case oppression persists unless we resist. How can we use resistance to activate ourselves and/or our communities to do something different? One answer is to investigate resistance and embrace as interdependent partners. When I say “no” to one thing, I’m saying “yes” to something else. So, when I resist, what is it I’m embracing?
I resist the temptation to stay silent – to stay the same – and simultaneously embrace taking risks though dialogue. Embrace happens in the absence of gripping. For example, I spent most of my adult life in the community where I grew up. I know that place from the inside – it’s challenges and it’s offerings. In communities I find myself a part of now I feel like a newcomer. I have felt the urge to grip – to attempt to create something familiar that fits an old context. And sometimes I do grip – It feels like dumping the pieces from two different puzzles on the table and trying to force them together. Obviously that strategy is not effective, but somehow I don’t recognize this until I have a pile of confusion in front of me. So, I’m inviting myself – and you, if you should take me up on it – to take a step back to practice the art of embrace rather than gripping in the context of resistance. I am learning that to embrace in dialogue is like a physical embrace between two people. If we pay attention there are subtle cues that tell us that the embrace is welcome, how it should go, and when it is ending.
Setting an intention can be a catalyst for changing our brains and our behavior, so here we go: My intention is to experience resistance and to embrace dialogue. The details – when dialogue will be welcome, how it should go, when it is ending – we’ll have to figure that part out together…