Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Do We Resist What Can Really Help Us?

By Judith England

It’s quite a puzzle why people often resist that which would be most helpful to them. Even knowing this to be the case, I still find myself guilty at times of this strangely self-defeating behavior.

Consider the following:

“I know I ‘m tired and need to go to bed, but I’ll stay up just a few hours longer”.

“ It took months of hard work to lose the weight, why can’t I just stay away from the ice cream?”

“ All the requirements for my degree are done, all I have to do is finish this last paper…..I keep getting distracted.”

“ When I exercise I feel really great. I think I’ll start a regular program….tomorrow…”

Believe me, if I were to find a way to bridge the gap between intention and action I could retire now a multi-millionaire!

Fellow Holistic Health blogger, Ann Carey Tobin’s most recent post “Change is Scary” discussed that part of our brains hard-wired to equate change with danger. Unfortunately, all change – whether it represents an actual threat or not – is cast in the same light.

In many cases we’ve come to believe that who we are is the same as what we do. We can become so entrenched in our life roles and scripts, that to alter them seems as dangerous as a loss of self.

It doesn’t even seem to matter if the change is one which just “happens” to us, or one we initiate.

Consider the implications of a divorce. There’s the loss of a life partner, along with a whole host of unmet, unspoken expectations. There’s also a change in how we are viewed within our communities and ultimately by ourselves., It’s no wonder that people will stay in dysfunctional relationships, unsatisfactory jobs, or unhealthy lifestyles rather than face the risks and fears of what is new and unfamiliar.

Change, or the possibility of change, triggers the eternal question “If I’m not this, than what am I”.

With yoga students there’s a pattern I see over and over again. The beginning student loves the practice. They come to class eager to learn, welcoming the new awareness of the body, breath and possibilities. They dive enthusiastically into the thought that they’ve found something to make life better.

Then something shifts.

Some weeks, or months down the line resistance* rears it’s head. There’s all kinds of reasons to skip class – too late, too early, too cold, too tired. Trouble spots, aches and pains show up in the body. Questions begin to hover just below the surface of the conscious mind. It’s so predictable you could set your watch by it.

It’s not that something is wrong. On the contrary, it means that something is right.

Yoga, when taken on with commitment and discipline, is guaranteed to be a transformational process. The disquiet, the resistance is a clear signal that something old is breaking down, making a space for something new to emerge. When discomfort replaces bliss you’re on your way.

Sometimes people ask if yoga has “changed” me. My answer is simply this: It has unflinchingly brought me face to face with every part of my life where belief and behavior didn’t match up. It has pressed me beyond my comfort zone, and challenged me to take another look at places where my life was less than authentic.

Paradoxically, it has also been a place of comfort and support when life seemed strange, unpredictable and yes, scary.

When I was in my teenage angst-ridden-roller-coaster stage I would sometimes look whistfully at the adults around me and wish for the life of quiet steadiness they seemed to enjoy. Now I know that that was an illusion. That life surges on, changing moment by moment, whether we invite it or not.

And that’s just as it should be.

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

“fully alive” -by Dawna Markova

Writer Judith England, trained as an R.N., is a massage therapist and yoga teacher. Her writing appears at the Holistic Health blog at the Albany Times Union's website at This is a blog that is well worth bookmarking.


Baye said...

Such great points here. I sent it to my daughter, too. Thanks for sharing it

Anonymous said...

Almost two years of yoga made me suicidally depressed. Yes, I was unhappy, and if I'd countinued any longer it would have resulted with death. Please don't tell ne I should've just "pushed through". No one should do anything that makes them that miserable, on purpose.