Sunday, June 16, 2013

THE PRACTICE OF NON-RESISTANCE

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? - Rumi.


There are, as I see it, a number of important metaphysical laws that govern not only our lives but all of reality. All these laws can be seen to be corollaries of the one, great ‘law of mind’ (also known as the ‘law of life’ and ‘law of being’) that postulates that whatever comes or happens to you will be in accordance with your consciousness. Another way of saying that is, ‘Like Attracts Like.’ Birds of a feather flock together. As you sow, so shall you reap (cf Gal 6:7).

For example, there is the law, ‘What We Think Upon Grows.’ If we continually dwell upon negative thoughts and images, we should not be surprised to find ourselves becoming more and more unhappy, and negative, as time goes by. The maxim, ‘as within, so without’ (that is, ‘the inner determines the outer’), is closely allied to this law. We tend to become more-or-less what we habitually imagine, or ‘image,’ ourselves to be, for ‘as we think so we are’ (Prov 23:7).

Then there’s the metaphysical law that says, ‘Don’t Try, Let.’ That sounds counter-intuitive because we all know that if we want to achieve something that requires hard work, study, and perseverance, we need to try, at the very least. However, when it comes to psycho-spiritual reality---for example, when one desires to be rid of some addiction over which one has no personal or conscious control---the ‘secret’ for success is to … let go … hand over … surrender. There’s a related law here, ‘Effort Defeats Itself.’ Both laws only apply to the psycho-spiritual realm.

Another metaphysical law is, ‘Self Cannot Change Self.’ Readers of my blog know this is to a very familiar theme of mine. ‘Self’ is simply image in a person, and has no separate, independent, permanent reality of its own. Images of self come and go, wax and wane. They are not the real person that you are. Obsession with the ‘self’ is a terrible problem, and we need to find and use a ‘power-not-oneself’ to overcome self-obsession, self-centredness, and self-absorption. There are two reasons why we need the assistance of a ‘power-not-oneself.’ I’ve already referred to the first reason, namely, that self has no separate, independent, permanent reality of its own. It is ‘illusory’ in that sense, and has no power except that which we give it by our attention to it. The second reason why we need the assistance of a ‘power-not-oneself’ is that no effort of the self can ever remove the self … because self is the problem.

Here’s another important metaphysical law, ‘What We Resist Persists.’ This law is sometimes referred to as the ‘law of non-resistance.’ Now, we’ve all had this experience. We are lying in bed at night, trying ever so hard to fall asleep. We hear a tap (faucet) dripping in the bathroom. Drip. Drip. Drip. The more annoyed we get at the dripping noise, the louder---so it seems---the dripping becomes. Of course, the sound of the dripping has not really got any louder, but it certainly seems and sounds like it has---all because we failed to exercise non-resistance. Whatever we resist mentally, we endow with more power---power that the thing or person would not otherwise have, but for the attention we are giving it. Don't give your power away. You need all of it.

True inner mastery---not to mention happiness and peace of mind---occurs only when we let things unfold as they will, that is, when we resist not, cling not, and linger not---when we go with the flow. And while I’m on the subject of water flowing and dripping, have you ever noticed that water always flows according to the line of least resistance? It’s true, you know. New Thought writer Florence Scovel Shinn (pictured left), in her book The Game of Life (and How to Play It), writes: ‘The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly non-resistant. It can wear away a rock, and sweep all before it.’ I think there’s an important lesson in that for us as well. Each one of us is a ‘river of life,’ both an inlet and an outlet of the flow and livingness of life. So, the way to live according to our true nature is to go with the flow---the flow of life, that is. I’m not advising you to go with the crowd. That’s not the way to go.

Aristotle (pictured below right) wrote, ‘Resistance is the cause of every monstrosity.’ What did he mean by ‘monstrosity’? Well, it might be an illness, a heartache, a failure in business, a breakdown in a relationship. Resistance is a refusal to change, and as truth is dynamic and never static---it changes from moment to moment---we have only two choices. We either adjust to what is, or we stay as we are---maladjusted. The choice is ours.

The Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti uttered these immortal words: ‘In the acknowledgement of what is, there is the cessation of all conflict.’ It is not what happens to us that makes or breaks us, it is how we react---or rather respond---to what happens to us that determines who and what we are and will become. There’s more to it, still. If we can ‘acknowledge’---that is, observe, note, notice, but not judge, analyze, criticize or condemn---what happens in and as our life experience from one moment to the next, that is, if we can accept what is as what is, there will be no resistance, conflict or inner turmoil. Then, and only then, can we know peace and have serenity.

We don’t have to ‘like’ what happens to us in order for there to be an ‘acknowledgement.’ That will often not be possible or appropriate. More importantly, forming a ‘liking,’ or a ‘disliking’ for that matter, is an act of judgment, and once we judge something, we are attached to it. The result? Conflict. Resistance. Positive or negative. Just look, observe, note, and notice. But don’t judge or analyze. That is so important.

The law of non-resistance can be found in almost all sacred scriptures. Take the Bible, for instance. We are told to 'judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment' (Jn 7:24), and to 'resist not evil' (Mt 5:39). Then, there’s this wonderful advice: ‘Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison’ (Mt 5:25). The Biblical advice to 'love your enemy' (Mt 5:44) is also directed at what we should do when confronted by internal enemies, for example, negative thoughts in our own mind. They, too, are 'adversaries,' that need to be dealt with properly. And when it comes to external adversaries, the New Thought minister and writer Dr Emmet Fox used to say, ‘God is on both sides of the bargaining table.’ What good advice when it comes to negotiations and bargaining! A consensus-oriented approach and solution is so much better than having some third party dictate the outcome. Here’s some more wisdom, this time from Leo Tolstoy: ‘Do not resist the evil-doer and take no part in doing so … and no one in the world will be able to enslave you.’


There is a deeper meaning to that last mentioned verse. Your ‘adversary,’ spiritually speaking, is your own negative thought or mindset of resistance. You ‘agree’ with your resistance when you cease to resist, and if you do that ‘quickly’ you will not sow the seeds for an adverse judgment (unpleasant manifestation) in your life. In that regard, the American spiritual teacher Vernon Howard, whose writings and lectures have had a big impact on my life, said this: 'Resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.' Get the picture?

Now, this may come as a shock to some of you. Much resistance takes the form of resentment. Indeed, they all too often go hand-in-hand. We resist something because we would rather feel negative about that thing than positive. The latter---feeling positive---is harder to do, so we take the view, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, that if we can’t have things exactly as we would like them to be, well, at least we have our anger and resentment to nurture. The English word resentment comes from two Latin words, re and sentire, meaning to re-feel. When you nurture a hurt, and refuse to let it go, you re-feel it over and over again. In the process, you continually re-infect the wound. Resentment is bad news. Nothing blocks psycho-spiritual power more than resentment. It’s the number one offender.

Although it is not always readily discernible, there is a certain ‘rhythm’ to life, and we need to be attuned to it. One of all-time favourite books is In Tune with the Infinite, by the New Thought writer Ralph Waldo Trine (pictured left). The title alone says it all. Here’s some good advice from that book: ‘To be at one with God is to be at peace ... peace is to be found only within, and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all. Peace lies not in the external world. It lies within one's own soul.’

Here are four practical implications that flow from the law of non-resistance. First, the only person each of us can change is ourself, and the only way to change is to change the content of one’s consciousness. When we change our thoughts, we change our attitudes about life, and then our whole outlook upon life will change for the better. Trite but ever so true. Secondly, the more we fight against what is, the unhappier and less successful we will be. Resistance always results in a lack of psycho-spiritual power. Thirdly, it’s not so much what happens to us in life that makes or breaks us, it’s our response to what happens that is truly determinative of happiness and success. Fourthly, live mindfully---as opposed to mindlessly---from one moment to the next, keeping your attention focused on the present moment, where your body is now, lest trouble befall you.

The Bible says, ‘Acquaint now thyself with [the Divine], and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto you’ (Job 22: 21). What that verse is saying is---get in touch right now with the proper rhythm or flow of life, and be ‘at-one’ with that in your consciousness, then things will turn out good for you (‘good’ meaning a state of affairs that satisfies all your real needs). Why? Because you will have established yourself in the true nature and character of life itself. Angels can do no better.

So, resist not---and stay in tune with the infinite.



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