“Be like teflon, not like velcro. Non-resistance is the key to a smooth, peaceful, non-sticky life!” —Richard Paterson
As long as we inhabit these human bodies, it is inevitable that we will experience pain in our lives, whether it be in the form of disappointment, loss, failure or the unwanted thoughts, feelings and emotions that gatecrash their way uninvited into our heads.
Although pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience, how much we suffer as a result comes not so much from events themselves (I include thoughts and feelings here) but from our level of resistance to whatever arises.
The Buddhists have an expression “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”.
What do they mean by this?
Let’s say you’re feeling sad. Like all thoughts and feelings, it is self-arising. You don’t choose to feel this way. It just happens. It feels unpleasant and you naturally want it to go away.
The mind kicks off “I hate feeling sad. It sucks. What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I want it to go away. What can I do to fix it?”
And it is this reaction, unconscious in most people, that causes suffering.
Deepak Chopra said:
“Most people are a bundle of nerves and conditioned reactions, being constantly triggered by other people and circumstances into totally predictable outcomes.”
I would add thoughts, feelings and emotions to that list.
Most people go through life in reactive mode, unconsciously resisting life’s difficulties and creating additional suffering in the process.
Accepting what already is, is the antidote.
So what would non-resistance look like in the above example?
You feel sad. You acknowledge that it’s there. You are conscious of the tendency to push it away (and the suffering that will cause) so instead, you choose to turn towards it…. with openness and curiosity.
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Your inner dialogue may go something like this:
“So, sadness is there. (Breathing into it) That’s OK. Everyone feels sad at times. It’s part of the human condition. It may feel unpleasant but there’s nothing ‘wrong’. It’s part of the inner weather right now. Could I make space for it to be here right now…. embrace it, give it permission?
Non-resistance is the key to peace. If something is there anyway it is always better to work with it than against it… if we’re conscious enough to catch our unconscious reactions.
The main issue is to break out of autopilot reactive mode— to develop the capacity to step back and consciously consider how you wish to respond.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor Frankl
Peace or suffering? The choice is ours.
We can go through life in reactive mode, resisting everything we dislike or we can become more conscious and learn to say yes to whatever arises, even life’s inevitable difficulties.
And here’s another angle to consider:
What if life’s challenges and difficulties were opportunities sent your way by the Universe to help you mature as a person and grow spiritually.
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There’s an Indian saying that goes:
Like the mangle that crushes the raw sugar cane to extract its sweet juice, life crushes you to bring out your sweetness.
There is great power in learning to embrace whatever life throws at you… to be like teflon and not like velcro. Non-resistance is key.
There’s an old Zen story about taming an angry bull that I’d like to share with you. It’s one of my favourite analogies.
Non-Resistance and the Angry Bull
Imagine you find yourself in a confined space with an angry bull… kicking, stomping, snorting, threatening… a bit like being trapped inside the narrow confines of your own head with a restless and troublesome mind.
So what do you do?
Well, here’s the worst thing you can do in this scenario.
You can try fighting him, try to control him — try to force him into a corner and tie him up. The more you fight, the angrier and more unmanageable he becomes. The more you resist him, the stronger he gets.
So, what is the solution?
Untie him and set him free.
Give him a vast, open field to run around in. Meeting with no resistance, he will quickly run out of steam and settle down… all by himself.
It’s the resistance that keeps him angry and agitated.
Resistance is what empowers both the mind and the bull.
Leave him in peace for 5 minutes and he’ll be happily munching grass.
And the exact same applies when you’re faced with a restless mind or unpleasant emotions.
Let it be restless. Don’t resist it. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to control it.
Set it free to do its dance.
Let the mind run free in the vast field of your awareness. Meeting with no resistance there, it will quickly settle down.
And even if it doesn’t, if you don’t react to it, don’t touch it, then what’s the problem?.
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Non-resistance is like kryptonite to the mind. If you choose not to play ball, it becomes powerless.
It’s far better to encounter a mad bull in a vast, open space than in a tight, confined enclosure. And it’s the same with the mind.
Non-Resistance: Be Like Teflon, Not Like Velcro
Shit happens! It’s an inevitable and unavoidable part of life.
And when the shit hits the fan, it’s far better to respond consciously with an attitude of non-resistance that to unconsciously react.
Let it hit the fan. Let it spray everywhere. Let it be messy. It’s all part of life. And it’s all OK… if you decide it is.
And it’s bad, wrong, not OK… if that’s what you decide.
It is whatever you decide it is.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. It’s your choice.
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