“He! Are you even listening to me?” My mom says as I put another fork full of spaghetti into my mouth. “Sorry what?” I ask. “Did you hear what I just asked you?” My mom asks with the ever so slight annoyance in her voice. “No, sorry. What were you saying?” I replied. She rolled her eyes, sighed, and said “never mind… is there anything going on?” She asked, always noticing when I am slightly different than usual. “No, no I’m fine,” I reply when knowing I was just caught in thoughts of anxiety and frustration. I’ve been writing all day long, but don’t feel like my work is good enough. I ain’t gaining any traction with new followers, my brand isn’t growing quick enough, and thus the level of stress rises. My thoughts drive me away into worry. “What if I do this? Will that be alright?” Or “How could I possibly make it better so that people would want to share it?” These thoughts are driving me insane at any moment of the day. I don’t taste the flavors of the food, nor do I hear the voices of my family members sitting at the dinner table. I am totally and utterly lost in thoughts.
“Okay, fine.” My mom replies, and yet again I was caught in thoughts. She once more asked me a question, yet I didn’t pay attention to it. She is frustrated now. Both my sister and my dad stay silent but I can feel their energies of annoyance and judgment. “Okay,” I reply to my mom feeling annoyed about her response to my absence. She won’t repeat her question. When in truth it is me. I am the one not paying attention. Still, I blame her in my mind and then let myself be taken away by thoughts again.
After finishing dinner I get up, do the dishes and make my way upstairs again. I still have so much to do, so much work to finish today. I open my phone, look at my to-do list and see that there are five more things to finish.
- Write a chapter of my book
- Upload the blog post
- Write tomorrows email
- Setup the podcast
- Upload a post to Instagram
All tasks that require much work. They aren’t light tasks. “I don’t have enough time for this.” I think to myself. “How can I eliminate some of these, or maybe I should just stay up longer?” I think about how I am gonna finish all 5 of these things today. I know no-one is forcing me to finish these tonight, but I want to be a business so that means hard work, right? “I need more time.” Is all I can think about. But can I ever get more time?
The next day I get up to work. It’s a side job I’ve been doing for almost half a year now. I deliver groceries to people in the morning and then afterward get back home to write and create. But I know that last night I didn’t finish everything I had to. So today I have to do even more. That thought stresses me out. “This time I am spending delivering groceries is precious. Why am I doing this? I could better use this time on writing, expanding, doing more for my business.” Yet again, at a different time of day, during a different activity, I get lost in thoughts. I try to deliver the groceries as quickly as possible, hoping to finish sooner than expected. The rush makes me mess up, I get frustrated. Hit my feet at the curb and almost fall over holding bags filled with groceries. I cut my finger on one of the metal sides and almost run into a cyclist. That is when I stopped. She passed and I was motionless. She cycled on, calming down after the initial shock. I was still uncontrollably stressed. Both by the event, and by the stress of knowing there is much for me to do.
I feel like I am resisting life. This ain’t living. This isn’t a happy life at all. I am allowing everything I adore to pass by. I sit in the car staring out over the road. For a moment I stop. The world stops. I hear the music I put on, I feel my feet hurting, and I notice my heartbeat beating like crazy. “Why am I doing this?” I think to myself.
Whether you feel like you could do something better with your time, or are feeling something that you don’t want to feel, you are in both cases just like me resisting life as it is. During dinner, during the evening, and during work, I never felt particularly alive. There was always something else that my thoughts were attending to. Whether that be thinking of new ideas, thinking of everything I still had to do, or how I didn’t want to be at work, I was never feeling alive. I was resisting life. Why do we do this? Why do I resist everything that is happening to me? Why am I not allowing life’s beauty to enter me whilst I am there? That’s what I want to find out, that’s what I want to think about and write about. This is in the way of feeling alive, or is that the whole point? That I see everything as if it is in the way of living when really everything is part of living and therefore you can feel alive at any particular moment?
We Put a Strain on Ourselves
As I became aware that I am resisting life, that I was allowing life to pass me by just like that, I noticed all the things this resistance caused within me. To be precise there are five things that we cause as we are resisting our lives from happening, or getting caught into thoughts.
- Pressure and tightness in the body
The first thing I noticed is that there is a particular tightness within my body as I am feeling anxious, or caught up in my thoughts. In moments like the one described above, I feel like my body is tightening up. My shoulders are raised or tensed. I feel a tightness within my throat as if I am consistently pulling my head back in. I notice how my tongue is pushing against my teeth and how my teeth gummy is tingling and aching. My forehead frowns and my breath shallow. All signs of the body that is closely linked to the way we feel. It’s showing us that we are literally resisting something, that’s why it tightens up. It is holding onto some feeling that needs to be released for life to flow. That needs to be released for me to feel alive.
- A certain feeling of rush/haste and anxiety
The second thing I notice when I am feeling this is that I have this particular feeling of rush. As if I need to make it to my train in time, so I rush through the gates, running towards the platform and barely making it into one of the train’s cabins. The only difference is that I don’t need to rush. I don’t physically experience a moment of rush. I just sit still on my couch as I feel that I have to constantly be moving. I feel like I have to go quicker, faster. As if I need to do more, and this feeling of haste is taking away from the act of doing it. When I am writing I sometimes feel this sense of needing to rush through it. I have to finish the article before the end of the day, and thus I write quicker. I try to get it done as fast as possible, but why? I know that this is the only thing left to do, so why rush it? Isn’t this the thing you love to do most? Why would you rush through it then? Is it more important to you to get it done than to get the best possible result out of it?
That last thing is what I truly want. I want to create value, long-form articles that I truly believe are valuable. Articles that don’t just give you quick tips or 5 hacks on living a happier life. No that’s not my style of writing. I want to take you through the process, into my mind, and hopefully with that strike a chord with you. To in some, way, shape, or form help you as well. Yet that feeling that there is always more to do, that I need to do things quicker and more efficiently is taking away from the experience itself. Some of it has to do with my quest on being more productive when the real question should be am I fully feeling alive whilst I do this? In the past couple of weeks, this wasn’t the case and I felt this certain sense of rush and haste.
- Overthinking and doubt
The third cause of this resistance to life is, overthinking and doubt. I often think a lot, which creates this tension within me. I start to overthink things. Mostly related to improving myself or my work. In these moments I am trying to figure out solutions or better ways to solve things. Or I am doubting if I am doing enough, like with writing this article, I often think to myself “Will this be enough? I don’t feel like it is valuable yet.” These thoughts intrude on the experience of writing. There is no need for them right now, thinking of the quality of this article will come later. I first need to write it completely before I can judge if it is valuable for you to read. But this overthinking and doubting of ourselves creates resistance to life as well. Instead of being in the moment, or feeling confident about ourselves and our work we start to worry and overthink things. Which will result in you not paying attention to the precious moments in your life. Like having dinner with your family.
- Only seeing a fixed path
The fourth effect is only seeing a fixed path. See it like this. You are standing before a crossing, there are five paths to take. Yet you focus on one. The four other paths become almost invisible. They don’t matter. This is also an effect of resisting life. We are too fixated on one particular goal, losing out on all the potentials and beauties around us every moment of the day. You might have a goal of making a particular amount of money or graduating college, but is that goal something you move towards without letting it consume you? Or is it consuming you and making you fixated. You don’t spend much time with friends, you don’t enjoy your time in college or at work when making money. Seeing a fixated path is blocking life from happening because you only want it to happen in the way you imagined it to happen.
- Losing spontaneity of being alive
The final thing is losing the spontaneity of living. The beauty of living is being able to go for a walk or going out for lunch with a friend just out of the blue. Yes, routines and guidelines are amazing and they too can bring a lot of joy. Yet breaking these routines and rules will open up entirely new worlds for you. Spontaneity is something that can renew our energy and makes us appreciate more of the small, almost normal, parts of life.
These are five causes that our unconscious resistance to life creates. By resisting life we make it heavier than it needs to be. I felt like I was dragging an immense amount of weight with me as I was going through my day. It felt like walking down a path and each time I encountered a boulder that was blocking the path I wrapped a rope around it, moved it out of the way, and then continued my path, forgetting to release the rope. I was pushing away the obstacles in my life, but not by letting them go. I forcefully got rid of them, dragging them with me for a large part of my life.
This way we cause life to become heavy, whereas life is initially lightweight and free. Life in itself is formless, it isn’t like a heavy thing we pick up and carry with us. It’s emptiness, lightness, weightless. It’s like the space around us. It’s always there, but never does it feel like it is weighing us down. The thing that created the resistance within me is my expectancy of life. All of the five causes of my resistance to life were linked to some expectancy of how life should be. But where did this come from?
We See Life As The Enemy
To explore why we are resisting life we have to go back in time. Explore our past, to dive straight into possible traumas and unhealed parts of ourselves. My initial resistance to life became from the fear of losing people. I was 12 years old when I lost my uncle, which was like a second dad to me. This loss created a fear of living. I was afraid to die, and that fear turned into anger towards God. At that time I was a strict believer in the Christian faith. I believed there was a God high up in the sky who controlled everything. I prayed to him every morning and every night to heal my uncle. I hoped to heal him, but the sickness only got worse. Till the point, he died. I felt left alone, I felt betrayed by God. I then decided that I was the only one that should control my life.
That forced and unhealthy control of life led to a lot of stress. A lot of anxiety for living. Deep down I knew I had no control. I didn’t have control over life. Any moment I could die. I knew that. Still, I pushed on. I wanted to have control. If God wasn’t the one that could save me, I had to be the one. That’s where the resistance towards life was born. It bloomed from the depth of discontent and fear.
This is often the source of our resistance to life. We resist it because we don’t want anything uncontrollable or bad to happen. We don’t want to lose our jobs or get bad grades. We don’t want to lose our friends or get hurt. We don’t want to feel rejected in love, or the opposite, be with someone for the rest of our lives. Thus we take control into our own hands. We say to ourselves “I can control life, I can decide what I do next. I decide what’s right and what’s wrong.” But can we decide that? How do we know that something is right for us and something is wrong? The answer to that is often “I feel it, I feel that this isn’t the right thing.” When that feeling is only created because of the thoughts you are thinking. Of course, there are some exceptions like mental and physical abuse, anything truly harmful is something we should avoid. Still, it is your responsibility to change and heal after these experiences.
I lived in an illusion that I had control over my life. I created all the stress and anxiety that I experienced each day because I wanted life to be a particular way. Forcing out everything that didn’t fit that image.
“Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness. Bad turns into good through the power of nonresistance. Always responding to what the present moment requires, you let go of whatever is when the time comes.” ~ Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth
I resisted things from happening, which made me a victim of whatever happened. That which happened determined whether I felt happy or unhappy. If I failed a test it determined that I felt bad. If I had a long day of school it determined that I felt bad. That list went on and on. Our resistance to life only makes us more vulnerable. If we seek control over life and its outcomes it makes us more and more unhappy. Life is a free-flowing thing, it can’t be grasped or put into a specific box. The greatest illusion that you and I have is that we can put it inside a box. Into a frame that we created within our minds. But we can not determine the outcome of life, nor decide whether something is good or bad. Our only objective is, what Eckhart Tolle describes in his book A New Earth, to be nonresistant. To allow everything to flow freely.
Nonresistance allows life to be our friend, instead of an everlasting enemy that we try to resist over and over again to get the result we want. Life gives you exactly what you need, and therefore exactly what you want. I want to know how I can release that resistance, to open up. Spread my arms wide to a new life. That happens as it wants to. That flows freely, uncontrollably. But how?
Resistance in The Body
As I explained to you before our body reflects our inner resistance. In my case, I resist life, and that manifests in my body as shallow breathing, my tongue pressing against my teeth, a tight throat, and tensed shoulders. My body has been the gateway into living. It has become my teacher of whatever I am resisting. It has been something I have come across in many books that I read. Like the untethered soul by Michael A. Singer as well as all Eckhart Tolle’s books. The body is a physical manifestation of our internal world. So if our body feels tight and resistant we are internally resisting something. To explore that resistance we can observe the body.
This is bodily awareness. All we can do is sit, walk, stand, or lay down and become silent. It could be seen as meditation, but for many, that sounds too spiritual and vague. When all it is, is observing whatever is happening within our bodies.
When I left high school and went to college I was pushed to confront my inner resistance. The amount of anxiety and stress had become so fast that at any random moment during the day I felt like I had to throw up. Most of the time this happened during the commute from home to school. I sat on the bus or the train silently listening to music, when all of a sudden I felt that I had to throw up. This wasn’t the case. It just was the fear of throwing up. Of something happening that I couldn’t control. That if I had to throw up there and then, that everyone would look at me and judge me. In the first few weeks of college, I resisted this. Pushed it away by biting on some chewing gum or drinking loads of water. I was anxious when this happened and found ways to reduce this with external things. After some time even these things didn’t work and I had to sit with them.
That’s where my bodily awareness was formed. I sat on a bus, with about 20 other people closely packed around me. I felt the rush of anxiety that came up. I was scared. If I had to throw up right now all these people would be covered in it. It would be a mess. These thoughts filled my mind. All I did was hear them out. I told myself “I don’t need to throw up. Relax. Calm down. Focus on your breath.” And so I did. I felt the tightness in my stomach and throat and my shallow breathing. I focused on the bodily sensation and felt comforted. As if I was home. Even though my body was in a full raging battle with anxiety I felt at home. Peaceful. I didn’t fear the sensations anymore, they became interesting to observe. I was curious. I felt the tingling in my mouth and the extra spit that was created. I noticed my palms started to sweat.
That’s where I found the gateway into the here and now. Only I didn’t realize it yet. My body slowly calmed down, but this wasn’t my goal. I simply sat on the bus trying to deal with my stress response. I knew it would pass because it always did. I just wanted to deal with it, not run away from it any longer. That was my saving. That can be your saving to your resistance towards life. To feel your body, be curious about it, and feel the sensations that are going on.
Let Go of Life Expectations
The second thing that created my resistance to life was my expectations. I had high expectations of myself, the people around me, and the way life would play out for me. I had a set path. Go to college, write after college, and then when I would graduate continue on my path as a writer. For some time all I cared about was this. Keeping these two things in balance, completely forgetting about friends, family, my mental health, and physical health. I, to this day, still have a lot of expectations towards life, which create a layer within me that resists what is truly happening from flowing into me.
What do I mean by that? Our expectations over life are like a layer that is put on top of everything happening right now. Like when we expect a relationship to last a lifetime. That expectation places a layer over the relationship. Covering up its struggles and its beauties. You just expect that it will last forever. You don’t even look at the things that create friction or appreciate the simple beauties that happen. Like watching a movie together, or going for a walk together.
Or we can expect to be successful and make a lot of money quickly. That expectation will create friction. It makes you anxious because we expect to make money quickly. We didn’t even ask ourselves why we want to make a lot of money or what success truly means to us. We just expect it to happen.
Expecting something to happen is like planting a seed without watering it. The seed is there and you believe it will grow, but you don’t water it and thus the seed doesn’t grow. You get frustrated, blame the seed for not growing, you might even buy some other seeds and plant those. Hoping that they will grow. They too don’t grow and you get more and more frustrated. The only thing you had to do was water the seeds. Enjoy that process and let go of your expectation for them to grow.
To be completely honest with you, if the seeds would have grown because it would rain and thus they receive water, you wouldn’t even be marveled by their growth. It would just be what you expected it to be. You would ignore them. Let them grow. You wouldn’t care anymore. Only if we let go of any expectations towards life will our resistance stop and can true beauty enter us.
How do we do this? Acknowledge your expectations. Why do you hold these expectations? From acknowledging your expectations the seed of letting go will grow. Be wary of your expectation of letting go. If you expect it to happen instantly you are still expecting. Acknowledge that. There is nothing that needs to happen. Nothing we should expect to happen.
This is what I see as nothing matters in a good way. It doesn’t matter what happens. Whether the seed will grow or will die. It’s the way it should be. I am only the gardener who takes care of them and doing my best to take care of them. If they don’t bloom now they might bloom in the future, if they don’t bloom in the future I at least enjoyed taking care of them.
Escaping the Mind Cage
Last but not least, our thoughts that block life. Overthinking situations, or the feeling of doubt. We can easily overthink situations, especially if we fear a potential outcome. A fun example might be your first kiss. At least I feared this. I was scared and already thought of every possible thing that could go wrong. In the end, everything turned out alright. To be honest with you these moments are often the best. Will Smith said this best:
God placed the best things in life on the other side of fear. ~ Will Smith
So how do we get out of these thoughts?
- We go deeper into them. Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive but to deal with them we need to accept them. Fully listen to them. That’s why we go deeper into them. Like if you fear jumping from a plane, you think of a possible mistake. Fully go through with the thought, don’t push it away or force it to leave. That will only make it come back. If you listen to the entire story your ego wants to share you will see that it’s just a thought. Nothing has happened yet, and if you might die when jumping from that plane there is nothing you can change about it right now.
- The second thing I love to do is write these thoughts down. If I doubt myself I write down the negative thoughts circling through my mind. This allows me to look at them and see their absurdity
- Third is getting back to bodily awareness. How do these thoughts make you feel? What’s going on in your body?
- Fourth is feeling the sensations without a goal. There is no need to feel any different. That’s what creates the resistance, our drive to feel different. Trust the process, trust that it will be better and become motionless. You don’t need to change anything. You are perfect as you are. Allowing life to flow will happen eventually. If you simply start to feel everything right here right now.
This is all I can share with you about opening up to living. Soften up a bit, be less harsh and focused. Feel instead of think. Experience instead of worry. The only thing that is causing life to pass you by is your resistance to it. You are thinking about living when you should be experiencing. Stop thinking. Start feeling. Stop seeking, start feeling. If we seek to be alive we will never find it. Because what we seek is only gonna give you that which you already know. If we seek happiness we seek a mental image of happiness which is a thought. We are never gonna find it then because happiness isn’t thought it’s a feeling.
Open Your Arms Wide
See life as standing with your arms wide open. Let it in. Feel the sun. Feel the wind against your arms. Feel your heart and the energy that flows within it. Feel, feel, feel. Feel your body. Feel your emotions. Feel your thoughts. Don’t try to get rid of the bad because life goes both ways. If we resist the bad we will resist the good at the same time. If we resist the bad it will hold space within us, space that could be filled with the good. So let it flow. Let the bad and the good flow. That creates space. That’s freedom. That’s the flow of life. That is when you will feel alive. That is when you no longer will feel like life is passing you by. That is when you can end your day and say Today I Lived!