One of my favorite bad guy lines of all time is “ Resistance is Futile “ courtesy of The Borg from Star Trek Next Generation. The Borg were a collective entity that assimilated their victims in an attempt to reach a sort of computerized all–knowing perfection. Their standard “resistance is futile” line was the last thing they said to their victims to state that there was no escape from their fate….that struggling only made the inevitable more difficult.
Recently I faced situation at work where I stood the very real potential for losing my job because I stood up to an injustice. As I waited through the weekend full of anxiety; stomach churning and a constant tension headache from my tight shoulders I began to think about the Borg statement in a slightly different light then they may have meant. There was nothing I could have done about the situation I found myself in other than to have kept quiet (which was simply not possible if you know me at all!). I did what I needed to do, I was not antagonistic, I spoke my truth and now simply need to face the result of my actions. Resistance to the proverbial shit hitting the fan is indeed futile. And, my relaxing about it might indeed give me the agility and strength to dodge it! My inner struggle with the perceived difficulty of the impending meeting was ruining my weekend. I could not change a single thing about what was going to happen….I could only change my own end of it and let it go. If I stopped holding myself in such a place of resistance – the fear of the unknown – what would I begin to open up to as a possibility? And certainly, walking into that meeting tense and agitated wasn’t going to do me any good – I knew I was in the right, but I didn’t need to be all wound up about it or I was going to be the one who lost it.
Relaxing into the struggle looked at in a different light makes me think about learning to swim – something that is still an anxiety filled sport for me. Since we owned a boat growing up my parents were determined that I would know how to swim. To make a long story short, their well intended efforts, and those of the swim instructors who employed a sink or swim attitude, did not lead me to a lifelong love of the activity. But learning does shed some light onto the Borg philosophy as well. I was taught that my swimming safety net is to float on my back. In order to float, I must stop flailing about….the more I struggle, the more likely I will end up under water. How often do we accomplish our goals by running around panicking about all the things that might happen? How much more successful are we when we approach the events in our lives with a calmness that leaves room for positive outcome? How often do we struggle within our own safety net?
The difference between my use of the Borg statement and theirs is that I believe that resistance is futile not because I believe we should give up, but rather so that we can see how and what we are resisting and decide if it is a necessary use of our energy. In between resignation and resistance is curiosity. Examining our places of resistance, fear, defensiveness and avoidance gives us the opportunity to shed light into the darkness of our scary places. Curiosity steps us away from our habitual actions/reactions and gives us an opportunity for a new experience. As we pause and look at the path we always take, the actions we don’t even think about, the words that we use without analyzing their future, we become freer in our lives.
We all have a tendency to struggle with a myriad of things that really don’t require all that energy. Usually this struggle is prompted by fear. We are uncomfortable with not-knowing, we are worried we will get hurt, we don’t want to let our guard down, we are preparing for the worst. We are focused on what MIGHT happen or what HAS happened instead of being present in the moment and gaining strength in that. When we hold ourselves too tightly we hold ourselves back from accomplishing our goals, speaking/acting on our truth and from fully loving and being loved.
Pema Chodron writes:
“… the next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you are feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in…Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine, and that of all living beings.” (Excerpted from “Taking the Leap”, by Pema Chodrön)
I often think of Pema’s instruction to “lean in”. I most easily see resistance as it manifests in my own body. In yoga as we are engaged in a challenging position – especially if it is a new one to me, I find that my muscles fight every movement. They are bunched up and tight even as I try to stretch them in ways I KNOW they are going to like. My yoga teacher speaks of how we hold stories in our body and how the physical pain and resistance we feel is a piece of our personal story that got lodged in that particular place. He tells us to send light and love to those uncomfortable places – to breathe into the resistance in order to open it up to receive love, compassion and gratitude. I notice that I am often able to tell my muscles and my brain to let go of the tight grip as I take deep breaths and melt into the discomfort. As I stop resisting, as I stop seeing the pain as bad my body opens and I am able to go more deeply into the pose. In yoga and in life, as I stop resisting, I open myself up to a deeper experience that transcends my fear of inadequacy, of “what if” and “I can’t and begins to heal those long-held tensions in my body and soul.
I don’t know all of causes the knots of pain and anxiety that my body holds onto. And I don’t understand how one day they are gone and the next they are magically back. But I do try to regularly practice the concept of not struggling with the struggle as my friend Carole puts it. Life is hard, hard things come up, we have hurt places and scared places and resistance within us. Okay. So are we going to move forward by fighting; by flailing around and resisting or by opening to a level of curiosity and seeing what happens when we lean in just a bit.
I wish I could say that knowledge of my resistance to so many aspects of life lessened it dramatically – but no. Each day in a multitude of ways I am reminded how much I hold myself back. I deal with a chronic anxiety disorder that is controllable with great care and attention without drugs. Keywords…CARE and ATTENTION. A person – or at least me – with an anxiety disorder is exactly like the metaphor of learning to float on ….you must stop flailing around in order to keep floating. The more I resist being anxious/stressed/overtired, the worse it gets. And not only does the anxiety get worse, my brain fills up with negative stories about all the things I SHOULD be capable of, all the way’s I am not successful/beautiful/smart instead of just listening to the tiny voice in me that says “I need a time out…and some chocolate…and a little less business please”.
There are many more ways I hold myself too tightly emotionally and physically. Every morning I bend over to dry my hair upside down so that it doesn’t matt to my head like glue as it dries. And every morning, no matter how limber or stiff I am feeling I only bend part of the way over. I hold back, for no particular reason. Each time I realize this I let go, and immediately move into a place of greater ease and relaxation as I stop trying to hold myself Amazingly, the pain in my body eases! Each time I sit down at my computer to write I find a million other things to do besides write and the voices in my head go on and on about how worthless it is. I sit down with my cup of tea and BREATHE through the anxiety and resistance. Each time I approach the keyboard, I swear I am going to quit and then do it anyway. When I am heartsick about the perceived indifference of my partner Neil, I take a step back and open my heart….is it really intentional neglect or am I afraid that I will be left or that I am not enough? As I step into that feeling of fear, and watch how instead of being confrontational being present chances the situation for both of us, we both open deeper and more fully to our relationship.:
So here is a simple experiment to just see how you may be holding yourself too tightly physically:
As you sit here reading this RELAX.
Sure, you think you are relaxed now, but are you? Are you holding your stomach tight? How about the muscles in your jaw? Are your shoulders up at your ears as you sit at your computer? Can you breathe into those places and just let them drop? What are you gaining by holding yourself so tightly? What feelings come up when you let go? And more importantly, what are YOU really resisting?
The Borg kind of had it right….and even the concept of assimilating into the collective is not so far off. It is just that the entity you become a part of when you cease resistance is not evil or of a continuous questing for betterment. It a place of soul filled radiant beauty, of right action for the right reasons. Its physical image is not that of the linear cube of the Borg, but of an open hand, not grasping and ready to receive. It is not about striving, but about being open to what is coming at you with a sense of curiosity. We can continue to hold ourselves back, but on the warrior path it is imperative that we are paying attention so that we may choose our actions and responses wisely. We must not shut ourselves off or ignore the triggers in our bodies, or in the messages our deepest selves send us. And so, as we walk this path of right action and of soul-filled living, resistance is indeed futile.