What does it mean to practice ‘non-resistance’?

Don’t resist the opponent’s force. Yield to overcome.

I am not a martial artist, nor do I know anything much about martial arts. But I know, without ever having practiced, that this quote speaks truth.

In my experience, if ‘overcoming’ means living a life that is rich and real, then stepping out of the little game we’re playing where we’re the main character and the goal is to control our way through the levels and obstacles is the only way. Part of being present and awake to what is actually real is yielding, with grace – rather than gripping to your own idea of how things should be.

A baby sits in an Italian sunlit paved laneway with flowers at their feet in summertime
Non-resistance embodied: My eldest Eden enjoying the spoils of southern Italy

Let’s suppose the opposite of yielding is ‘resistance‘. How does resistance show up?

Resistance can be a physical holding, tightening or clenching. It can be a shallow breathing pattern: shorter duration, and only into the chest region. It might be an agitation, or discomfort in your physical body, pulling at clothes, bopping knees or tapping nails.

Resistance can be in planning and anticipating how you want something to be, imagining even that you can actually will it to be a certain way, if you apply enough effort and skill.

Resistance might show itself in your reaction when another person, including a child, or even your baby, doesn’t act how you thought they would, or how you would prefer, in your own ideal version of life.

Resistance might be never having said out loud that you are lonely, that your own parent/s disappointed you, or that something unfair and painful happened to you. It might be allowing yourself to feel anger, or grief, or boredom.

Resistance, for me, is experienced as a separation between me and life.

When I resist, I remain fused with very compelling thoughts about how I want the world to be, rather than aware and engaged with how it actually is. Moment to moment is experienced through the lens of how much it aligns with what you thought it was going to be, or how you think it ‘should’ be, rather than being awake and present to what actually is. What is in your body. What is in your mind. What is in your heart. What is happening around you. What is happening for someone else. What is happening in the whole wide world.

Non-resistance doesn’t mean passivity. It doesn’t mean ‘lowering standards’, ‘letting go’, or ‘giving in’.

Non resistance means you recognise the only one playing the game against you is you. It means you swim in and along with the waves of the ocean of life, rather than flail pointlessly against them. You make choices based on a much clearer awareness of what is real and true, for you. You can express needs. You can hold boundaries.

Ambition and desire are a way for us to dance in and through what is on offer in life. We are not only a recipient of reality, but also a contributor. But this control has a natural limit to it. At some point, no matter what you want, or how much you want it, life will serve up something different. Continue to strive, and act out what you want in this life, holding an equal openness to whatever eventuates.

Movement is such a fascinating mode to practice striking balance between control and striving (we apply effort in particular positions and patterns to build strength and endurance in the body) and non-resistance (we work with the only body we have, we release and mobilise tightness through presence and attention to what is).

A small practice I invite you to try is, to enquire, in this very moment, with loving kindness and self-compassion: What am I resisting?

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