Today I took some time to self care and got a lovely thai massage. When I was lying there, noticing the smell of essential oils, the warmth in the room, the silence and the low light, I also notice how many thoughts were racing through my head. I was willing it to relax and be present, when the idea of resistance came to mind. In fact I was resisting my mind. Resistance has been a concept I have been both thinking about and experiencing a lot, and when I speak with others about this, I realise how common it is.
What is resistance? There are many contexts that resistance shows up. I was thinking about it in a lecture by Shaun McNiff at La Trobe a few weeks ago. Shaun McNiff has written some amazing books about arts therapy, “Trust the Process” and “Art Heals”. He is somewhat of a mentor for me in the field. It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to attend his master class in Sydney, at the ANZATA Conference in October. Shaun used movement and art, and very little talking. In the lecture at La Trobe, I noticed myself sitting there, wanting to ask a question about resistance, and feeling resistance to asking the question. I stood up anyway, chose to push through the resistance, and ask my question, only for Shaun to ask me, “tell me what you know about resistance?
It threw me only for a split second, until I realised that I know a lot about resistance. I felt that his question to my question also showed me that we can ask many people about many things, forgetting that the answers are within.
So here is my experience of resistance. I know that art heals. I know that it is my medicine, that it helps me to feel calm, it gives me a space to reflect, and I know that I feel at peace when creating. It is like I drop into another world where time doesn’t exist and I could continue for hours, not in my head anymore. I am just in the present experience, feeling and sensing the materials, the sounds, and the emotions present. And yet I spend so much of my time in a perpetual to-do list. Not wanting to stop and take time to do art because there is so much to do! The beliefs come in: it is not important, I don’t have time, it is indulgent, when I should be doing things that are productive. Responding to that email, making new posts on social media, finishing that assignment, seeing that friend who I haven’t had time to see. The resistance is there, even when I know how much art heals, art helps me connect. I am much more productive when I am rested and not pressuring myself to achieve, achieve, ACHIEVE. It is similar to the value conflict of the last post- self care vs. achievement.
So here is what I wrote about after the thai massage. While I thought about this I was also noticing that the pressure of the massage in my sore muscles caused me pain. Yet I knew the pain was also providing me with a release of tension, an opening and a softening, in order to balance and heal.
“Resistance. Pushing, pulling, frozen breath, stopping when expectations say GO.
The stepping backwards when you “should” be stepping forwards.
Stuck, still, not knowing which way to go next.
Stagnant, fearful, judging.
Resistance… Not wanting to do/say/be something that you think you should do/say/be.
Resistance… A marker, a reminder, a flag that something important is happening.
Resistance is body wisdom, a felt sense.
You have a choice.
Is this really what you want (whatever you are resisting)?
Or are you just doing it because you feel like you should?
Is this (thing, action, commitment etc) is it scary?
Is it confronting? Challenging? Overwhelming?
You can choose whether to keep going with it.
Is it the right time to take on this challenge?
Or is it a big red flag?
That even if you or others expect it of you, it is NOT your truth, NOT in your best interest and NOT aligned with your values, desires, life.
So the questions I ask myself, when resistance comes up, how can I listen to it?
How can I stop, allow it to be
To either choose something different, or give it the reassurance it needs to keep stepping forward.
I could find a more gentle way to take.
How can I be with myself, really listen to what is right for me, and if it is right, to step into the unknown, and trust that whatever discomfort, pain or challenge, are worth it because of the magic, gifts, growth and learning that comes are unable to be replicated.”
The dictionary defines resistance as:
1. The act or an instance of resisting or the capacity to resist.
2. A force that tends to oppose or retard motion.
3. often Resistance An underground organization engaged in a struggle for national liberation in a country under military or totalitarian occupation.
4. Psychology A process in which the ego opposes the conscious recall of anxiety-producing experiences.
5. Biology a. The capacity of an organism to defend itself against a disease.
b. The capacity of an organism or a tissue to withstand the effects of a harmful environmental agent.
6. Electricity The opposition of a body or substance to current passing through it, resulting in a change of electrical energy into heat or another form of energy.
Something that stands out that Shaun McNiff spoke, is that resistance is everywhere, it is a force that makes things happen. That your resistance is where the magic is, the gold, it is the content from which art is created. Even the very act of creating a painting would not be possible without resistance. When you put the brush up to the paper or canvas, the pressure from your hand, arm, body through the brush and onto the canvas requires resistance.
Resistance is where things meet, where the edges meet. It is the separation and the connection.
Resistance is the process of moving from being separate, to being one.
The image included in this post is the painting that was created during Shaun McNiff’s lecture. The two artists: Libby Byrne (La Trobe) & Raelean Hall (MIECAT), created this together, as a response to what was happening and being spoken about during the lecture. It was an incredible example of how the arts can come into any environment and that the process both for the artists, and for the audience gave me another element of connection that is beyond words. It transformed a simple lecture to an enriching visual experience.
So, resistance, you are welcome. I welcome you as a guide, a reminder that at each point I have a choice in how I spend my time. Just because I am resistant doesn’t mean I should shy away from a challenge, and just because I am expected to do something doesn’t mean I have to. Each and every moment of resistance is different. It is a reminder that there is a rich depth to this experience, with many layers, and all of them are valid. So listen to your resistance, and see what it has to say to you.