I have missed more Sunday Services in the past two months than I missed the entire year. For many months, I was up and there every Sunday morning, sitting at my teacher's feet, listening to Dharma talks, going deep with my practice, building to consistency. I've written previously about how everything stopped. Tonight I will write about waking up from resistance.
When I went to the Sunday morning service, I knew I needed the interview. If invited to ask a question, I knew what I would ask about—Resistance. How do you get over it? What strategies are there for breaking through it. Thankfully, I was able to ask. As always, I received good advice (paraphrased):
- Don't beat up on yourself about it
- When we practice, we are working to shift our habit patterns. It is hard work...
- Sometimes just five minutes is enough... Once you get yourself on the cushion, you will find that you want to sit longer
- Look for gaps in your day and sit when those gaps present themselves
- You might try setting up your cushion with the understanding that you can't put it away until you do your practice
I purposely didn't read the article I downloaded to my Palm OS device several months ago on the subject. I found this great teaching by Ezra Bayda, and I saved it to my handheld computer knowing that I would end up facing resistance at some point. So why didn't I read it? I think the quote Bayda references from Auden's poem says it all:
We would rather be ruined than changed.
We would rather die in our dread,
Than climb the cross of the moment
And watch our illusions die.
[...from the poem The Age of Anxiety by W.H. Auden (1948)]
I'm trying to make some significant changes in my life. This past month, I've bumped up against a few things that I know in my mind I need to change, but that mental inner-knowing has not yet found agreement with my heart. I was getting to a point in practice where I was seeing myself break through some things (letting go of a long-term relationship that doesn't meet my needs, letting go of judgements of certain co-workers that get in the way of doing my job, etc.) then I got stressed and tried to utilize my old coping strategies—I'm talking lowest-level Maslow—food and sex.
I could add a few bullet points to what my teacher said:
- Most of the time you know what's in the way... Fear, unwillingness to deal with something that seems magnified the deeper you go in your practice. Don't run from it
- Mindfully consider the following: The matter of birth-and-death is a grave one. Impermanence will be upon us too soon. Each of us should strive for Enlightenment with diligence. (I found this quote in a great article I read online earlier this evening by Ven. Samu Sunim).
- Read Bayda's teaching (or anyone else's teaching, for that matter) on Resistance, ignoring the fact that you really don't want to.
- If you can't do anything else on the Intensive Practice Schedule, journal on the second point of reflection (Particular resistance(s) to my practice) and sit for just five minutes.
- Print and post the following quote. Read it when you get stuck.
Do not expect to be free from illness. If you are free from physical illness, you may be easily given up to avarice. Do not expect to be free from difficulties while living in the world. If you are free from difficulties, you may be given up to arrogance and self-indulgence. Do not expect to have no obstacles in your Zen study. If you have no obstacles, your study may exceed your capacity. Do not expect to be free from hindrances in your training. If you are free from hindrances, your vows may weaken...
Therefore, Zen students should take suffering from illness for good medicine, misfortune and difficulties for a pleasant walk, obstacles for release, and hindrances for a Dharma-companion... So, if you stay steadfast with difficulties you will gain release. If you seek a release you will on the contrary run into difficulties. Tathagatas have all attained to the Way of Wisdom (Enlightenment) through difficulties and obstacles. [...from Essay on the King of Samadhi also quoted in the article referenced above by Ven. Samu Sunim]
This morning, I sat for the first time (before work) in several weeks. I celebrate every little victory.