Setting Sail: Riding the Wave to Calmer Seas
Do you know the feeling of easefully sailing through life and then in the next moment feeling as if you are pushing against a strong head wind? A natural response to conflict or pain is Resistance; an instinctual desire to push away the difficulty or wanting to rid ourselves of the discomfort. Why? Because turning toward pain is a vulnerable process and if we don't have the tools (yet) to sooth the vulnerable part of ourselves we tend to push away from it. If we buy into the story that we will be swallowed up by our own vulnerability then we feed the resistant behavior. This familiar cycle to many of us leads to more pain and difficulty. We may spend hours if not days, months or even years ruminating and replaying the details of an event, blaming others, anything really to avoid accepting what has happened and moving in the direction of empowered course correction. Can you relate to what I am talking about? However, if we acknowledge and honor the unpleasant feelings that accompany resistance then we free our minds & hearts to make a clear course correction and to adjust our sails to move with the changing winds. This requires courage to acknowledge what we are feeling, compassionate tools to nurture the part of us feeling anxious or upset, and to consciously choose a new course of compassionate action.
Suffering has many appearances: outward suffering such as a broken arm, inner suffering such as anxiety and depression, and the deepest seeds of suffering such as belief systems that keep us in a place of separateness. The way we respond to our own suffering will either perpetuate suffering through varying degrees of violence toward ourselves or others or will turn into a healing and growth opportunity. The way we response to Resistance and Suffering will determine the course of our life.
When we find ourselves distracted, blaming and sending negativity to another we can remember that this is likely a sign that we are personally suffering and what we truly need is to take honest and nurturing care of the part of us who begs for nurturance. Many people have not been shown or taught self-nurturance and may find relief in seeking support from a trusted friend or mental wellness professional to gain self-compassion skills. Others possess self-compassion skills and must courageously dig deep to bring mindful awareness to the conditioned habits of responding to suffering. Wherever we land on the continuum, the path to healing is clear. Move on over shame and fear, move on in Self-Compassion.
When we find ourselves feeling resistance (gentle reminder: pushing away the difficult sensations rather than turning toward and soothing the part of us who is in pain) we can use this awareness as a reminder that a course correction is required to locate smoother waters. It can be helpful to reframe the role of resistance in our lives so that we might actually welcome it. Rather than resistance serving as an avoidance tool it can serve as a reminder for self-compassion. It is as if we have a built in compass which offers moment to moment feedback requiring courageous course correction urging us to a path of living life with greater ease...adjusting our sails with each deep breath.
In meditation the metaphor of the vast ocean is often used to remind us that underneath the wave lies a vast, still and peaceful ocean. When we practice slowing down and responding compassionately to the suffering in life we will find peace, clarity and hope even in raging storms . The wave IS the ocean, wherever a wave has formed there is calmness below.