How to bring The Peace of Non-Resistance into your life now
“When hot be thoroughly hot, when cold be thoroughly cold.”
I forgot where I read this quote, I can’t find it any more, and I don’t even know if I quoted it properly. But after all this time, I still can’t forget it. Why? Right there in its simplicity is a beautiful, profound, little secret.
It is the key to true emotional mastery. In the recent emotional mastery series we’ve been talking about purging our existing negative emotions. Is that mastering your emotions? Doesn’t sound like it. We’ve just been clearing out all the unwanted stuff and deepening non-resistance. If you’ve practiced long enough, you’ll be able to apply the same principles to your fresh emotions. They are felt immediately, without any outer action, so they don’t snarl up inside you.
But that’s not true mastery. True mastery is not even being unhappy in the first place. So: can you guess what the secret is?
Rolling with the punches
Damn straight: Non-resistance is all it is. Letting it be what it is. Hardly earth-shattering, I know. I can imagine the rolling eyes already .
“Isn’t acceptance what we’ve been talking about all this time?” I hear you say. Yes, but we’re expanding our practice of acceptance to life.
Think about it. Why do we drag our unhappiness out? An instinctive “No” to it. Why do we become angry, or sad, or fearful? An instinctive “No” to life itself. That is, saying “No” to something that is happening to us, has happened, or will happen. Once you have been practicing acceptance on our emotions for a while, you will begin to see the wisdom in this.
Already I can hear the cries. “What? Is he saying that I should let so-and-so continue beating me up? Is he saying I should accept my cancer and let it kill me? Is he saying that I stay living in my cardboard box?”
This is the major danger in this principle; there is much room for misunderstanding. Please allow me to explain.
The two types of resistance
Let’s make it clear that we’re talking here about internal resistance. Outer action is different. I didn’t call it outer resistance because if you are resisting externally, you are resisting internally too. Outer action, on the other hand, can be taken without any inner resistance.
Often, once we have dropped inner resistance, outer actions will no longer be necessary. But if they are, the actions will be of a far higher quality – anything that stems from an inner state that is free of negativity will be far more beneficial to everyone involved.
Does that make sense? Don’t worry if it doesn’t at the moment, but it’s important to keep in mind. Let’s discuss it in more detail.
Psychologists say when we are angry, 90% of it comes from mental exaggeration. Our minds kick in and make an event worse than it is. I would say that is only partially correct. All of it comes from mental exaggeration, or it would be more accurate to say it comes from mental resistance. Our minds kick in and make it wrong when it isn’t.
All events are essentially neutral. We have a set of internal “shoulds” and “should-nots” that we measure each event against. This is often instinctive, so don’t blame yourself for it. However, the fact remains that it is the cause of most of our unhappiness.
My car has broken down; that’s a neutral event. We get frustrated because of our internal rules; we think it shouldn’t have broken down. Now you might be thinking that it’s not the broken car that pisses you off; it’s because you have to spend money to fix it. Or maybe you have to take time off your busy schedule to take it to the mechanic.
Isn’t that the same? “I shouldn’t spend money on this; I should be spending it on wine and music. I should be spending my time playing my guitar, not sitting in the damn repair joint.” Spending money on fixing your car is neutral. Sitting in the garage is neutral. It is your mind that’s making it wrong, that is exaggerating it, that is resisting it.
Without the mind resisting it, we can simply take the outer action in mental state of peace. Yes, you will have to spend money and time, but you will be spending it without being upset. Yes, you will be sitting in the garage reading a greasy magazine, but you won’t be upset about it.
Ernest Hemingway once said “If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry: Worry never fixes anything. He must be a Zen master.
Let’s discuss these “shoulds” and “should nots” briefly. They are often ingrained in us since an early age. Maybe our parents told us bad things don’t happen to good people. The family doctor told us that an apple a day keeps diseases away. Maybe a teacher told us that friends don’t betray you. What happens if you do get betrayed by your friends? What happens if you get sick? What happens if you go bankrupt? These well-meaning people have made our pain worse. The fact remains that we will not like everything that happens or everyone we meet. Telling us that our lives will be smooth if we are “good” will instil false beliefs that end up hurting us.
Outer action and outer resistance
Now, let’s discuss the outer world. I mentioned cancer at the start of the article. What about it? Do I mean that you simply die, from non-resistance? No. Do everything you externally can to cure your cancer. Go the best hospital you can afford, find the best treatments you can, but give up all inner resistance. Let it be internally, in fact focus on happiness and the joy of life. That way you will not have any need for unhappiness, you’re not adding internal pain to your physical pain. If you pass on, you pass on in peace. If you recover, you recover in peace. In fact, your inner calm makes it likelier that your body will recover with medical treatment.
Another example: You got fired from your high-paying job. Why are you unhappy? You think you shouldn’t be fired. Or maybe you are worried about having to struggle to provide for your family, or having to start over in a menial role.
Giving up inner resistance to this event does not mean that you simply let it happen or that you don’t work at all for the rest of your life. If you got fired unfairly, you can still take steps. You can still present your case to your boss, explain how it was a misunderstanding, and ask him to rethink his decision fairly – all from an inner state of calm and peace. Your calm makes him calm. It allows you to speak rationally and logically, and increases the chances of getting your job back. Even if you don’t get your job back, you won’t be upset.
But if you had inner resistance, your outer actions would be different. If you approach your boss, your negativity will still affect everything. It might be an undercurrent of anger beneath your calm surface, or it might even be shouting and screaming. Either way, your boss will find it much harder to see things in your favour. What if you take no outer action? You pack up and go home without fussing to your boss, but you brood and whinge and cry. Unhappiness.
Now, what should your outer actions be? That’s beyond the scope of this article, but my favourite guidelines would be from Buddhism – use the twin pillars of wisdom and compassion. Use all the wisdom you have or have access to (consulting people you respect, for example), and bring all the compassion you have for all parties involved – including yourself.
Deepening your practice of acceptance
So how do we practice non-resistance in our daily life? We’ve discussed how to access your feelings directly in the first emotional mastery post. It is the same process, so I won’t repeat it here.
But don’t worry if you can’t apply this straight away. It takes a very long time; and if you do understand it and practice it 24 hours a day, you’re probably enlightened.
One of the ways to practice this, though, is empty mind meditation. Again, whether we are sitting in a sanctuary with time set aside for it, or whether we are going about our daily lives, non-resistance is the same. Turn off your minds by feeling, or watching your breath. We start off practicing firstly with formal meditation. It’s like learning driving – we need to set aside time to learn it properly initially, until it becomes second nature. It is the same with turning off our minds and calming our emotions.
Once we have the basics, we find it easier to calm our minds and emotions even in our everyday life. And after a while, non-resistance will begin to apply to life – instead of just our emotions.
Bringing acceptance to our daily lives
Let’s go into an example of how we bring this into our daily activities. It was the first time I ever practiced it, a long time ago. Ironically, I was forced into non-resistance. It was in the middle of a 48 degree Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) heatwave. I was stuck in the middle of an evening class. The fan was on, but with 50 people in the room we were burning. Normally I would take outer action like taking a shower or leaving the room, but I wanted to finish the class, so I forced myself to stay.
I couldn’t concentrate. My thoughts began drifting back to past hurts and memories no matter what I tried to do. As the class continued my mood got worse and worse. The heat seemed to get more and more unbearable.
It was about to get to a breaking point when I suddenly decided to just let myself be hot. I turned off my mind so there was no resistance. How? I simply let myself feel the heat. What does it feel like? A warm sensation on my skin. My skin was sticky. The air seemed heavy. I just explored the senses, feeling everything completely. I found out months later that I was actually meditating by accident.
Just like the events in our lives, no sensation in itself is good or bad. Without the mind, the ego, and the “shoulds” and “should nots”, the sensations meant nothing. After a while, the heat actually became quite pleasant.
This is why some chronically sick or disabled people find peace amid their pain –after much internal struggle, they fall into non-resistance. Others go the opposite route – they use that physical pain to feed their unhappiness and their ego.
It is the same with almost everything. Sitting alone at a café waiting for a date that stands you up feels no different from sitting at a café alone because you want to be alone. Someone shouting at you is no different from someone whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Our mind makes the difference. It might hurt your ego, it might hurt your pride, but who you are, your core being of peace, is unaffected.
When hot be thoroughly hot, when cold be thoroughly cold.
For those of you practicing the purging of your emotions, described in the previous parts of the series, stay aware for any memories that come back. Write them down. This is important. I’m researching and preparing a series on mental mastery, and these memories are vital in changing your life around. They come up for a reason, and when we get to these deeper memories and the “shoulds” and “should nots”, your notes will come in handy.
I’m also thinking of writing a little on specific emotions – is there any that you would like me to research and write on? I don’t know if it is necessary, though, as acceptance is pretty much a universal fix. Please leave a comment with your request, though, and if it deserves extra treatment I will write something. So far I’m considering anxiety and a little bit more on grief and anger.
This piece is also a rewrite of this old article How to be a Rock – it’s amazing that I considered it a great piece of writing then, and now think that it is bad. Maybe I’ll reread this series in a few months and shudder at how poorly written it is.