By Dana Gornall
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and that secret is this: It’s not the writing part that is hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance. ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I have been working on this piece now for about two weeks.
I have been struggling to finish my thoughts. They are scattered, meandering, full of parts of ideas and snippets of sentences. I keep coming back to this article, opening the doc, deleting sentences and adding new ones. I tried telling a story that trailed off and went nowhere. I asked for someone to read it and give feedback. I put it away and let it sit for awhile, knowing it might grow somewhere in the back of my subconscious when my brain was busy doing other things like driving, working and sleeping.
My mind has been resistant. I can’t seem to finish the thought or understand where it is going.
Here is the thing. I’m a zen wannabe, but it has been 20 days since I have meditated.
I haven’t meant for it to go on that long, but I have found myself in an unexpected, unplanned, unanticipated, backslide. I was going along pretty well, meditating almost daily and tracking it with an app and a meditation tracking journal.
Funny thing about habits, good ones are much harder to form than bad ones. I read somewhere that this tendency begins in our biology. An aversion to anything makes following through more difficult as a survival technique. If we are avoiding something, it probably makes us uncomfortable and therefore discomfort means it goes against survival.
Our minds can be very resistant to pretty much everything. Social media is one big example of society blatantly announcing all of the things we like and dislike. Once someone posts a comment, a status, a photo or a meme of something we disagree with, we often feel compelled to explain, in no uncertain terms, why they are wrong.
We don’t like to be uncomfortable, no matter how much we may claim to have open minds and like to think outside of the box.
So that being said, why would we be resistant to the things that are good for us? Why do we resist taking more time for ourselves when life gets overwhelming, or resist going to the gym to get in better physical shape when we feel better when we do? Why do we resist pursuing our dreams when they are just around the corner and on the other side of a little bit effort?
I can sit and watch a couple of hours of television without a problem. I can sit and look at my phone on and off all day long without a concern. And yet, every night I have been going to bed, nixing the sitting with my mind for a soft pillow, a few moments scrolling social media and drifting off to sleep. Why do I not want to sit for 10 minutes and just see where my mind goes and let it come back to the breath?
“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” ~ Sun Tsu, The Art of War
According to neuroscience, the right side of our prefrontal cortex in the brain lights up when we are avoiding something, and when we are experiencing negative feelings, whereas the left side of the brain associates with more positive feelings and happiness. The irony is that meditation actually has been shown to strengthen the left side of that prefrontal cortex, which will actually help us be more resilient to upheaval that can occur in life.
And upheavals abound.
Resistance is present in every corner and facet of my life.
I find it in my unwillingness to leave my warm, soft bed when the sunlight hasn’t found the cracks in my window blinds quite yet, but it is still time to get up. I find it in the push and pull leanings, when I want to feast on dairy-free ice cream instead of a dairy-free yogurt or when my body is beginning to droop at the end of a day, but the wash load really needs to be thrown in the dryer.
I find it in times when I want to speak about something I disagree about with my son, yet hold my tongue (or don’t hold it but find ways to soften the words) or when I am wanting things to go a certain way and they aren’t, and so I am smack in the middle of wanting and understanding, wishing and accepting.
And so, I am no stranger to resistance.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Nelson Mandela
I keep coming back to these thoughts over and over again. I am one of these point A to point B people—when I want to be at point B, I try to map out my plan on how to get there and yet here I am stuck spinning right somewhere in the middle. Just like waves in the ocean, I paddle and swim, but I keep finding my way back to the beginning like some cruel joke stuck in the movie Groundhog Day, repeating the same pattern.
I look at the doc again, cursor flashing, wanting to find an end—a punctuation to finish the thought. I want to find a bow to tie it up neatly and give it a pretty ending. Yet, I have nothing. And so here we are—I’m a zen wannabe.
It has been over 20 days since I have meditated and yet the hardest part of sitting, is just sitting down to sit. The hardest part of writing is sitting down to write. The hardest part of beginning is starting.
Editor: Peter Schaller
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