A couple of nights ago I had a dream which I remembered quite clearly on waking. There was a particular scene in which I was talking to a wise old friend who works as a counsellor. During the scene, she simply asked me whether she could get in touch with me via phone or email. My response was a little more complex than maybe she had anticipated. I presented countless arguments as to why I prefer not using the phone – particularly the mobile – so could she write instead? Her response was a direct glance in my direction, followed by the observation:
“This is resistance to what is, Gary. Buddha taught that we can return to a more peaceful state of mind by letting go of our attachments as to how our experience ought to be, and simply accept it as it is.”
There was a palpable silence in the dream after these words, as if I were taking in the essence of their meaning more fully. Then I woke up.
The dream, and it’s message stayed with me all day yesterday. It haunted my waking moments, in the background behind everyday chores, work & play. Finally, I gave in! Ah, I was even resisting my dream! What is it about resistance that so attracts all of us? We have constructed our civilisation on the back of it. Without it, many many peoples lives would lose their fight, direction, passion, sense of meaning. It is embedded in society’s expectation of how we should think and behave: don’t take anything at face value, don’t trust others’ motives, don’t let people walk all over you…I heard all of these, and more, as I was growing up. I’m sure we all did. But what does our mass consciousness mean by all of this?
The answer, as I write these words, popped up clearly in an intrusive advert on Spotify, while listening to some relaxing music. “It’s time to face my fear!” say the woman in the ad. And it’s true. It’s time for all of us to face our fears. Because that’s all that resistance is about – what it is indicating, why it is present. Resistance is the absence of letting life in, allowing the flow of life to continue unimpeded. Life doesn’t stop flowing for us: we just need to keep up to speed with it’s constant movement otherwise we end up stuck, stemming the flow.
“Does this mean I should accept injustice and cruelty, the homeless sleeping on the streets, or the recalcitrant attitude of my partner? Of course not. There are numerous situations that we should not tolerate, and each, in our own way, will be called to do what we can to improve things. ‘Accepting our experience as it is’ means just that; accepting our experience in the moment. If we are feeling frustrated, angry, or indignant, accept that feeling. Don’t resist it, or wish it weren’t there; but let it in, become interested in how it feels.” – Peter Russell
I think Peter Russell puts it perfectly. Resistance is an internal matter, an internal response; and the feelings, emotions, that arise call on us to be let in – rather than to be let out, to be expressed elsewhere. The idea of sitting with the feelings arising out of the experience, rather than creating a further experience out of the feeling, forming a sea of ripples in all directions. Fear is similar to Love in one important way: it is a highly magnetic response. Once fear is engaged, we are bound to attract more of it in our direction. So, if we want an easier & happier existence, it makes sense to face up to it sooner rather than later, before initiating resistance.
“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”– Jiddu Krishnamurti
So, inspired by the dream, I decided to sit with my fear of phones. What was the cause of this fear? It didn’t take me long to realise what it was. I’ve long had an issue with hearing what other people want to say, to express. Owing not to the substance or meaning of their message, but simply to the emotion or feeling conveyed behind it. At many points in my childhood I found myself vulnerable to the anger, aggression, harshness of adults, and subsequently to that of their children & my playmates. That’s not to say I didn’t copy this behaviour too, and return it in the same way. Simply that my fear of phone calls, of speaking over the phone, is due to a pure sense of feeling & experiencing the other person’s emotions: there is nothing visual to distract me, so the experience is all the more potent. I am afraid of this particular emotion: that’s all it was. So what did I do?
I made a call.