Resistance & The Salvation of Softness

by Buffy Owens

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Have you ever had a moment of subtle resistance? Well of course, we all have. Here is a little trick I learned while exploring Awareness Through Movement and again while sitting on my cushion. To be frank, it has helped me in just about everything I do.

Recently I noticed I was reluctant to start dinner. Strange. I love to cook. I love to eat. I have a big beautiful box of fresh veggies from my local CSA. So, why on earth was I resisting this?

I paused.

What I noticed, was that I was furrowing my brow and experiencing this tightness in my chest, shoulders, and neck. And all this tightness was seeping right into my attitude. My mind even felt tight.

Resistance is resolved through becoming unnecessary.
— Moshe Feldenkrais, The Potent Self

I thought about it and took a bit of a ‘Feldie’ approach to see if I could find at least three choices. Here are a few of the choices I came up with: 

  1. I could choose not to cook because I wasn’t enjoying it.
  2. I could push myself through it because I ‘knew’ it was good for me, even though I disliked it at the moment.
  3. I could simply let go of the tightness.

Now, I have to admit that my first compulsion was to choose #1. But, in the blink of an instant I was reminded of the quote below and was instantly swept away in a moment of awe for the beauty of development.

So, I returned to the moment. And it hit me — tension can be a lot like the grasping reflex: a simple response where I contract against a stimulus,  be it a thought or a moment.  So, I chose to grow my learning and let go of the tightness. 

It was awesome!

The infant may make a fist and then carefully open it again – or take hold of one hand with the other. This can go on every day for long hours, for weeks or even months... Letting go is more difficult. That has to be learned separately. The infant often strives for weeks until he has mastered the movement of letting go easily and reliably.
— Dr Emmi Pikler

I just noticed where the tightness was, and then chose to let it soften. I noticed my breath and chose to let it deepen. I noticed the parts of myself that were connected with the floor, and then I chose to let them take more support. What was left was a more relaxed body, and even more relaxed mind.

In the end, it was actually the shift in my attitude that ended up being most important. I could now approach cooking with a sense of ease, a hint of exploration and bit of happiness. All of which I couldn’t do when I was tight.  So then I smiled, did a little happy dance, and things got even better.

So I started applying that to everything I did: while writing this blog I noticed tightness, I let go of the tightness and smiled — and the writing became instantly more enjoyable. Yay!

Every moment became instantly better.

What I later realized, was that I didn’t dive into why such resistance.  Although sometimes insight is delicious. Sometimes, it simply isn’t necessary. So rather than pondering the ‘whys’ of why something I love is bringing me tension, I simply chose to shift my attention to my sensation and free my body to free my mind. In doing so the resistance melted away like coconut oil at 76°F.

A few tricks
for letting go

Notice the tightness. 

Ask yourself if it is necessary. If not, let it go.  You can give this attention to the body and to your mind. You have periods during the day where you can be mindful: work,  driving, walking, reading, cleaning, talking, biking, etc.

Breathe. 

Let your attention stay on this breath and notice where you move as you breathe in and as you breathe out. Between you inhale and exhale, pause your breath and wait for the urge to breathe again. Explore for a few breaths or a few minutes.

Accentuate what is. 

I have said before and I will say it again, 'the best way out is often through'.   You can practice this right now. Pause for a second and lightly clench your jaw or fist, and then slowly let it go and enjoy the softening.  It’s that easy. Now do it with your shoulders -accentuate the tension a wee bit, then let it soften. Then try the muscles around your eyes.

Most Importantly…

Feel your connections. 

One of your oldest and dearest support systems is always with you—gravity. From time-to-time, allow yourself to be fully supported by mother earth or anything you are in contact with (chair, bed, floor, another living being, etc).


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