When we experience discomfort, there is often hidden resistance to the discomfort.
The easiest place to notice this is in the body. If you find that you are suffering from pain and resistance, try to see how much resistance you have to your experience. In such situations we often tighten the jaw, clench our fists or raise our shoulders. And maybe you discover tensions in places in the body you would not expect to find them.
All these hidden parts of resistance may seem small and insignificant separately, but in sum quite substantial. They each add a stone to the burden, and everything is multiplied. Read more about this multiplication in the article about the pain formula.
Two strategies to reduce hidden resistance
We call resistance that we find evenly throughout the body global resistance. Global is in this context a medical term and not geographical. The opposite is local resistance.
When you notice a local discomfort that does not improve with focused, attentive presence, you can try these strategies:
- a) Use your attention to look for tense areas in the body that do not seem directly related to the local discomfort.
b) When you find these areas, try to have as much equanimity as you can with them. Allow them to be exactly what they are, for as long as they want. Marinate the areas in acceptance, objectivity and non-resistance.
- a) “Zoom” your attention out like a camera lens to cover a larger area, or perhaps your entire body. In this way, the attention is spread evenly throughout feel space.
b) Then, try to have as much equanimity as you can with the whole area at once. Allow any experience. Accept it. Let it be exactly as it is, exactly how long it will.
Subtle is significant
Discovering hidden resistance often requires that you have well-developed sensory clarity.
To increase your sensory clarity, it can be useful to do a longer meditation session. This gives surface stress time to calm down, and concentration accumulates more easily. A few minutes of extra time can be crucial, but a meditation retreat may be needed to go deep.
The resistance may be just below the threshold for what you are aware of, and you can only barely sense it. It is what we call subtle.
But right here in this subtle field there is a lot to be gained.
Often, most of our experience of suffering is not in the local areas where the discomfort is felt most intensely. On the other hand, most of the suffering is in the resistance to the subtle spread of discomfort that is just below the threshold of what we perceive.
By choosing not to be focused on the local intensity, you also choose to identify less with it. You make it the object of your attention, and you choose to let it behave exactly the way it wants. All of this helps to increase your equanimity on many levels at once.
The Great Road is Easy
It’s All About Not Picking and Not Choosing
When You Stop Loving and Hating
The Road Becomes Clear and Open
From the poem Faith in Mind by Xinxin Ming, the third zen line holder