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Essay of the Month: Non-Resistence

Split Ash & Birds (from the Sentient Landscape Series) acrylic on panel, Mark W. McGinnis

The term non-resistance can have radically different meaning to different people. For some non-resistance is synonymous with weakness. Resistance is seen as a noble virtue for humans to pursue. Our universe seems to function on a dominant premise of non-resistance. The ongoing expansion of universe is the essence of non-resistance. Any resistance to this ultimate force of nature is unthinkable – the expansion “is.” Within the flow of the universe the forces of creation and destruction play a continual game of transformation, but in the large picture there is no resistance, only change.

On our tiny planet the same rules apply. Amid the turmoil of natural elements and human follies the dominance of non-resistance still hold sway – the inevitability of change and flow rolls on, water wears away stone. The mistaken glory of resistance seems to be one of human beings’ largest mistakes. It is a mistake that mystics in most of the world’s wisdom traditions have recognized, but few, if any, cultures have taken to heart. One exception to his is the Taoist philosophy in China where non-resistance is the very core of the beliefs. To rear up and challenge the forces of the universe is seen as complete folly and invitation to disaster – it is the praying mantis waving his legs to oncoming carriage wheels.

The concept of non-resistance has particular benefit when applied to everyday contemporary human life. The myth of the virtue of resistance seems to be embedded in our actions at every turn. Walking step lock with resistance is our ego. The ego is constantly grasping at resistance and is undoubtedly its greatest promoter. If something, nearly anything, does not fit the preconception of the ego, its knee-jerk reaction is resistance – the wife asks for a chore to be done > resistance; a car won’t start > resistance; a headache develops > resistance; it begins to rain > resistance. Our egos seem to have developed the insane mindset that the universe is to obediently comply to all its desires and if it doesn’t it will flail its arms before the carriage wheels.

So much stress of daily life can be relieved through developing the attitude of non-resistance to much of life’s situations. The majority of what we perceive as “problems” are only so because we give them that importance, and the more energy we put into our resistance the more strength the “problems” have. Surely there are instances in our life that we must confront rather than accept, our survival instinct sees to that, but in the comfortable safety of most of our lives those instances are rare.

It is not easy to adopt a life style of non-resistance, as most of us have developed deep behavioral patterns of useless and harmful resistance. One of the best contemporary guides to help in this difficult process of recovery is Eckhart Tolle. He believes that one way of trying change this behavior is to become an observer of your mind. When you begin to have a conditioned response of resistance, observe that reaction. You don’t even have to try to change the reaction as you are having it, just observe it, be aware of what you are doing. You don’t necessarily even have to judge it as good or bad, just observe it. It will become quite obvious if the resistance has improved or worsened the situation. Through repeated observation the habitual behavior of resistance will eventually dissolve.

copyright 2011 Mark W. McGinnis

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