Working skillfully with procrastination and avoidance to create a steady practice
Probably everyone who has ever tried to take up a meditation practice has encountered it: Resistance. I don't feel like it. I'll do it later. I forgot. Resistance is the biggest obstacle to regular practice, so it deserves some inquiry.
What is resistance, and how can we most skillfully work with it? Resistance is a toxic force. Its aim is to push us away from practice, to distract us, to prevent us from taking up the Way. Its favorite tactics include privileging immediate gratification, rationalization ("I don't have time"), procrastination, and avoidance. Resistance can seem to come from outside ourselves, as kids, work, and obligations.
But the truth is, Resistance is self-generating and self-perpetuating. Resistance is only loyal to itself, and it uses our fear and greed as its front line. Resistance doesn't want us to take up a meditation practice, because if we do, we threaten its existence and its dominance over us. In order to work with Resistance, we must change our mindset and our loyalty. The move here is from fear and greed, to commitment.
In Zen we call this taking a vow. When we take up the path of practice, we make that our north star; we orient our lives toward that. Then it doesn't matter much what I want or what I'm afraid of; I'm going to practice anyway. Not that the fear and cravings go away; they don't.
But we don't have to obey them, and they don't set the terms of what we do. You actually know how to do this if you have a job. You go to work whether you feel like it or not. You show up, you stay even when things are difficult, you are committed over the long haul. Having a committed practice is like this. We show up no matter what. We don't make excuses. We invest time and energy and love into what we are doing. We don't quit when things are difficult. We seek out community and teachings and opportunities to grow. When you begin to shift from Resistance to Vow, incredible changes can happen. You can fundamentally re-align your life. And we are here to support you in this transformation.
Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..