Resistance

I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don't accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don't really want to do, I find I am always doing.

St. Paul - Romans 7- Phillips trans.

 

While we go with the stream, we are unconscious of its rapid course; but when we begin to stem it ever so little, it makes itself felt.

Fenelon

 

Psychological defenses may also impinge dramatically upon prayer life or ascetical practice. For example, resistances to prayer may be the result of wanting to avoid some psychological feeling or experience that threatens to surface if one becomes quiet and relaxed. Many people have been mystified to find that when they are the most troubled and stressed, when it seems they are most in need of quiet prayer and reflection, they are in fact the least likely to take the time for it. . . . Sometimes we may fear a "failure" of prayer, a disappointment that would seem like God's rejection or disapproval. But in many cases these resistances really come from an underlying fear that the quiet openness of prayer is likely to confront us with something we are busily trying to avoid. The threatening issue may or may not be of a spiritual nature. More often than not it is simply some repressed psychological material that is threatening to surface. . . . We may also "forget" to pray about certain very troubling matters because we unconsciously fear that the prayer might work and we might be relieved of them. It is the hallmark of our neuroses, of course, that we cling to them while they make us suffer. . . . Some of us rebel against discipline and authority and thereby have great trouble setting and adhering to a scheduled time for prayer. . . . On the other hand, one may work even harder at prayer if expectations are not met. . . .

But working harder at prayer is almost certain to backfire, for it carries the assumption that the quality or effectiveness of prayer is a function of one's own effort rather than a graced gift. . . . Ironically, on the other hand one may have great trouble praying after going through an especially beautiful, consoling experience. Such experiences often imply considerable unconscious threat to self-importance in spite of their overt beauty. . . . . Another defense against spiritual practice, perhaps just as common, and in a sense, even more destructive, is the establishment of a pattern of prayer that is repeated diligently but includes no real willing openness to the Spirit. Here one finds a way of "going through the motions" or prayer, perhaps even to the point of spending long periods of time in silence, but while everything looks good on the out side, one/s inner awareness is dulled, restricted, and closed off. Often this takes the form of a frozen, semi-hypnotic trance that allows the person (and sometimes the director) to believe that prayer practice is "perfect".

Gerald May - Care of Mind, Care of Spirit

 

How do these special conditions of spiritual practice reveal to us our resistance to unity consciousness? . . . Actually they show you your resistances by frustrating them. If your resistances weren't frustrated, you probably wouldn't even see them. . . . That is, the special "therapeutic" conditions of any level are one or more of the actual characteristics of the level beneath it. By assuming the characteristics of the deeper level as the special conditions of your present practice, your resistance to that deeper level is exposed, frustrated, and undermined, thus returning you to the deeper level itself. . . . . For until you see precisely how you resist unity consciousness, all your efforts to "achieve" it will be in vain, because what you are trying to achieve is also what you are unconsciously resisting and trying to prevent. . . . When the individual truly sees that every move he makes is a move away, a resistance, then the entire machination of resistance winds down. . . . But at that very point he sees that everything he does is a resistance, a looking away and moving away, then he has no choice but surrender. . . The very seeing of the resistance is the dissolution of the resistance, and acknowledgment of the prior unity.

 

Ken Wilber - No Boundary

 

So the force of desire can cloud our minds, bring distortion and delusion in its wake. . . . We can see how desire interferes with being able to open up to things as they are, in a freer, more joyful way.

The second difficult energy we encounter is aversion, hatred, anger, and ill will. . . . Anger and hatred are usually painful. We might find some enjoyment in it for a while, but it closes our heart. . . . fear and judgment and boredom are forms of aversion.

The third common hindrance that arises is sloth and torpor. This includes laziness, dullness, lack of vitality, fogginess, and sleepiness. Clarity and wakefulness fade when the mind is overcome with sloth and torpor. The mind becomes unworkable and cloudy.

Restlessness, the opposite of torpor, manifests as the fourth hindrance.

The last hindrance is doubt. . . . "Does it really work? I sit here and all that happens is my knees hurt and I feel restless . . . Maybe I should try sufi dancing." . . . It doesn't matter what the object is; when the skeptical, doubting mind catches us, we're stuck.

If we don't suppress these energies and don't act upon them, then what is left? We can be mindful of them, to transform them into the object of meditation. . . . We can directly observe the nature of desire, anger, doubt, and fear and really understand how these forces operate in the mind. . . . We learn to experience even their extremes without being caught or overcome by them.

Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield - Seeking the Heart of Wisdom