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In the mindfulness community, the term “resistance” is commonly used word. But what does it mean? And how does it affect your meditation and your life?

What is Resistance?

Resistance is simply any way in which you’re not embracing the present moment, exactly the way it is. Resistance can be very obvious or very subtle. Here are a few examples:

  • “I wish I was less tired” (more obvious)
  • “I wish my back doesn’t hurt when I meditate” (more obvious)
  • “I should be more present” (more subtle)
  • “I need to stop resisting” (more suble)

Why Avoid Resistance?

Resistance fundamentally means you’re saying to the world, “I don’t like it the way it is.” However, the world is exactly the way it is – which means the more you resist, the more unhappiness you create.
Accepting things the way they are will not only allow you to enjoy life more, but also helps you facilitate change. When you accept something, it becomes more fluid and malleable. The first step to losing weight is accepting your body the way it is. The first step to ending a dispute is accepting where both parties are at. The first step to feeling more energized is to not resist your tiredness.

A Common Misconception

Meditation teachers often put resistance into two broad categories: craving and aversion. Craving is wanting something that isn’t here (e.g. “I wish I had more money.”) Aversion is wanting something that is here to not be here (e.g. “I wish I didn’t have to do today’s presentation.”)

Because meditation teachings advocating non-craving are so common, this often creates a misconception that desire itself is bad. And that part of mindful thinking is getting rid of desire. That’s not the case.

Part of mindfulness thinking is getting rid of resistance. Resistance combined with desire creates craving – in other words, you want the world to be different. This creates unhappiness and more resistance. However, on the other hand, desire can exist without resistance.

Instead of fighting the present moment, desire can be an enjoyable experience in and of itself. You can want to have financial success, and allow that desire to drive you further in life. Yet that desire doesn’t have to mean you resist the way your life really is. You can have both. Desire without resistance can actually be very healthy.

A Practice in Non-Resistance

Why not spend a few minutes getting to know your own tendencies towards resistance? Just give this short meditation a try.

  1. Find a place to sit and meditate. Set aside five to 10 minutes for this exercise.
  2. Bring your attention to your breath. Spend one to two minutes on whatever meditation works best for you. Once you feel present and grounded, move on to step #3.
  3. Start paying attention to how you’re embracing or resisting the present moment. Whenever you notice resistance, just smile and compassionately shift your attention to accepting that experience. Don’t resist the experience of having resistance.

With experienced meditators, resistance can often be more subtle. It might be the desire to feel more present, or a subconscious notion of how meditation is supposed to be. Notice these tendencies as well, and just smile, embrace it and continue your meditation.