Stress, anxiety, misery, suffering, angst, complaining… you name it, all of this I consider negativity. If you haven’t sat down and thought through its many subtleties and implications, the concept of negativity could feel pretty unwieldy and mysterious.
Without considering its true cause it can also feel pretty unmanageable. And when I say true cause, I mean the root – not the “it’s my circumstances, partner, situation, environment” – explanation. Because the reality is, all that stuff we tend to blame is just that. Stuff. Strip away all the interpretations, stories, and meaning we assign to the stuff and we’re left with nothing triggering. We’re simply left with an objective “what-is” of our experience. So what is it about the overlay that gets us caught up in such a swirl of seemingly nebulous conflict? What is it in our perception and explanation of the “stuff” that tips us on the negative side of the scale?
Eckart Tolle describes in his book The Power of Now that resistance to what-is is the sole source of stress.
That notion really stuck with me. Reflecting on this idea through my experiences over the past decade, coupled with countless conversations with others on the nature of their negative emotions, have me understanding this concept on a new level.
But let me be clear, I’m not making resistance itself out to be the enemy – it’s a natural part of our existence. We wouldn’t be able to build muscle without it, and we wouldn’t be very useful without friction.
But too much, unnecessarily, is the problem.
If I were to tell you that the only reason you’re stressed out, the only reason you’re feeling any negative emotion at all, is because you’re resisting what-is, you probably wouldn’t argue it. But what does this look like in practice? In everyday life? Knowing this is sometimes not enough to initiate a shift in behavior or stance.
To take non-resistance on as a life practice requires a deeper understanding of what’s really going on here. I’ll break it down:
But it’s not. And this is the distinction that makes “dropping resistance to what-is” more palatable. Why? Because unless you really understand that it’s not the stuff – the people, circumstances, dialogues, decisions, environments, etc. – you’ll never be convinced that there’s a good enough reason to stop resisting. Being instructed to drop resistance can sound like, “Hey! Want to feel better? Just become a resigned, voiceless doormat and force yourself to tolerate crap.”
No. This isn’t it at all. You’re dropping resistance to the interpretation you’re holding. At this point you realize, “It’s not the stuff that I can’t control that’s stressing me out (thank GOD, right?!), but it’s what I’m choosing to interpret!” Read: CHOICE. Something you can control.
In the space of non-resistance, or peace, clarity results. Clarity – the ultimate antidote to resistance, the required foundation upon which novel solutions and brilliant and creative ideas arise. In this clear space, all that once-wasted-energy-for-no-good-reason can now be fully channeled in the direction of something productive and generative. And isn’t this what the good life is about?!
So if you only need to know one thing it’s this: your misery resides only in the pushing against what-is as identified as story. Stop the pushing. Question the interpretation. Get clear.
There is more wisdom in that cliche, “It is what it is” than we realize. 🙂
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.