Writing brings me face to face with my resistance. As we stare each other down, I hold resistance as my adversary. Closer inspection leads me to think that perhaps this is not a fruitful approach and my resistance might be a bridge to deeper truth. In the reworking of this writing which was originally titled ‘When My Best Ideas Come’, I see there is a path we, resistance and I, have been walking.
When my ideas come I’m always doing something else. At first I don’t even realize I’m speaking a stream of thoughts to myself. The ideas flow like a stream pouring through my head as water pours into a vessel. When the stream is unfettered it moves as fast as I can form the words. Usually I speak out loud, I whisper to myself. Writing is listening. In the beginning I don’t want to get too close to the stream. It will begin to sputter and I know the editor has arrived too soon. Listening is the first step on our path.
So often I think I’ll write this moment down later. But later never arrives and the ideas drift off like rising vapor, perhaps to seed another cloud of musings. (Lately I’ve taken to using a voice recorder to hold the moment.) Working with ‘later’ is the next step in the journey. The first time I broke this habit of ‘later’ was on a plane ride from Berkeley back to Portland.
I had been in Berkeley for a week long yoga advanced studies class. In a practice session I had a dramatic reliving of a childhood trauma. The experience arose from an ordinary interchange between my teacher and myself regarding a movement of the shoulder. In a flash, the experience of my fall from our horse and the trauma I held in my body memory had a hold of me (1). I went into the bathroom and sobbed for a long time. The experience brought many insights and a healing.
I knew this was a pivotal event. I told my yoga friend I had had a break-through with my shoulder as we boarded the plane. Once in my seat the stream of words began to flow and I silently listened. The same old thought, ‘I’ll write this down later.’ I knew later wouldn’t come and so opened my yoga notebook and began to write. I wrote for the entire two hour flight. In the end I had the rough draft for a story I would finish later. Allowing the blocks to melt is another step on this path.
To dialog with my resistance wakes my curiosity. (I’m picking up some speed now.) My resistance takes the form of a barrier I must hurdle. I don’t want to stay to the task. I feel restless, like ants in my pants. The inner image is a looming brick wall that I’m running up to and can’t climb over. I make the charge many times. My head will actually hurt sometimes. I suppose a metaphorical banging against the surface. I must call on an energy I don’t readily want to expend in order to surmount this impediment. Why not make the leap? I’m asking myself to focus. Another step on this path.
Once on the top, it’s a mixture of exhaustion and elation. Then I’m flying. My husband says I’m having ‘a flow experience’ based on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Time and surroundings fade and it is the idea, the touch of the keyboard or pen, and space. From time to time I exhale loudly, a touchdown moment.
As I work with resistance, I know it better and see its telltale signs and gifts. I still feel restless and may even stand up and walk around for a moment. I try not to eat. It’s easier to come back. My head doesn’t hurt these days. Maybe the brain cells have more grease from being worked. When resistance arises I can give it a friendly nod. It’s reminds me of the ‘jackal voice’ referenced in NVC (2). Resistance, like the ‘jackal voice’, has a gift but I don’t have to make a bed for it and lie down together. We can be friends. One more step on the path.
So now that I’m almost willing to be friends with my resistance, another part of the path is revealed. I have to slow down and see what I really want to say. I need to welcome the editor. The editor can seem like a real kill-joy. The editor throws out some of my favorite lines, asks me to be clear and stay on task. When I want to take fanciful flight I’m reigned in. Is this the positive face of resistance? Restraint? Now there is a tapas (discipline) to my process. I’m not going easy though. The extraneous ideas end up at the bottom of the page below a dotted line. I keep them for awhile just in case they find a place after all. But often it’s just the chaff and needs to be separated from the seed. (Can’t resist the metaphor.)
The ending, the last holdout of my resistance. I want to wash my hands of the topic. Exit on a clever phrase and be done with it. I recall many a novel or story I’ve read where the climb to the heart of the matter was slow, winding, a stroll. Then the rush to the end and I feel breathless, or dropped off the cliff, cheated in some way. I think the author just ran out of steam and wanted to get it over. I can relate. So how to savor the last?
This I know, if my ending doesn’t bring some surprise I’ve probably sold out to what is habitual. Some quaint little truism that I pull from my bag of ‘right things to say’. Those phrases that bring a moments comfort but not much satisfaction. If I look around and think, “wow, I didn’t expect this.” then that feels real.
So here I am, walking around the perimeter of my resistance. Falling in, climbing out, scuffed up a little, making friends. Can I say, “Happy to know you?” I think so.
(1) As excerpted from Yoga For Your Type by Dr David Frawley, Sandra Summerfield Rozak: “Yoga philosophy teaches us that negative experiences, like trauma, and negative emotions, like fear and anger, lodge in the nerve tissue and the subconscious mind. These emotional toxins do not simply lie dormant but are a cause of underlying depression or agitation in our behavior. Through asana practice we can release this built up tension from past experience that lodges in our bones and nervous systems. Eliminating the past from our bodies and our minds creates new flexibility and increases energy.”
(2) ‘Jackal voice’ is a metaphor for life-alienated consciousness and language.