“That which you resists persists.”
I first heard that Buddhist mantra on the movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It is an exciting scene where the main character has stolen a sword and is fighting a master, who only wants to become her teacher. He sees her great skill and also her potential to go down the slippery slope of self-destruction. He believes she could have a great calling. Yet she is rebellious and resisting. Perhaps it is similar to your own journey. The journey of resisting your calling, resisting your good, or even resisting your dark side. The more you resist it, the bigger it seems to grow. You are at odds with yourself and the world and it seeks balance. It may feel like disharmony to face the thing you don’t want to, but it actually puts you back in harmony. The one thing that seems to be trying to stop you is the thing that is teaching you.
You can’t fail at being yourself. You can’t be successful for long being someone other than who you are. Therefore your soul will be in discord until you are living authentically. This will often be reflected in your external world as well. I guess that is where the phrase “take the path of least resistance” came from. That means that if I feel resistance, then that’s an area I need to look at. Perhaps it is a wound to heal or it just needs a new perspective.
Last Lent I had the perfect opportunity to practice this. I had been feeling anxiety at work as a school teacher for years. I felt like I was not being myself, or at least the best version of myself, and it was always hard. Then I started looking at which particular aspects were giving me the most anxiety. First I thought it was the schedule. The way you could not be a second late to school because you had a morning duty where kids were depending on you. I thought what I hated was the lack of freedom in my schedule and the pressure I felt driving on the road to make it there in time… especially when there was unexpected traffic. But then I realized, I am a morning person, waking up with plenty of time to get to school, and that if I liked it I would have no problem getting there early. What I really dreaded was the duty. I had duty again in the afternoon when what I really need at 3:00 is a good nap! Instead I have to stand outside and monitor kids waiting for their car rides for a half hour every day.
Could I make the task fun? No, it felt restrictive. My job was to make sure students didn’t talk in the morning or in the afternoon– two of the few times a day when they were not being instructed and actually could talk. This doesn’t just go against kids’ nature but against human nature! The worst part was that I understood the reasoning for this rule. If they talked at breakfast, then they ate much slower or didn’t eat at all and just threw their food away. There were too many kids to get through the line and too little time before the tardy bell rang and they had to be in their classroom. This meant most kids needed to be done eating their meals in about 10 minutes. In the afternoon, if they got too loud they wouldn’t hear their name called when their ride arrived which would back up the whole car rider line, making 30 minutes turn into an hour. I got the reasoning but I hated policing. I wanted to be welcoming and friendly. I wanted to talk with the kids and make them feel good. I wanted to laugh and smile but there was little space for that. So what could I do?
Then it struck me. Just don’t do it. Stop resisting my inclinations and stop policing the kids who were resisting “the rules”. I would not engage students in conversation the way that I wanted to, but I would stop policing. And then … something magical happened. Or rather it was what didn’t happen. The kids didn’t get too loud. Kids still finished their breakfast in the same amount of time. Car rider line still took the same amount of time. Even when I thought it got a bit loud, they usually heard their name called. I no longer needed to frown, use a stern voice, or walk around tapping kids on the shoulder. I could simply stand back and watch that no real problems were occurring.
This attitude led into the rest of my work. I would stop resisting kids in order to meet my own agenda or the one I felt was pressed on me by the school system. If we didn’t cover the material that we needed to because they were interested in something else, then no biggie. It was all learning and that was the big picture. I decided to go back to letting the big picture rule me. What matters most isn’t determined by curriculum, testing, or philosophies of learning. What mattered most was connecting and motivating and loving children. Once I stopped resisting students and my core kind self, my anxiety dissipated.