savor the resistance

Updated On — 11th Oct, 2022

Do we feel we are missing out on some better, or more spiritual, experience by being stuck with a mountain of laundry, a sink overflowing with dishes, or a yard full of leaves to rake?


Karen Maezen Miller, in a piece in Lion’s Roar, describes the domestic practices of ancient Zen masters as intimate daily life transformations. Following in their steps she reflects:

In the fall, the broad canopy of giant sycamores in my backyard turns faintly yellow and the leaves sail down. A part of every autumn day finds me fuming at the sight of falling leaves. Then, I pick up a rake.

Tell me, while I’m sweeping leaves till kingdom come, is it getting in the way of my life? Is it interfering with my life? Keeping me from my life? Only my imaginary life, that life of what-ifs and how-comes: the life I’m dreaming of.

At the moment I’m raking leaves, she seems to be telling me, THAT is my life, and it is all of me.

the fear of missing out

Do we feel we are missing out on some better, or more spiritual, experience by being stuck with a mountain of laundry, a sink overflowing with dishes, or a yard full of leaves to rake?

I like Josh Korda’s line, that our mindfulness practice is “not really about being above it all; it’s about being with it all.”

Whether in sitting meditation or raking leaves or doing the laundry, the practice is to notice what is happening.

As you get better at this, you touch your experience without getting hooked by the story line.

don’t feed it, and it will recede

A wave of irritation, anger, boredom, or whatever it is, naturally recedes on its own if you don’t feed it by dwelling on it and spinning a compelling narrative around it.

This is not just detachment; it’s learning to open to the sadness or grief that seeks our attention and triggers depression, blame or fear.

I love how Pema Chodron describes this essential skill:

We join our loss of heart with honesty and kindness. Instead of pulling back from the pain of irritation we move closer. We lean into the wave. We swim into the wave.

swim into the wave

Mindfulness is this simple: we pay attention to what’s happening in the moment, let go of any stories we may be telling ourselves about our experiences, and “swim into the wave.”

As you get better at it, you realize that challenging mental states are just the resistance to what is. And they rise and recede within the silent space of your own awareness.

Jack Kornfield tell us:

Whenever I would go to my teacher Ajahn Chah to speak about some experience I felt to be important—a terrible fever, a luminous meditation—he would smile like a grandfather being shown sandcastles by his three-year-old and remind me, “If you hold on to any expectation, you miss the wisdom. It is impermanent. Be the One Who Knows, the witness to it all.

be the One Who Knows

When you sit down to meditate today, let all your thoughts and images dissolve back into silence and just be this “One Who Knows” – this silent witness.

Feel any resistance which may come up — to aches, pains, or mental states such as boredom, restlessness, or doubt.

Savor the resistance, like a fine wine. And as it dissipates, feel the joy of the quieting mind.

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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