Resisting stillness

Light purple sticky note with script reading "my brain has too many tabs open"

At the start of my regular Tuesday meditation sessions, the teacher usually asks how we’re coming to practice. Yesterday, I said I was feeling a lot of resistance. 

After her regular thank-you-for-sharing affirmation, she encouraged me to question what was feeling threatened by the practice. THREATENED. The word hit hard. The question caught me off guard. 

Partway through the meditation, I found my answer.

As Kirat guided us to focus on our breathing, my mind skittered away. Thinking about to-do lists, judging all the things I hadn’t ticked off (or even added). Rather than being in the present, I was consumed with past work or potential future productivity. 

[bg_collapse view=”link” expand_text=”Click here to unfurl some of the overthinking” collapse_text=”Click to hide the skittering (at least on the screen)”]

Emails to send about an upcoming trip. Train schedules to confirm for the same. The last Friday evening yin yoga class of 2021 to plan. An end-of-year blog post to write for my book-ish club The Literati. Hanging laundry and folding clothes and changing sheets. Never-ending housework. Equally endless exercises for mitigating the osteoarthritis in my right knee. An in-person yoga class to teach in Zurich. Remembering to check students’ COVID certificates. Pre-reading for the next term of my Post-Graduate course in creative writing. Slight worry about my final term assessment for the last module (but so happy to be done with poetry!) and vague questions of whether to enter any of the pieces for poetry contests. Short stories to tweak for writing competitions. So many words to write. Other writers’ work to read and critique. Concern about whether I’ll ever get anything creative published. Feedback to deliver for my first round as a mentor with Global Citizen Year—and an application to submit for to be a mentor again. A grant application to finalise for FND Hope UK (the first grant application I wrote for this neuro charity was successful—yay!—this one is so much bigger). Medical appointments to schedule and attend. Invoices to submit. Huge uncertainty about how the Swiss medical system works in practice. Scratchy stitches from mole removals to put to the back of my mind, along with pending pathology results. An application to be a reader for an online literary magazine to complete—or decide not to pursue. Recycling to take out. Limescale to remove from the humidifier that keeps my nose from bleeding all winter. Website maintenance and, potentially, a new site to develop. Menu planning and grocery shopping and meal prep. Keeping food from spoiling. Not being wasteful. The general admin of being an adult. More emails to friends and family to say “I’m thinking of you ❤️  You matter!”


So many things seemed more important than taking 20 minutes to “do nothing.”* So much societal pressure to be productive. 

My drive to be constructive was threatened by my meditation practice. 

After the practice, Kirat shared some Buddhist philosophy: “Resistance is protective behaviour. If we can identify what we’re protecting, it becomes easier to settle into that.” 

Just like my knee swelled up to protect itself after the meniscectomy, my brain was trying to protect me from feeling worthless. Busyness and accomplishments are valuable, so the opposite must also be true.
But it’s not.   

I’ve been meditating consistently for more than 18 months and I know regular practice makes life easier for me—and make the internal gremlins less convincing. 

So, I encourage you to ask: what’s being threatened by you taking a pause? Whether it’s meditation or yoga or reading a fluffy novel or anything else that brings you peace, what’s providing that resistance?

Can you identify it? Can you settle into it? Can you quiet your internal gremlins?

Can you take a break?

*Note: Meditation is hard. And it’s important for my well being. It’s not “doing nothing,” but the gremlins in my head insist on framing it that way.

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