32 - The Practice of Stillness - Part 6: Resistance
All the negative energy in the universe can be understood in terms of resistance. In the field of electricity, the measure of resistance is an Ohm. One Ohm of resistance produces one volt and one amp, both a measure of the flow of electricity. That’s important, because it enables us to reduce and control the amount of electricity. Do you know what we use to reduce the flow of electricity to a desired amount in order to produce a constant, stable flow? It's called....., wait for it...., a resister. If we were not able to control the flow of electricity, we would not be able to use it. It would fluctuate in unstable ways that would basically blow up or burn out anything we attempted to power with it. We need precisely 110 volts of electricity for most household appliances, with a few using 220 volts. Electrical resisters, measured in Ohms, allows us to generate that constant, consistent flow. These resisters are called transformers, because they either step up or step down the flow of electricity to a desired amount. When electricity arrives at your house, it can be as much as 700,000 volts in the primary line on the pole. That’s enough to blow up your house. To reduce it to a manageable amount, a step-down transformer reduces that 700,000 volts to two 110 volts lines. That’s a big transformation, but necessary in order to make electricity usable. The same is true with the energy of the universe. The quality and usefulness of that energy can be understood in terms of resistance.
Remember my illustration about the flow of reality as a river of data which must be fractured down to a small, manageable amount in order for us to be able to handle and use it? Just like electricity, we do this through resistance. We are all our own little resisters transforming the energy of the universe, which we can call God, into small, manageable amounts. This is the process of negative transformation, because it reduces the flow of God to us for the sake of our own control. There is no shame or judgement in this. It’s what we have to do to keep from drowning in that vast river of data. But we must understand, both how this process fractures reality, and how it separates us from the great, boundless love of God. We talked about that effect in our last discussion in terms of self-referential boundaries of protection. The irony is that our separation from this flow of love produces the very dysfunction of trying to protect ourselves from the lack of that love in the world around us. Our resistance to the infinite flow of God-energy in the universe becomes our greatest problem, which leads to all kinds of negative behaviors, including the need for boundaries in order to protect ourselves from a world filled with people who don’t know how to love; people just as cut off from the source of God’s love as we are. It is our resistance to that flow which is the problem, and which also must be overcome. But remember, it is also that resistance which we’ve crafted to protect us. It is the armor we wear, both to shield us from the negative energy of others, and the infinite energy of God. While our armor does effectively siphon this God-energy to a small trickle, it really doesn’t protect us from others negative energy. All we can really do is numb ourselves, so we don’t feel it so strongly. Our coping mechanisms for all the chaos in the world don’t reduce that chaos, they just disable our ability to feel it, which only adds to the chaos. Our ability to harm others unaware is part of the problem. It’s like a kind of empathic leprosy. Again, and again we see that all our “solutions” to the overwhelming energy of the universe are actually what is hurting us, others, and the whole world. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s just the illusion of bliss, like fire retardant soul-suits that protect us from the reality of world burning down around us. But a burnt out, broken world is no place to live, even if we’ve effectively numbed and blinded ourselves to it. We don’t escape the damage; we just escape having to feel it. And as with leprosy, not feeling pain can have devastating effects. The real solution is learning how to wade back into, step by step, to the full energy flow of God, so we can become fully powered by love to love, as we were meant to. The real solution is transformation. But that can only happen as we get rid of our resisters.
In order to come back to life, fully engaged in a self fully powered by God, we’re going to have to step back our resistance one Ohm at a time. We almost always imagine that resistance is something happening to us, from outside us, from others pushing back against our self-imposed boundaries, values and preferences. We want to always blame others for the resistance to love in the world. If only everyone would accept our values, and get on board with the “rightness” of our truth systems, then the negative energy of resistance would no longer exist in the world. Everything would be peppy and positive if only everyone agreed with me. But that is not true, on so many levels. First, what we are demanding of others is the opposite of what we are doing ourselves. What we want is for everyone else to drop all their values in order to adapt to our inability to drop ours. Second, our self-referential truth is hardly consistent. We imagine we have these solid, immovable values grounding us in some kind of moral superiority, when in fact our values are based more in how we feel we’re being treated from one moment to the next. Our self-referential truth is always changing, because the reference points are always changing. The self is no stable place for the grounding of truth, because the self is not grounded in anything but its own comfort and will. In the end, getting my way subverts so many of my grand, noble-minded truths. We see this hypocrisy clearly in every around us, but often not in ourselves. The “tolerance” crowd can be very intolerant, the “God is love” crowd can be very hateful, the “kindness” crowd can be unkind, the “social justice” crowd oppressive. We struggle to hold steady even our best and most dearly held values, because we are not the center of what can hold such things together. We only understand values and boundaries in terms of resistance and exclusion, but the energy flow of love is inclusive and accepting. We will never get to that energy by the flow of it’s opposite, through an oppositional flow.
Apart from God we become negative transformers, always trying to tamp down energy all around us. I have three young kids, who have little to no filters. They easily express everything they feel, think, and experience. They have no resistance to their own flow of energy. In general, I love that about kids. You never have to guess what’s going on inside. But it can also create a toxic environment. It seems someone is always getting on someone else’s nerves, and someone is always screaming at someone for doing something they didn’t like. But adults are no different. We don’t feel things any less, we just learn ways to disguise or bottle such emotions. We can become quite sophisticated in how we manage and manipulate our own emotions, and those of others. But hiding is no better effect. Can you imagine if we all acted like little kids, just blurting out everything we think and feel all the time. Civil society, it seems, is just our dysfunctional ability to hide from ourselves, and the true essence of energy inside us. We spend most of our lives trying to deny what is inside, instead of truly learning to deal with it, and see it transformed in positive ways. I did this experiment once. I decided I was going to be a less impulsive driver. I tried slowing down, not passing people if they were going slower than I wanted. I tried to force myself to be a “nice” driver. And you know what it accomplished, it made me more pensive and exasperated, which had the opposite effect. I could not effectively change the negative energy inside me by willing it to stop, because my will was the source of the problem to begin with. We cannot will our will to stop. Our will is the energy of resistance. Our will equates to “I want,” and “I don’t want.” We literally will our way through every day, approaching most things with the expectation of how we wish or want it to be. Whether conscious or not, we usually have predetermined outcomes in mind, focused mainly on how things should go in compliance to our own comfort and preferences. Would we not wish that all the lights were green, wherever we go, and effectively stop everyone else on their journey for the sake of our own convenience? You know you do it. For the sake of our own wants, we would limit and suppress the whole world. This is a negative resistance. How do we get to a place where we allow the world to be what it is, without such resistance? We must get rid of our will concerning everything. We must no longer want anything to be what we want. My goodness, what a stark and crushing remedy that is. It is simply to much for us to bear. We can hardly stomach even the slightest inconvenience to our will, the least alteration of what we want or expect. How can we get to a place where our will no longer matters, and is no longer in play? Why should we even want that?
Ever heard the phrase, “you can be right, or you can be happy.” Well, I think it’s better to say, “When you’re happy then your right.” You can be both, when you understand that being right isn’t about some right moral stance, but existing in the place of Shalom. That place is about a right connection to the energy flow of God, not a right set of moral truths. Its about relationship, not rules. We’re happy when we understand how relationships work as an energy flow, and how our adherence to the “right” rules often creates resistance to that flow. What we must understand is that maintaining our “right” rules is just a way of weaponizing our self-referential, small truth in order to force it upon the world. To say, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” is to actually claim that I am the absolute truth of the universe, when we can clearly see that we are not. But it is also to say that my “right truth” is more important than my relationship with you, something that the absolute Truth who is God would never say, because relationship is the flow of God’s right energy in the world, and anything which blocks that flow is negative, But isn’t God about rules? Isn’t the Bible one big, giant rule book full of “do this” and “don’t do this”? I’m not saying God is anti-rules. I’m saying that God is about relationship, and there are rules to relationship. I’m also saying that when we take, even those good rules and use them to break good relationship, then we are using them wrong. This is what Jesus called the spirit of the law verses the letter of the law. The letter, he said, kills us, and the spirit gives us life. The spirit of good relationship rules is helping us have good relationships. That’s the point. Jesus is saying that, when you miss the point of the rules, and begin keeping rules for the sake of rules instead of relationship, you actually accomplish the opposite of what those “rules” were meant to point us to. And, when we understand God’s principles in light of his/her desire for relationship, then we understand why God would suspend the rules every time in order to keep from breaking relationship with us. It’s what the Christian religion calls grace. God cares more about you than any rules. But it’s also good to learn the ways God has designed relationships to work. And the way God has design relationship to work is through the open, unhindered flow of love. We can all see clearly the brokenness of this flow all around us in the world. War, contention, violence, hate, oppression, segregation, discrimination, homophobia, racism, classism, sexism; all these are clear evidence of that broken flow. We feel it and experience it every day, on a personal level. But we seldom trace the root back to ourselves. We think the problem is always out there, somewhere in the world, with some other person, group, nation, religion, or truth system. The work of personal transformation is to realize that, for us, resistance to the flow of love begins and ends with us, and we must turn that resistance around from what blocks the flow of love to what opens it up. We must begin resisting that resistance.
When we are open to the flow of love, nothing else in the whole world can block it for us. This is the foundational truth of reality. No one can take us out of the flow of love except ourselves. As long as we are focused on everyone else as the source of our broken experience of love, we will never solve the great dilemma of that broken flow, for ourselves or any one else. The beautiful part of this truth is that there is nothing standing in our way to experiencing that flow, except ourselves. As long as the problem is someone else, or somewhere else, then we are powerless to fix it. But we try. We can spend our whole lives trying to fix the world around us, and never see that the problem is in us. It’s frustrating and depressing to try and solve this problem in everyone else. It not only puts us in a place where we must attempt to control everyone else’s bad behavior, it actually feeds the negative energy of contention and violence at the root of this behavior, because me oppressing you with my “good” values is part of the problem, not the solution. But when we turn that effort towards ourselves, then things can change. But this doesn’t mean we take the same approach, of trying to force our good values on ourselves either. It means we must surrender that pursuit altogether. We cannot get into the flow through resistance. What we must do is learn to stop resisting altogether. We create our negative experience in the world by resisting reality as it’s happening to us. We do this by trying to control, manipulate, guide, direct and create reality. Resistance comes from our unwillingness to accept that we cannot will anything into existence. The world is moving all around us quite apart from us. We can choose to either get into the flow, or resist it. We cannot choose what the flow is. Every time we choose to resist what is happening around us, we experience the negative flow of that resistance. Start paying attention to your inner experience and see if this is not true. When you get upset, frustrated, angry, indignant, prideful, depressed, anxious, and fearful, can you see that it is not because something “wrong” has happened in the world, but because you are trying to push against something happening in the world. You are literally saying "no" to reality. You are literally trying to unmake or undo something that clearly will not allow for that. So, the result isn’t a reversal of what happened, or the aftereffects. The result is the dissidence of our push back against reality. All negativity comes from the schism created by our fracturing of reality inside ourselves. Reality itself is not altered. We are altering ourselves against reality, by operating as though we should be able to determine what happens. We are resisting reality. And this makes sense, when we are disconnected from the flow of reality as a good God who orders all things for our good.
If we do not believe in a better will for the betterment of the world, then we must at least attempt to make things better. We must at least try to push our agenda and truth into the world, if the world is simply the blank canvas of an empty universe with us as the highest form of intelligence. Who else will correct what is wrong? But where did we even get that idea? Where does this impulse come from, to try and make the world better? Little do we understand that it is this very impulse which makes the world wrong, but it’s not hard to see. Seven billion different, competing visions for how the world should work create a good deal of negative energy, but that is not the worst. The worst is that we also get seven billion little resisters to reality itself. But can we not actually change the world? Have we not made improvements? Look at modern science, medicine, phycology, sociology, even politics. We actually have made progress, in some aspects of the world. But what we don’t understand is that improving the external world does not improve the internal. Better tech doesn’t solve the problems in our souls. Better medicine may prolong or improve our temporary physical existence, but it does not actually solve the problem of death. Only the metaphysical can speak to these things. And, when we take the limited measure of control we have in the external world, and attempt to produce similar effects on our internal world, the results are what we see in the world right now. The world is most broken from our failed attempts to fix what we cannot. We cannot fix reality, because we do not control reality. We have been given a measure of control over the external world, as beings created in the image of a God who has passed on his/her creativity, but we cannot alter the essential DNA of our being. We were given the ability to tend the world, as caretakers over the external. But we haven’t even done a good job at that, because we decided to try and control what we never could. We do not get to decide how the world works. We do not get to use the world however we want. The way the world works is set. We can only decide to work within that, or against it. We see this clearly even in the external world. We must come to see this even more in our internal world as well. We must learn to operate in the world as it, not as we want it to be. To do this, we must surrender to the essence of what makes the world move, and that is God. But to do this, we must come to see that God is good. We will never surrender to a Divine, abusive tyrant. If God exists as the highest intelligence, but is not good, then we still can’t submit to that higher vision of the world. We must come to see that God has our best in mind, or we will continue trying to get what is best for ourselves. That can be a hard dilemma to overcome, especially in a world that does not often seem to reflect the goodness of God. How do we get into the flow of God’s love if we do not believe in a loving God?
We must come to see that all negativity begins and ends in us. That is the first step. Then we must begin to release the resistance we have towards reality. We must admit our powerlessness over reality, and see that resistance as the source of our negative experience. As we step back from the action of resisting reality, we create the space within ourselves for God to begin to reveal him/herself. This is what religion often calls faith. Before we can see God move, we must cease from our movement. Before we can even begin to experience God as goodness, God as reality, we must stop trying to make reality for ourselves. There’s no way around that. It is the dance of surrender. As we step back from control, we create the space for God to step in. That is why rebirth only comes through suffering, why resurrection must be preceded by death and burial. We will only experience the flow of God’s love to the degree that we stop resisting it. It’s hard to believe that enough to stop. So, we take small steps. We do little experiments. And God helps us along the way. It's not an easy process, and it can take a long time, depending on our ability to believe in the process. At some point, we must become convinced of our need for something other than what we have been doing. We must be confronted with the dire consequences of pursuing our will. This may not register in us for a very long time. For some, it never does. I cannot tell you how this gets worked out. It happens differently for everyone. But we all will experience the negativity of our resistance in some extreme ways, at different points in our lives. In our normal, day to day, that negativity is usually more background noise. We learn to live with it, until it wrecks our whole world. In those moments, we have a choice, attempt to rebuild our lives around the same illusion of control, or begin to question our attempt to control as the source of the problem. It took a breakdown for me, so I understand the resistance we have to this lesson. But when I began to learn that lesson, it became very clear that I was the source of all my negativity. I had to learn to resist my resistance. It helped to have those around me who had been through the process, who were encouraging me towards the goal of surrender, as I am encouraging you. But, to be honest, there were very few, and no one in my direct path. I had to turn to that wisdom though books written by people like Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr. I did not find this wisdom in the common house of religion, I’m sorry to say. But I was prepared for it by my Christian upbringing in some ways. At least the core message was there. It was just clouded by a lot of other negative messages, and I had to sort through all that to come to that core truth about God.
It takes some trust to begin to step back from our resistance. We must come to believe what others have said, in conjunction with our own experience. We must step away from any community of doubt and surround ourselves with a community of love and encouragement. We will not get there alone. That may mean finding a different church, or leaving church all together. That may mean going to church for the first time, or finding “church” in non-tradition ways, on-line or in books. Jesus concept of “church” was just a group of people who would walk with us on this journey, to help us along in our spiritual growth. Anything not helpful is hurtful, but nothing will be pure. We’re all broken, and struggling towards the light. The difference is in those struggling towards the light, and those resisting it. I believe we all know, instinctively, when that flow is positive and negative. We know when we are loved, and when we are not. We recognize it in ourselves, and in others. But, we must begin learning to trust that instinct, and also learn to develop it. We must also begin to understand how our resistance is the key. God orders our experience towards these lessons, whether or not we are even aware of God. God is always attempting to reveal the futility of our resistance to the reality of the world. I can tell you clearly that this has been my experience. There are no accidents in the universe. Everything is ordered by love and for love. We often just need different eyes to see it. But as we step into that space of surrendering our will to remake the world to our liking, we begin to see a larger vision of just how all this works. We begin to see that even our greatest suffering is part of a bigger plan, meant to draw us into the flow of God’s love, not the evidence that we are out of it. Suffering simply reveals our resistance. But as we begin to stop resisting, we will experience less and less suffering. It is this growing experience that gives evidence to the belief that God really is there, really is good, and really has designed the world to operate in the flow of Love. The question is, what will it take for us to realize this?
I hope it just take these very words. I hope you can begin to trust that what I’m saying is true, enough to at least give it a try. But remember, you cannot do it alone. You cannot resist your will to control reality by that very same will. You must, in some way, understand and elicit the help of God. That’s what Christianity calls the “sinners’ prayer.” I don’t like that verbiage, because it’s often distorted and misrepresented, but what it entails is the recognition of our powerlessness over our circumstances, and our need to ask God for help. It’s not the recognition that I’m a bad person, a “sinner,” but that I’m just a confused person attempting to get somewhere alone that only God can bring me. The world is not divided into “good” and “bad” people, but people giving in to or resisting the flow of God’s love. No loving God would punish someone for resisting what they don’t even know to accept. The “rules” of relationship with God are not punitive measures meant to correct “bad behavior,” but helpful guidelines meant to bring us back to life. Are we resisting that life, or learning to work with it? The key is recognizing our resistance as the source of what is keeping us out of that flow. I know how hard that can be. To give up everything you are doing to make your life good, to protect yourself, to get your needs met is not easy. To simply stop long enough to see a different way of being in the world. It will be the scariest thing you ever do. It takes a kind of bravery bigger than yourself. But it also brings such a greater peace in the space of stillness where we are no longer putting ourselves in charge of making the world anything, but beginning to learn how to simply accept the world as it is, and as it comes to us. This is the secret of Shalom. I remember, as I was learning this during my year of recovery, after my breaking down, in some pretty intense ways. I brought this new wisdom to light in a men’s group I was in at the time. Keep in mind, this was a group of guys that were pretty progressive, spiritually and intellectually. But that wisdom was met with resistance. The push back was pretty much, “you can’t just stop having a will about everything.” My answer then is my answer now. You can, and you should try it. Who says we have to live in the world this way? Who says we must live out of our own will about how the world should be, and how the world should work accord to how we decide it should work? I don’t get to decide how the universe works. I don’t decide how water flows, light shines, wind moves, the earth spins, or the sun burns. I just get to decide to work with it or against it. It’s all already been decided for me. All religion is meant to point us to this one work; learning how to stop resisting the flow of God’s reality, and learning how to surrender to it. Sometimes even religion can be a resistant flow, but good religion can point us to that goal. Even without religion, we have within us all we need, because we know what positive and negative energy feels like. Our experience is the best teacher, and God will teach us through it right where we are. We need only to start paying attention to our experience to learn. When I stop resisting, I stop feeling that negative energy. It’s that simple. When I trust in a higher order, I can surrender to that higher order, and feel the difference of a life lived in the stillness of peace and Shalom. When I recognize that I must change first, then the whole world will also be changed for me, with me, and I will become that change in the world as well. As others see and feel the absence of that negative energy in me, they will also be invited into the flow of God’s energy of love. You can do this. Its as easy and hard as surrender.
I’ve come to feel the energy of the world around me much more acutely, but that has not liberated me. Increased awareness is not the whole answer. Some days all I want to do is push it back and push it away. I live with three very reactionary little kids. They are little nuclear plants of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energy, and sometimes they melt down and explode. It seems, even when they’re not, that they are on the edge of that melt down more often than not. Some days it feels like I get very little peace from that pushy energy. It can be draining, even overwhelming, and I don’t always do well at keeping my focus on how I’m reacting to them, instead of how they’re acting towards me. The more I push against that energy, the more I feed it, and feel its negative effects. The more I focus on my reaction to it, the more I realize that the true remedy is in me. When I am most unhealthy, I become the most reactionary, because I am most in the mode of simply trying to control the energy around me in order get relief from it. That is how we imagine peace to work. If only we could calm the external world, then we would be fine and everything would be as it should. Nothing would be attacking us. But this is an impossible goal. The very act of me trying to control the world, for the benefit of my own peace, creates its very lack, as if I could command the wind to stop blowing simply because it annoys me. But when I understand that it is my very annoyance that is the issue, then I see the world differently, and myself within it. Then I can come to a peace through what robs me of it from within, the dissidence of my will pitted against the very will of the universe, which also includes every little thing in it. And then I can truly be at peace. When my peace hinges on releasing my attempt to control everything, I will be at peace. When I fight against the energy of everything which seems to be robbing me of peace, I will never win, because I will never cause that energy to cease. But when there is nothing in me to be disturbed by that energy, then nothing will upset me. Then I can see that it has been my resistance which has been the problem all along, and that getting rid of it is the solution. Then I can begin to fight against that resistance within, one Ohm at a time. This is the path to peace. This is the path of stillness. It’s hard to even begin to see this truth, and admit that we have been the problem all along. But once there, then we are ready to do the real work of peace, which will produce the sturdy, lasting peace of Shalom. Things can be as they ought to be, and they will. This is the promise of heaven, not some far off place in the clouds, but every person living in that place of stillness, having given up resisting the reality of the world as it is. Then there will be no more war, no more tears, no more oppression and abuse. Then we will all be at peace, when we all find that peace within ourselves. We won’t get there any other way. As Michael Franti sings in his song “Bomb the World,” “we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace.” When you, and I, and everyone is ready to stop bombing the world with the push of our will, then we’ll all truly be ready for peace.