"What do you see on the screen that may help you with your question?" –An Apple technician helping me navigate my new computer.
This advice above was so simple and yet so clever! If only we could just let go of our resistances, breathe and find our answer in what's in front of us. In therapy I have often heard someone's solution in their questions. Resistance to what is in front of us is, I think, a universal experience. Steven Pressfield writes in his book, The War of Art how resistance is a sure sign that something is important to you. In fact, he emphasizes the bigger the resistance the more valuable the project.“The more important a call or action to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
So, are all my resistances because the pursuit is part of my soul's evolution? Or is it something else? (Hint: it's something else).
Turns out resistance isn't only attached to meaningful pursuits. Being afraid you won't be able to accomplish the thing you want or need to accomplish, is a sure way to get you to do everything BUT that one thing. This flavor of resistance can come up in more mundane yet uncomfortable tasks like figuring out something on the computer. Recently, I avoided even trying to fix something technical. First I attempted to get someone else to figure it out and fix it. That didn't work. So I sat down and thought, I can do this. If I just stick with it I can l figure it out. Just don't give up. This project was not part of my soul's evolution. And, it's something that needed to be fixed. I decided to stay with it until I figured it out. In this case it took 6 hours sans human support (Google hasn't any human support). What relief and pride I felt when I figured it out on my own and fixed the problem.
How does this work in our spiritual and creative life? What about (not) writing my novel? Is my resistance to finishing the final draft all about resisting what is meaningful to me?
Turns out, no.
I am simply afraid I can't do the work. I am afraid that I won't really be able to figure out how to write a good (or great) novel. That's it really. That's my demon here. Afraid I won't be able to accomplish a well-drafted book. So, now that I know the truth, that I am not resisting writing my novel because it is such an important soulful pursuit (though it may be that too), no, I am simply afraid I won't be able to actually do the work that it will take. So,
What if I were to approach the novel like I did my computer problem? Just stick with it, figure things out as I go? Ask myself what the computer tech asked me: What in front of me can help me accomplish what I want?
That's my plan.
Each day I will spend at least 15 golden minutes sitting with my novel, using all that I have in front of me to work with. I have many novelists before me to learn from, I have my story, my protagonist and antagonists, along with my 100,000 written words.
I am going to show up for the work and see what happens. What can happen.
This persistence instead of avoidance arrived as a gift from my recent meditation practices. 15 months ago I started the Anapanasati practice of meditation. I almost missed out on this opportunity by backing out of a retreat at the last minute. Then with a poke from the teacher I saw a pattern of not following through, not showing up. So every morning since (I've missed only 6 or7 days), I have sat for an hour of meditation practice. Just showed up. The benefits, though mostly subtle, are nothing less than miraculous for me.
So here late in life I have learned better how to simply show up. Or, how to show up better. Be consistent and persistent with what wants and can unfold. I can learn to write a great novel, if I just keep showing up. I can learn how to fix computer problems if I just stay put and look at the screen and ask, "What do you see on the screen that may help you with your question?" (And yes, reaching out for live support when it's necessary and available).
One more mention and then back to my novel (well, after a good walk with my dog). I have found that what helps me to show up is knowing how and when to let go. (And what to let go of). In every creative and spiritual success there is a letting go.
Until next time, Write about what you keep avoiding. Make a list. What happens when you simply show up and do the work? Write about that. How did it feel when you figured something out for yourself? Write about that.
"Letting go is a natural ability. It is not something new or foreign. It is not an esoteric teaching or somebody else’s idea or a belief system. We are merely utilizing our own inner nature to get freer and happier."
–Hawkins, David R.. Letting Go