Have you ever found yourself in situations that feel uncomfortable? Ones that you try to avoid but yet tend to repeat themselves? As long as we continue to try and side-step around these things we remain trapped in a cycle that will tend to repeat itself. By instead learning how to work with aversion, we can overcome the things that hold us back and find freedom. One of the steps of a formal mindfulness practice is learning to become the Observer or the Witness. This part of the practice involves the ability to see all sides, version and permutations of oneself and how we show up under a variety of circumstances. One of these circumstances is when we experience an aversion to something or the feeling of grasping for an aspect of life that is just out of reach.
In seeing this grasping and aversion, we come to freedom. Freedom, or feeling free, is often cited as a reason for becoming mindful. Many come to this practice to help release something tragic or traumatic. There can be a sense of freedom in being able to let go of what is in the way.
The doorway is in the way and inevitably the doorway is the path. The metaphor of “the path” is used in contemplative work because life is essentially a journey. We experience many obstacles and come through the other side still moving forward and having learned new skills from the challenges.
These challenges can show up in many ways, including aversion or grasping. We will continue to experience grasping and aversion because we still have work to do. These challenges can continue to show up, often more subtly as time goes on. When we go deeper and learn to listen, we can see the subtlety more easily. Whenever we experience an aversion to what is (I don’t want this) there is an element of learning, of being for me, that exists. An inquiry practice, or asking questions to ponder, can be helpful when working through aversion. What is in this moment for me?
Some helpful tips:
- Personification of the aversion: Can you create a version of yourself in your mind that personifies what or how you are feeling? I often picture a very young version of myself having a tantrum because I am not getting what I want. This can help build some structure around an aspect of the mind that can feel very ‘slippery’. It gives the grasping of the mind some structure.
- Don’t get hung up on how “big” the issue presents itself. it is showing up because it is important to you. The practice is not a competition. It is not about how big your problem is, or how others may perceive what you are going through. If it is important to you, it will continue to show up until you are able to let it go.
So we inquire. Doing so shines a light on what is happening at the deeper layers. We ask questions to seek answers.
Think of asking questions as a flashlight for the mind. We turn it on and look in all the nooks and crannies of the mind for what is holding us back. We illuminate the obstacles so we can overcome them.
Some questions you can try asking yourself are:
- What am I grasping for?
- What am I wanting?
- What am I pushing away or avoiding?
- This feels like resistance. Why?
- Would I feel differently if these feelings were no longer there?
Where do we end up when we put down resistance, aversion, and grasping? This can feel very disorienting especially if we have become used to always looking outside of ourselves for resolution of unwanted feelings and emotions. It can feel like the rug being pulled because this is so often the foundation of daily operations.
It is important that we don’t destroy the resistance but instead move with it. We shed light on it so it no longer hides. We become aware of how it moves and what it has to reveal to us.
By illuminating it we can soften towards it. Can you lean towards it? Can you be curious about what the illumination provides? Invite an oscillation between these feelings of aversion and illumination and softening. Notice the difference between the two states. Circle back to the question of what if there was nothing to resist in this moment?
We end up in a position that allows us to be open to receive. This is the basis of manifestation, of creating change for oneself. We must first let go to be able to receive. It is impossible to take on more with full hands. This illumination, softening and letting go of the resistance makes space for what you want to come to you.
April Prescott, B Ed, 200-HR YTT, Meditation & Mindfulness Coach