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Natural Awakenings Boston

Just Say Yes! : Turning Resistance into Acceptance Creates an Empowered, Healthy Life

Oct 31, 2014 12:48AM ● By Alison Shaw

Life is movement. Living things are animated, and when they stop moving the flow of vital energy is shut off and health is compromised. This is true on many levels. 

On the physical level, human life depends on the constant rhythm of breath, heartbeat and the flow of blood through open vessels. If this ceases, so does life. Physical exercise is also vital for the health of body and mind. Yoga, deep breathing and natural foods all help to keep our physiology moving freely. 

But freedom of movement is important to other aspects of life, too. Emotional health depends on the ability to experience and express feelings. Emotions have energy and act much like water. When water is allowed to flow freely, it will always find its way to a peaceful state. Raging rivers high in the mountains eventually reach the ocean, dissipate and settle. But when the river is damned, the energy of the water does not simply disappear; it creates pressure. So too, when emotional expression is blocked, that emotional energy is held by the body. To stop it, muscles tense, the breath constricts and the body gets stuck in a state of contraction which interferes with health. 

Movement is also vital to the self and soul. For those that aren’t able or permitted to express creativity, pursue visions and create their chosen life, unhappiness and worse results. No one can thrive when life force, and the movement associated with it, is suppressed on any level. 

Then again, emotions, and expressing them, can be painful, so people often resist what they feel and close down in self-protection. These “body-mind patterns” are formed at a young age and persist as habits throughout one’s life. Individuals stop breathing to block feeling emotions, tighten the jaw to resist speaking and brace all over to fight physical pain. Like boxers constantly blocking punches, it becomes habit to resist to avoid surrender at all costs. 

Consequently, individuals try harder to be who they think they should be, to feel good, and not show the bad stuff. Reminders to “stay positive; be strong; look good; do it right; don’t feel that; get over it!” have been heard by all. It is common and understandable to think or say, “I don’t want to feel this!” Unfortunately, resistance locks the unwanted feeling in place. 

Mindfulness meditation teaches people to be compassionate witnesses of their experience instead of trying to change it. This has been shown to elicit the relaxation response, improve cardiovascular and immune function and generate well-being. Expressive art and movement therapies help people free emotional and creative expression for deep healing. 

The somatic therapist Richard Strozzi Heckler describes how living like an aikido master helps create a life with more peace and health. Unlike the boxer, the aikido master has the opposite response to unwanted experiences. Instead of blocking the punch, the aikido master reaches for the punch and draws it toward him/herself. By accepting what is, even the painful, the force of that punch dissipates. It’s counterintuitive but it works. 

There is vitality trapped in unwanted emotions and censored self-expression. When it’s blocked and held, it’s hard to feel empowered and move freely on any level. When we soften and allow our experience to flow, we can move toward peace and aliveness. 

Here’s how to free up one’s life force and step into power:

  1. Notice when “No” is the response to an experience. Feel how the body blocks the flow of sensation, emotion or impulse. Does the breath stop, jaw or shoulders tighten?
  2. Open the breath; release the tension in the body. Imagine turning toward this experience and saying, “Yes, you can be here.” Like relaxing on a cold day and letting the chills run through the body, it’s not comfortable but it will pass.
  3. Allow the feeling of what’s real, and notice the force of the unwanted sensation or emotion softens, easing distress and making way for the next experience to flow. Increased energy, greater relaxation and deeper rest may now become more noticeable. 

Remember; what we can feel, we can heal and what we resist persists.

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