“The greatest difficulty is the mental resistance to things that arise, and the underlying assumption that they should not.”
Reading this quote right now, I understand why an assumption I had made was my biggest trip up.
Basically, I had had such a difficult time accepting the fact my husband had died. Even given that we knew it was going to happen, and that I was there with him when he died.
Even knowing that he would be better off dead (his body was riddled with cancer), for months afterwards I did the opposite of this quote – fell into a pothole in the road of life that said ‘No! It shouldn’t have happened! It’s not fair!’
And of course kept myself stuck in the hole for even longer.
Let’s just look at this phrase of Eckhart’s.
“Mental resistance to things that arise”
That’s these kind of thoughts:
I don’t believe it!
Surely not, that can’t be true?
No. I won’t accept that, I’m going to do something about it.
Why? That’s not okay
Or even just grumbling, muttering and feeling anything other than neutral about the situation.
We have mental resistance when we don’t like what it is that is happening. We don’t exactly resist things we like, do we? In fact, we welcome them with open arms.
So the real challenge is the judgments and assumptions we have made around whatever it is that is happening.
As an example, let’s look at what occurred when Philip died. I went in and out of the pothole called ‘it shouldn’t have happened. He should have looked after himself better. This wasn’t the plan for my life. It’s not fair. Why did it have to happen?’
All of which kept me stuck in the hole, because with something as final as death, I was never going to be doing anything other than go round and round in the bottom of the pothole forever. When someone has died, you cannot fix it or make it better.
Fortunately I did have some insight into what was really going on, and very quickly had moments when I would arise out of the depths of the hole, and see the world more clearly for a while.
But you don’t have to fall into a hole in the first place.
This was highlighted for me when I met someone whose husband had died and who hadn’t fallen into the hole, or at least hardly at all. Her choice of thoughts was ‘Game over. Bonus life’.
These 4 magical words allowed her to see any potholes there might be, skirt round them, averting her eyes from looking down, and instead looking ahead into the distance, to a different kind of life.
Focusing on the idea that this could be a bonus life, with hope, surprises, and possibility allowed her to honour the life she had had with her husband, and at the same time, move forward, step by step, into what she called a bonus life.
She did not wander towards the crumbling edge of the pothole, which assumes that the death should not have happened. She avoided that entirely, by not assuming it in the first place.
Which brings me to the work I do now.
When you are brushed by death (whether your own end of life, a family member or friend’s, or just by becoming older) it is a lot easier to notice the potholes if you have come to terms with death itself; if you have faced up to the fact that you will die one day. That your parents, your friends and your family members will all die sometime.
While the thought may feel challenging to think, looking at death in the face will mean you are much less likely to fall into a pothole of resistance when a death actually happens.
So I invite you to start having a conversation (with yourself initially) about how you feel about dying, death and grief. How you feel about loss in all it’s forms.
Here’s 3 questions to start you off:
- How do you react to the word death?
- What happens when you let in the idea that you will one day no longer be here?
- Complete this sentence: What the word ‘death’ means to me is…..
Post your answers in the comments box and I’ll contribute mine too.
And now, the pertinent question if you are self-employed or have a business:
What is arising in your work that you are resisting?
What one thing (let’s just start with one!) are you thinking ‘shouldn’t’ be happening?
Come face to face with that, just like with death, and see what gift it might have for you instead.
And feel free to post about this in the comments too 🙂