I live a large amount of my life in workshops. Teaching them and attending them…I like to experience it from both sides! I am constantly fascinated by the whole process of transformation…after all, that is why we even go to workshops.
Yet transforming is not always such a simple matter…there is one consistent spanner in the works, and that is the phenomenon known as “resistance”. This term is used a lot in workshop world to describe times when we shut down, resist the process and often move into projections of it being someone else’s fault!
It looks something like this: There you are happily getting into the workshop, doing a few exercises, trying a few practices. Then, boom…you hit an old pattern of blockage. At this moment, you hit a wall inside and feel shut down. If you don’t have the awareness to recognize it, then the next thing that happens is called “projection”. You blame the teacher or the practices, or the partner you are working with. You don’t want to be in the workshop anymore and convince yourself you’d be better off having a day in bed, or going shopping…anything but continuing.
This is, of course, the worst moment to run away! This is the moment when you just found your contraction, the very place that could do with being opened up. If you quickly deflect and go into projection and blame, you miss the vital opportunity to open up in a new way. You miss your transformational moment. You leave the workshop complaining about something, when really it is just projecting out of your contracted inner space.
I had this recently in a tantric massage group. I was finding is hard to open up and receive. I found myself going into projection on the poor guy giving me the massage with thoughts like: “He’s doing it wrong! He’s not the right partner for me. He doesn’t know what he is doing”. In reality I was being given a world-class massage by one of the most tantric men on the planet. But I was tight and resistant and trying to control it.
Luckily I could see that I was closed and in a projection. And then I realized I was going to miss out on this opportunity to receive a precious gift. I could actually have a whole hour and half massage and not even receive it, if I didn’t drop my resistance. And isn’t it crazy that we can resist something so wonderful?!
So I looked within to see what I might be afraid of if I surrendered. After all, resistance is only a defense against surrendering. And I tried to sense into the feeling of opening up, of softening the defenses, of receiving this gift. Of course I discovered underneath my defenses lay my vulnerability. So when I tapped into this, I could breathe into my vulnerable part and gently let the resistances fall away.
And thank goodness I was able to receive my massage and receive the benefits and joys of this workshop.
As a facilitator it’s another story. When participants go into resistance, they often project onto the teacher, or they sit with their arms crossed over their chest refusing to join in. Their brows are frowning and you can almost hear the thoughts in their head! It can really affect the rest of the class too; sometimes resistance spreads as they complain to fellow-participants.
Really the best a facilitator can do is stay wide open to allow the projections to pass through! React, and you get drawn in to a drama. Secondly you can of course describe resistance and warn participants that it can happen. Another great thing to do is giving held sharing space so that people can voice their resistances, which often discharges the power they might have.
Overall I have found that one of the best ways to work with resistance is commitment. We can commit to the transformational process, set a strong intention for transformation and dedicate all work to Highest Consciousness. This commitment can carry you through challenging moments. It is like being in a committed relationship, and this carries you through arguments or challenges. Set a strong intention, and this can carry you through resistance. A dedication to Truth can carry us through moments of delusion; a dedication to love can carry us through moments of separation.
In Classical Tantric and Yogic philosophy, resistance is the result of one’s karma. Karma means our deeply-rooted patterns that hold us back from our true nature. Karma has the quality of attachment, and so as we start transforming these old patterns suddenly get really tight and contracted. But like a balloon, they somehow get extra-tight just before they burst! So often resistance arises at the moment that we are just about to clear an old karmic pattern.
A tantric method is to raise the energy level at this moment so that the old pattern will fall away. This may be through breathwork, shaking, energy sublimations or some other tantric energy practice. Rather than fighting the resistance, you use the power within the resistance to become the fuel for transformation. This is an extremely effective method, though bets with a facilitator who can guide it.
Overall, awareness is the key tool of transformation. So when you join workshops, be aware of this phenomenon, so that if and when it arises you can spot it. Hopefully this will enable you to navigate your way through this stage of the process and facilitate your own transformation.
Teacher Trainings in Tao Tantra: taotantricarts.com
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