How do you handle frustration? Conflict ? My usual coping style is to relent and let conflict swallow me like a spoon in pudding, but occasionally I push up against problems like Sisyphus and his boulder. But I am looking at things differently now. Writers, spiritual leaders, and everyday experiences have inspired a new approach to difficulties. When it comes to stress I look to the path of no resistance.
E.B. White (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web) tells a great story about being a lowly mess hand on a ship bound for Alaska. Alaska was an untouched frontier at the time, so he fancied himself a wilderness explorer. The wilderness turned out to be a farce. No Eskimos or igloos or aggressive walruses. The real adventure was life on the ship. White went from being a passenger, to being a saloon man to being a humble mess hand (preparing and serving food to the crew) all in an effort to stay on the voyage. His crowning moments of glory occurred in the midst of a violent storm during the last three days of the journey.
The three gale tossed days gave me a feeling of elation and well-being; it seemed exciting to be up and about, busily tending the sick and doing my duty….this sensation of drunkenness was heightened by a trick I invented as an anti-sickness device; instead of bracing myself against the lurches of the ship, I let myself go and yielded to her every pitch and roll, on the theory that bodily resistance is – in part, at least – the true cause of nausea.
I reeled crazily through the corridors, responding to the sea physically, as though the sea were a dancing partner whose lead I followed.
Handling Motion Sickness
I am no stranger to motion sickness. I spent the majority of family road trips in the front seat (after a few gross stomach-emptying incidents) staring out the windshield practicing mind over matter. I never learned to roll with my uncle’s one foot on the gas/one foot on the brake driving technique.
In other life matters I have been just as susceptible to irritation and queasiness. If I am unable to avoid conflict (good or bad, always my first choice) I try to control it or give up and succumb to it. The idea of dancing with frustration, NOT resisting, is new.
I could practice non-resistance in countless situations; with my husband, my in-laws, when I’m late, when technology implodes, etc., but the best application of my new-found malleability has been with my kids. I have spent years telling them what to do. I truly want(ed) to control their behavior. I had chore charts and point systems. I yelled when they didn’t do as expected. I punished when they failed to comply.
Being a dictator is exhausting. My spirit drains out a little with every butting of heads. And it doesn’t work.
What I’ve Learned
Eventually, a brilliant piece of advice came to my attention. Heather Forbes, author of Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, said to stop trying to control behavior and start focusing on your relationship with your child. I realized what a control freak I had become. I expected perfect behavior but forgot about the being behind the behavior. I hadn’t fostered the bond, just the hierarchy.
I can’t say our house is a bastion of harmony (see Getting Back to Good) but I realize pointing out what I don’t love and minimizing what I do, is a recipe for disaster. We still have rules and boundaries but I’ve worked on getting closer to each child. Spending time doing something meaningful. Walks in the woods. Extra chat time at nightly tuck in. Watching campy movies with our oldest.
I dance with their personalities rather than plant my feet. I pause and notice my own resistance. I envision and allow my body and thoughts to soften, become permeable to tension. When something gets on my last nerve I realize like a storm at sea, it will pass. I can choose to move within the flotsam and jetsam or fight it head on. The former being so much better for the family and my blood pressure. I still react too quickly at times and there are days of yelling and waves of insecurity (on both sides) but overall the sailing IS smoother.
I challenge you to go out and sway with the waves.;)
When or how do you practice non-resistance?
**A theme of Taoism (ancient spiritual practice pronounced dow-ism) is unity based on yielding rather than resisting. There is an art to being fluid rather than rigid. It takes practice. Like Zen Buddhism, the Tao is a spiritual path that must be experienced intimately rather than intellectually understood in order for clarity to be discovered. **
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