Last week I learned a lesson about resistance.
It has grown into a much more significant life lesson for me.
It started while I was working on a patient with our new "Reciprocal Pelvic Rotation" stretch.
The key to the success we have been having is twofold: one, the patient needs to relax and two, the therapist needs to stabilize one leg while stretching the other.
I discovered there is another key: the therapist must also let go of his or her own resistance.
For several weeks I have had to remind patients to "allow themselves' to relax" so I could have the results I wanted.
Last week I realized that it was not just the patient but also the physical therapist who was resisting: I was the one who needed to relax.
The very thing I saw as a problem in someone else was really just me getting in my own way.
When I let go of my resistance, I physically relaxed. As the patient and I both relaxed, the results were immediate.
In fact, she literally said to me, "I have no pain right now." It was so profound that I felt like a giant weight had lifted off me and I rode on Cloud Nine for the next couple of days.
Let me get a little deeper into this so you can understand the implications of letting go of your resistance.
The resistance we have to anything follows the same principles.
First, check to see where the resistance is coming from.
Ironically, when we see or feel resistance in someone else it is likely because we are resisting something ourselves.
When I notice I disagree with someone, I stop and examine why I think what I do.
Before I try to figure out someone else, I try to figure out myself.
I used to try and see things through other people's eyes, but the fact is I can't.
My life situation is different from everyone else's and I can simply never see the world as someone else does.
I know this goes against a lot of things we have all heard, but stick with me and see if you can see for yourself what I mean.
Once again, to find out where the resistance comes from, I examine why I think what I do.
I look for my own resistance and find out the source of it.
Let me give you a personal example.
I was mad at my parents for oh about 30 years because I believed they did not listen to me.
When I was 4 years old, my Mom made me take a nap.
I did not want to take a nap, but no matter how hard I tried to tell her this, she insisted I sleep.
I know you are all thinking, how did you survive such hardship?
Seriously, this event was a significant event because my mind started this story about how my parents "never" listened to me.
My mind found all kinds of examples to prove my point and for literally 30 years I believed this was true.
No common sense would help me to see it differently. I resisted any attempt to get over this.
What also started to happen because of this resistance was that I became very opinionated and resistant to any idea that was different from mine, especially with my parents or other authority figures in my life.
Anyway, one day I decided to confront my parents, so I waited for the right moment to be heard.
My parents had come to visit me when I attacked uh, I mean I opened the discussion.
I went on and on about how unfairly I had been treated and all my problems were my parents' fault and they had made my life miserable.
Needless to say, they were a bit surprised.
My dad, being the rational one at the time, asked for a specific example of what I was talking about. I told him my story from when I was 4 years old.
He laughed out loud this was not the kind of sympathy I wanted to hear.
He said something to the effect that since he could barely remember last week, how could he remember a day 30 years ago?
My mom did remember a few times when I gave her a hard time about my naps.
She also remembered the fact that she had been through the same resistance to naps from her four older kids.
The resistance I thought my parents had towards me was in fact my own resistance to hearing them.
I thought they should understand me and see things my way, not the other way around.
Of course, this is impossible.
My parents' reactions were not the understanding I had hoped for, but it turned out that this was the very thing I needed.
It was at that moment that I realized something that changed my life forever.
I would never see the world through my parents' eyes and they would never see things through mine, and we were not supposed to.
As one of my favorite teachers, Byron Katie, said, "If you think it is so easy for others to change, why don't you start, lead by example, be the change you want in others first."
Now, if I find that others aren't listening to my perspective, I try listening to theirs first.
Before I argue my side, I try to make sure what my side is and where it starts.
I have found that I need to question myself when I think others need to question themselves.
Now let me get into the physical side of things.
I have mentioned before that when we feel something inside, like nervousness, anxiety, anger or any other emotion, our body is trying to help us see the resistance we have toward the situation.
Just consider how brilliant our bodies really are.
Our bodies have seen the misunderstandings our mind has created and has been trying to warn us.
The warnings start off as a simple nervousness inside our bellies and grow to physical ailments that stop us.
Let me go deeper into this. Our mind tells someone with back pain to finish vacuuming despite the pain.
Our mind tells us that we are not supposed to take a nap because that means we are lazy, while our body screams, "Rest me."
Our minds tell us that the person is wrong and we should defend our position, while our body creates the butterflies in our stomach warning us to find our peace first.
Our mind tells us that we can't be healthy and our body keeps proving it wrong by successfully digesting the poisons we eat and using the improper nutrients to help kids grow up and adults work each day for years, even decades of abuse.
It is our body that has the clues to help us get back on track.
If you want a simple rule of thumb, stop listening to your mind and start listening to your body. Instead of resisting your body listen to it and trust it.
Take care of it. Feed it well. Rest it often.
Use it for purposeful events, like walking, instead of non-useful events like watching TV. Instead of arguing with someone go examine your own beliefs first.
The internal clues your body gives you are the alarm clocks to wake you up to what you need in your life.
This includes the feelings of unease when talking to others. Unfortunately we don't always listen to the small clues so our bodies shut us down so we are forced to listen.
The unease we feel can at times become, dis-ease disease. If you are having a lot of difficulties physically right now, take a minute and look to see where you are resisting. Is your body asking you to get moving while your mind is telling you it is too late?
Is your body asking you to try again and find help while your mind is telling you that you have tried it all?
The implications are huge. Consider that the resistance may be the very source of the problem.
Where is the resistance you have to getting well?
Why do you think it is not possible?
Just because it didn't work last week does not mean it will not work this week.
The memories, remember, are not real and can prevent us from finding the solutions we are looking for.
The resistance we have is often the very thing that gets in our way.
Find out where you are resisting whether physical, emotional/mental or spiritual.
Then be the change you want for the world.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.