“Detachment means letting go and non-attachment means simply letting be.”
– Stephen Levine, American poet, author and teacher
“What’s the soonest you could look at it?” I asked.
“Can you bring it back tomorrow morning?” he replied.
Before I could respond, the gentleman behind me, who had been pacing back and forth and grumbling a lot, exclaimed, “What the hell kind of tire shop are you running here, man!?”
“A busy one,” I observed. The young tire technician nodded.
“This is ridiculous!” he shouted and marched out the door.
I too had felt my resistance rising. This situation was not the outcome I had been hoping for either. I had picked up a screw in my front passenger-side tire and barely reached the big “tire” store before all the air escaped. However, unlike the customer behind me, I was practising non-resistance. I was consciously attempting to accept the reality of my current situation.
Resistance (often confused with denial) comes from demanding reality to be something other than what it is. I had used a flat tire example often in my workshops to explain resistance and acceptance and, oddly enough, here I was going through the experience. We can resist the reality of the flat tire and become stranded or accept it and then do something about it.
Non-resistance is not giving up, not throwing your hands in the air and becoming the hapless victim. Non-resistance or non-attachment means that we accept the situation for what it is.
Instead of accepting reality, some people get angry. I knew a man once who seemed to be in resistance to everyone and everything. I used to wonder if his angry outbursts provided him with a sense of power or control. Perhaps as a child, his anger intimidated someone into changing the circumstances to suit his wants and expectations. He never really channelled his anger toward a more favourable or constructive outcome, so in a way, he was also a hapless victim. The situation or person he was resisting, therefore, became the justification for his anger.
When we grow in our self-esteem, we also grow in our wisdom and understanding. If something needs to be changed, non-resistance is the first powerful step toward changing it. Non-resistance gives us the opportunity (when possible) to select a viable course of action – something that is unavailable when we descend into a state of frustration, denial, resignation or victimhood. If something just cannot be changed – the lay of the land, the colour of the sky, your mother’s defiant attitude – we can accept it, detach from it and move on in peace.
Perhaps American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed it best when he wrote, “For, after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
I looked back at the young technician after our “friend” stormed out the door.
“If it would help,” I offered, “I can pull the tire off the car for you.”
After a moment of consideration, he nodded. “Bring it around back when you do.”
Shortly after that, I was back on the road and on my way home while the other fellow I’m sure (along with his flat tire) was likely still huffing, puffing and grumbling somewhere.
Here’s what it comes down to: if we’re perfectly fine with “what is” then there’s no reason to change it or do anything further. If, however, we want something better, we must take the next step. Non-resistance puts us in a position to do just that by freeing up valuable mental and creative resources. If we look at each challenge as an opportunity to grow our self-awareness and understanding, then we may welcome the unexpected rather than resist it.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert.