What I relished most was the instantaneous dopamine rush chaperoning the whacks delivered to the receptors in the brain by nicotine. And the concurrent sense of relaxation. However, things took a twist for the worse after I enrolled myself for a PhD degree in microbiology in New Delhi. The long working hours and the fast-approaching deadlines left my mind craving nicotine to soothe my nerves and spark my brain. I battled, resisting the temptation to light up, but what I combated persisted, and soon, I reached a point of no return where I started lighting up all by myself. The smoking habit persisted after my PhD through my police training days at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad until my third posting as Superintendent of Police in 1999 when my eldest daughter, five then, rebuked me and resisted my hugs because she detested the sharp odour of tobacco that swaddled me like a raucous aura. Her pleas and evasive attitude wrenched my heart and spurred me to kick my habit cold turkey. I had made more than a dozen previous attempts to end smoking. However, I was unsuccessful as I probably had disregarded the natural law of the universe of — ‘What You Resist, Persists’! I had possibly failed because I had energised the smoking habit by focusing on quitting. That created resistance in the process, making it more challenging to shove my nicotine dependence. The moment I concentrated my energies on gaining the love and affection of my daughter things flipped and kicking the habit became a child’s play. Ever since I made this shift 20 years ago, I have never restarted nor resumed smoking.
The eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875–1961) advocated that whatever you resist persists. Meaning that whatever we resist, we attract more of it towards us. He asserted that when we resist anything in our lives, we try to think about it all the time to either avoid or expel it from our existence; we entice more pain and suffering for battling the resistance that keeps building. Also, when we resist, we enable things to persist because we tend to focus on what we don’t want in our lives and attract more of it. When we acknowledge the resistance and embrace it by consciously accepting it, we dissolve the inevitable pain.
For instance, when we encounter pain and suffering, we want to resist it and refuse to accept it because it’s not our nature to embrace the pain. A young woman in her mid-thirties lost her husband, who was approaching his forties suddenly, to a massive cardiac arrest. Abruptly, the beautiful world of the happily married wife turned upside down. Initially, she couldn’t come to terms with it and found herself in perpetual grief and depression. Soon realisation dawned upon her that it was counterproductive to wallow and endure indulgent self-pity over the loss. Gradually, she accepted the loss as the will of God and picked up the threads of her life, primarily to perpetuate the dreams and vision of her beloved late spouse. Her departed husband had yearned for her to do her PhD. He had divulged while alive that nothing in life would give him more happiness and joy than watching her complete her PhD. He was also a devoted social worker and a business strategist. Deciding to fulfil the vision and the ideals of her departed husband, she immediately resumed pursuing her PhD, which she had discontinued. On the side, to eke out a living, she accepted to offer her services as a business strategist for a handful of companies. Simultaneously, she also hurled herself into a life of service for the deprived in society. She had recently come across an initiative called ‘Covidwidows’, launched by an NRI for the women losing their husbands to the coronavirus. On similar lines, she decided to serve the vast majority who were suffering under the onslaught of the pandemic by connecting the philanthropically minded citizens with the deprived. To achieve this mission, she created a website and approached an influential agency to execute her plans, making her mission a grand success. Amidst all this, she suddenly realised that her life had become incredibly meaningful and purposeful. Her idea soon became a roaring success as she could disburse relief of over Rs 50 lakh to hundreds of beneficiaries within a month, bringing her immense joy and happiness. Throughout this experience, she could constantly feel the presence and guidance of her husband in everything she did, which filled her heart with joy and a new zest for life. So, just by letting go and not resisting her husband’s demise, she could bring meaning and purpose back into her life.
I also find this law showing up when we fight or rebel against something or someone. I have often noticed that anti-war rallies often end with violence, or harmless protestors protesting against injustice often get arrested. Because when we focus on what we don’t want, we continually attract that into our lives. We also often hear people or the authorities declaring war on whatever is turning out to be a menace or a problem. We have an ongoing war against terror, a war against drugs, a war against poverty, a war on coronavirus, etc. Despite the launching of war and taking desirable steps, the battle most times never gets won. For instance, despite having launched a struggle against coronavirus, we could not contain its spread and its advancement into the second phase, which proved deadlier. We have been waging war against poverty since Independence, but we could not eradicate poverty. It’s believed that it is for this reason that Mother Teresa refused to attend anti-war rallies. However, she was always willing to take part in peace rallies. She presumably knew that if the protesters agitated for what they wanted or focused on what they needed, they probably would achieve their goals.
When we resist what is, we experience suffering. We suffer when things turn out to differ from the way we intended them to be. Think of a time when you felt uneasy, resentful or unhappy, and you invariably discover that you were resisting the moment. The way to find inner peace is to develop an awareness of whatever we may be unconsciously resisting and make a conscious choice to let it be as it is. If we acquire the ability to say yes to every experience, we may have circumvented suffering. When we resist the pain, we nourish and nurture the deeper problem. The deeper problem could be fear, insecurity, uncertainty, etc. Buddha preached that the mind creates everything, so something lurking within us is causing the pain, and there is nothing external responsible for it. Pain inside us, or the deeper problem, is what is manifesting as external pain.