We are all detectives. We get interested in something and we begin to collect information, to piece together theories and to test those theories against what we see. This article is about how to apply these skills, which we use all the time, to ourselves in order to reveal – and ultimately overcome – hidden resistance.

The Gift of Listening

Frequently, when something is going wrong in our lives, we can feel it. When some situation or person or circumstance appears, we just don’t feel right.

When our spiritual practice is fully rooted and healthy, all of our actions are an extension of our deepest commitments. From the time we get up, to where we go, to how we get there, to who we see, and when we do what, all of these are expressions of what is most important to us.

Of course, if it was as simple as knowing that something is best, none of us would ever be unkind. We would be generous in word and deed at every turn. We would feel no envy, anger, or fear.

We do, of course, experience destructive emotions and their consequences. So how do we bridge the gap between the insights of our practice and intellect, and the living of our lives?

Firstly, we must take the time to be quiet with ourselves. To understand what and how we feel.

We might come home from work every day feeling drained without knowing why. Paying attention to the feeling rather than avoiding the feelings can help us identify its source. (Learn more in Managing You Emotions: The How and the Why.) Maybe it is interpersonal conflict, feeling under-compensated, or stressed imposed by the job at hand.

We have to be willing to question everything. Why are we going to work? Easy answers aren’t enough. ‘To have money to buy food’ is not usually the true answer.

Honestly Examining our Choices Requires Fortitude

Searching for the roots of our behavior can lead us to some dark and difficult moments. These moments frequently signal a mismatch between the life we are living, the decisions we are making, and our hearts deepest desire or our most closely held beliefs.

By asking questions of all of our choices – why, really, am I doing that? – we end up with some surprises.

We might be keeping the job that causes us pain out of fear or greed. It might offer us shelter from something we dread while simultaneously causing us to act in way that diminishes our spirit. We might be staying in a personal or professional relationship that degrades us due to lack of self-confidence or an unhealthy attachment to struggle.

Recognition Isn’t a Cure

Continually neglecting to bring our reusable mug when we leave the house in spite of an avowed regard for earth could have different roots in different people. For some, it might reflect an inability to control the mind in stressful situations and indicate a corresponding need to cultivate stillness. For others it might betray a sense of hopelessness, a lack of faith in one’s own power to affect change in the world, or at its worst, nihilism, which is completely incompatible with spiritual practice.

People who find these different roots require different remedies, possibly ranging from self-directed loving-kindness to ishvara pranidhana, the radical devotion of all thought and action to the Divine.

Even knowing the remedy often isn’t enough. We can be holding it in our hands, literally or metaphorically, and still not take it. We may have been given the practice we need by our teacher or our own insight, but just having it doesn’t do anything

Putting the Solution into Practice

Perhaps more than anything else in our lives, it is the extent to which we are able to direct our will to serve us that determines our success.

Too often, we wrongly think that an ability to channel our will is something we simply have or we don’t. Will is just like anything else; the more we use it, and the see the rewards of that use, the more capable we are of using it again.

If our self-analysis reveals that something is amiss, a good first step is to turn our attention to our spiritual discipline: tapas, the heat of transformation.

Start Small

The problems in our lives are almost always spiritual problems. Our minds and thoughts are the only things we, ourselves, can control. Therefore, solving our problems almost always requires that we kindle and direct our personal fire. (Learn more in Tapasya: Breaking Patterns of Limiting Beliefs.)

The most important first step is to have success. Whether that means you choose or your teacher helps you choose, it is critical that you enable yourself to be successful.

Don’t declare that after neglecting your meditation practice for a while that you will now meditate for two hours every day, in spite of the fact that you work 65 hours each week. Look at the situation as it is, decide what you can actually do, and commit to it 100%. Don’t allow any excuses. For any reason.

When you have gathered the confidence and the purposeful direction of your energy from that success, re-evaluate. Likely you will be capable of more after some months of success.

Final Thoughts

Gardens don’t grow in poisoned fields. Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude toward oneself is critical. If your most closely held beliefs don’t feel safe showing themselves to your mind, they’ll do their best to hide from you, making it that much more difficult to discern why you’re doing what you’re doing and how to get where you want to go.