Non-Resistance: In Sport and Life

Image by Zach Dischner

Image by Zach Dischner

Non-resistance. You might have heard it as “go with the flow”, or “let it be”.  

It can be described and interpreted in a whole load of different ways.

Non-resistance is a principle that has been promoted by many great spiritual leaders and philosophers in one form or another; and something we could all perhaps learn from and keep in mind, during both sport and life in general.

Socrates expressed non-resistance on his deathbed, using it to demonstrate that his immortal message was more important that his mortal being.

Lao Tzu described the principle of Wu-Wei in the Taoist script the Tao Te Ching. He talks of ‘action through non action’ and flowing with the universe and to avoid unnaturally straining against the forces of nature.

The common example used to demonstrate non-resistance is a giant boulder blocking a path.

Resisting against this obstacle by trying to push it or break it would likely get you nowhere, and leave you feeling pretty exhausted.

When water comes up against the big boulder, it takes a different approach.

Water can find a way through the cracks of the boulder, or can flow around the side. Over time, the soft flowing water erodes the hard boulder down to a small pebble.

The obstacle that once seemed so giant and daunting becomes neutralised simply by taking a different approach or outlook.

The theory is, that by resisting against whatever obstacle is in front of you, you only act to inhibit your own growth, and create tension. This tension causes stress and turbulence, which manifests itself as a physical, emotional or mental response; as dis-ease.

You can easily get trapped in this mindset and end up in a constant battle against yourself, needlessly wasting your energy.

Every day, people resist natural processes surrounding them, simply by trying.

Trying to do something implies you will likely fall short.

When you practice non-resistance, you do not try to do something.

And this doesn’t mean you sit around all day doing nothing. Practice is still important, but there’s a difference between intentionally refining a skill or concept and unnaturally straining without getting anywhere.

You just do it.

In essence, by practicing non resistance you utilise the natural laws and make use of whatever circumstances arise. Instead of resisting against an obstacle, you use it to your advantage or flow around it.

Real masters let things happen without strain or tension. They use less effort to create greater results. They also trust in the natural process of growth when faced with difficult days of progress.

“A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract; and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, “I” do not hit, “it” hits all by itself.”

Bruce Lee

It sounds contradictory, as we’re always taught to try our hardest. But sometimes we need to just relax a little and let things happen naturally.

When I was little, I was very lucky that my Dad often used to take me down the football pitch to help me practice my shooting.

On many occasions I would get frustrated with myself – I was trying so hard to shoot well that I would become tense, strain too hard and inevitably the ball would go anywhere other than where I intended it to.

My best performance always shone through when I simply relaxed. When I let the shot happen instead of forcing it.

That’s when you hit the sweet spot. Your foot strikes through the ball effortlessly, and it flies like a rocket.

It goes back to one of the previous articles, Satori in Sport.

When you’re mindful and in the moment, you don’t even consider the concept of trying.

You let the shot happen.

You let the arrow fly.

And likewise in life.

Once you have decided clearly on your target and prepared yourself properly, you let things happen naturally in their own time, without forcing them.

Goal setting is a great tool, and it’s something I like to use.

But sometimes when we put definite timeframes on certain projects or achievements, we run the risk of putting ourselves unnecessary added stress.

Often unforeseen circumstances can delay our goals. We usually have no control over these obstacles, yet we still beat ourselves up when we can’t achieve what we originally set out to.

Non-resistance is a more peaceful, progressive approach where you don’t seek to control the uncontrollable.

It involves changing your perception of ‘obstacles’, and instead viewing these occurrences without judgement just as mere events, or even as gifts that have been sent to help you grow.

This simple shift in your thought pattern can do a lot towards reducing stress, and help you to avoid burning out.

You may find that sport and life get a little easier, as you’re no longer concerning yourself with struggle.

It may sound like an unrealistic concept in today’s world, and I’m not saying it is easy, but maybe give it a go and see what non-resistance can do for you.

If you’re being pushed, pull.

Use softness against hardness.

Be like a fish that swims with current.

We’ll finish with another great quote from the Master:

“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Bruce Lee


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Luke Jones
Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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