Resistance Persistence

April 3, 2019

There is something that we see time and time again which people are battling with, and it is something that I can totally relate to…

… resistance.

Specifically resistance to doing those things that we know are good for us.

It came up in this weeks coaching call when a fellow traveler in our membership site The Mystery School drew to our attention that she was resisting going on a shamanic journey, and wondered if this is common.

It generated quite a discussion, and it's something that I have been pondering on for a few years now when I first noticed the trend going on.

When it comes to deepening our spiritual connection and seeking guidance on our path, so many of us can have a tendency of putting this off.

We have a pull inside us, a quiet voice telling us we should do this, it will really help us, and yet we turn ourselves into masters of avoidance.

So why is this? Why is it incredibly hard to do things that we get so much benefit from?

I am a bit of a theorist, and I have come up with my top three reasons which I think lie behind this.  I am going to share these in a moment, along with my top five ways to overcome this, but first I want to share a story with you, a story which takes me back to the noughties when I was first stepping up my spiritual seeking.

The thing I want to emphasise today is that there was a starting point. There was a trigger where I spent time with like-minded people who thought like me. It was incredible. I thought I was a bit mad up until that point, as no one seemed to feel as I did, and yet here I was in a tent full of people who were just like me with their musings, and their passion.

What is pivotal about this weekend looking back is that I was in a place where I was completely open to new things. Escaping away into a different world for the weekend meant that I could turn down the dial on that voice sitting on one shoulder telling me not to do something, and pump up the voice on the other shoulder egging me on.

It meant that I tried new things, listened to people I would never usually have come into contact with, and most importantly it meant I could see that there was another way.

For many years leading up to this point as I have already mentioned I thought I was a bit mad, to be honest. I felt differently and thought differently to my friends and family.

I read books that no one else I knew read. I had all these ideas running around in my head but no one to talk them through with who shared my opinion, my way of thinking.

Back in everyday life, it is much harder to listen to the quieter voice. I could go as far as to say it is almost like the world is set up so that we don't hear the whispers from within.

There are so many distractions. We have so many things we need to get done in our day. There are many demands on our time. It is almost impossible to hear sometimes, especially in times of extreme busyness, stress or grief.

And it is not just spirituality that we avoid.

Why is it that we can find ourselves so often in a situation where we know what is good for us, we know what we need to do, but we resist it? I see this all the time in me, and I notice so many other people struggle with this themselves.

We want to fix our diet, so we are healthier. We know what we need to eat and what we need to stop eating, but we eat bad foods anyway.

We want to be fitter so we can enjoy life more. We know we need to exercise, but we choose to spend our time on the sofa instead.

We know that we want to get outside into nature more, but we choose not to.

We know that we would like to spend less time on social media, but we choose not to.

We know that we need to get round to going on a shamanic journey, but we hold back for some reason.

Why is this? Why do we have this resistance to do things that will make our lives so much better?

Why do we have this internal self-sabotage?


So here are my top three reasons why I think this is:

The primal mind

We live in a world which has become more and more complex, and our minds are just too wired to what we evolved to cope with.

I found it fascinating to learn that, physiologically speaking, our brains are identical to those of our distant ancestors who lived on Earth 50,000 years ago. We have the same capacity to think and talk as they did all those years ago. Our brains haven't evolved into something different. Yet the environment in which we live in is vastly different.

Consider how you feel when you are out in the woods, walking the meadows or watching the sea. This is the natural setting for our brains. Yet the natural environment is a million miles away from the kind of situation we spend much of our day in, with stimuli in every direction we turn. We live in a very complex world now, and our minds are doing their very best to manage here, but it isn’t easy by any stretch.


The majority of us have some kind of addiction that is driving our thought process and overriding that quiet voice within which is trying its best to be overheard.

It is probably controversial saying this, but from my own battles with addiction over the last few years I feel I am qualified to speak it.

The thing that I have been addicted to is wholly accepted as OK to consume in our culture. I am speaking of sugar. I know that sugar had a real hold over me. When I gave it up, I had the symptoms of an addict withdrawing, which confused me until I learned three weeks in that sugar is the third most addictive substance in the world, after heroin and meths. My life changed when I kicked my sugar addiction and I have written about this in my blogs Beyond Sugar and Cracking the Cane.

Then added to this mix are caffeine, alcohol, television, social media… I could go on. All these things in some way pull us away from what our soul is calling us to do.

When we are battling with these loud voices within us that aren’t even our voices, it can be impossible to find the will power to step forward and do what we know is right for us.


Putting it bluntly, the system we have been born into doesn't work if we are free thinkers.  This won't be news to the majority of people who are stepping out on their spiritual path. At some stage in your life, you will have been controlled and spotted this, and have either broken free or are working towards it. This is the work, the spiritual practice.

This conditioning began a very long time ago, well before you were born. The system of control was subjected to our ancestors and is in our DNA. I will write a lot more about this in another blog, but it helps explain why when we break free it feels so enormous and is also incredibly difficult to do. We are rewriting old ancestral patterns that have been passed down for generations.

Then once we are born into the world, we are subjected to a culture of conditioning, ramping up when we go to mainstream schools. For me, it was compounded by religion, and I don't expect I am alone in my realising that many of the opinions which lie in the subconscious me aren't mine, they have been imposed on my in layers through my upbringing.

The spiritual work is unraveling these so that the true me is revealed. It is tough work at times.

In fact, when we consider these three reasons together, it is incredible how well we are all doing. Against the odds, we are poking our heads above the parapet and seeing how we can be different in the world.

Yet that resistance is still there. When we are aware of it, we recognise it every day. Sometimes it is helpful. It helps us wait until the time is right to move on an idea. However, sometimes it means we are holding ourselves back from being great.

So how do we overcome this?

Well, I can briefly share my story on how I did. It is bloody hard!!

Attending all those talks and workshops at the Sunrise Festival in 2006 led me trying out new things at home. I began to spend time with people who enjoyed this alternative way. I slowly started to make friends, although that took quite a while and inevitably I went to events on my own.

This new level of inquiry led me to begin weekly psychotherapy sessions which I continued with for over four years before dropping down to fortnightly. I stayed with Liz for ten years until she retired, and during this time she supported me in my transition out of a corporate job to setting up my own business and leaving my then-husband, stepping into my new life.

Shortly after beginning a shamanic medicine wheel with my shamanic teacher Jayne Johnson I left my home and lived in a caravan for two years, during the freezing winters of 2012 and 2013 that went on forever. Everything froze! Gradually with the help of Jayne, Liz and my community I rebuilt my life to the place I am in now, which is a million miles away from where I was.

During this time I have followed that soft pull inside and undertaken lots of year-long training programmes from mythology to body therapy, permaculture to facilitation.

Now I am in a place where I do listen to that voice. Don’t get me wrong, the resistance voice is absolutely there. But I recognise it and can mostly dial it down. It takes effort. Daily effort. But this is a big part of the spiritual path for me. Tuning out of what isn't right for me and stepping into what is.

Know Thyself

The words inscribed in stone at the 4th Century BC Temple of Apollo in Ancient Greece come to mind, Know Thyself. This process has been going on for a very long time.

We have five tips on how to step out and reconnect with the real you. We call these the five C's. These are the key things that will bring us to a wilder place, a more natural state for us to be:

√ Community

Build up your support team. Reach out for help. Align yourselves with like-minded people who think and feel the same way as you. You don't have to be alone in this anymore.

This is one of the cornerstones of our work. We created The Way of the Buzzard because we wanted a place where we could connect with like-minded folk.

√ Connection

Find a way to connect in with the Otherworld. If you don't have a way of accessing your spiritual guidance, then find a way as your spirit guides are lined up waiting to help you. Go and meet with them. If you have met your guides, don't put off going to seek their advice regularly.

At The Way of the Buzzard, we are passionate about teaching shamanic journeying as a great way to establish a two-way relationship with your spirit guides.  We also champion nature time. Get outside. Run away to the woods. Find that quiet space so you can hear your inner whispers of truth.

√ Creativity

This is the third of our five C's. We are creative beings. We are here on this Earth to create. It is our life's purpose. When we are caught in the control system, we end up working to someone else's vision. Yet when we break free of this, we are able to unleash our imagination, and the most magnificent things are all of a sudden possible. To follow our true soul's creativity is a beautiful thing.

√ Ceremony

The fourth of our five C's is an incredibly powerful thing.  If you look at religion, they put a lot of emphasis on ceremony. Yet in conventional life, this is the only ceremony open to us. But what my teachers Glennie Kindred and Annie Keeling taught me is that you can create a ritual for anything you like, wherever you like.

Setting your intention firmly in a ceremony out to the universe leads on to great things. Oh, I have so many stories to share on this one, but I will save this for another time.

√ Celebration

Our final C is underrated but essential. If we can’t celebrate our big wins and small wins then that is very sad.

Celebration lifts us in the darkest of times and is much needed right now when it can seem like everything is going a bit crazy out there in the world.

and... Courage

Now in addition to our usual five C's, I am adding a sixth here, and that is courage. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to go against the norm, break your usual patterns and try something different.

It reminds me of the lesson the Alder tree give us. Alder grows stronger in water. As we immerse ourselves in emotion, we too can find our true strength and come through to the other side as the spiritual warriors we are destined to be.

As I said earlier, this is not easy. If it were then many more people would be throwing in the conventional towel and jumping over into the world of full-time fun, freedom, and creativity. It takes a lot of courage to go into battle, to fight your way through your own stuff and emerge on the other side, kind of whole.

So why am I sharing this? To shine a light on this resistance. To recognise that feeling within, and just check in to see whether it is there for a good reason or whether it is holding you back.

Procrastination is something which, had it have won would have changed the whole course of history many times over. I have written a blog about this topic, Procrastinating to Greatness if you are interested in reading more about this.

Here at The Way of the Buzzard, the essence of our work is to help people overcome this resistance. We create spaces so that you can hear that quiet voice within and understand what it is you need to do to move forward in your path.

One of the places we do this is in the bluebells woods each spring, rising up from the shores of Lake Windermere in Cumbria. I would love to share some words about this gathering now.

I am so passionate about this event because I feel we are creating our version of the Sunrise Festival that was the turning point for me. We are creating opportunities for people to get out in nature and try out new things.

We run away to the woods together and open ourselves up to what might happen.

I am talking about gathering in amongst the trees and letting nature lay her gentle touch on you. Let the spring energies of emergence seep into your being for four days so that you can touch into the profound wisdom which lies within you. I am talking about resting, just for a moment, away from the whirling modern day world.

Taking a pause to see what might emerge.

I am bowled over by what we create together in these bluebell woods that rise up from the shores of the lake.

How does it sound? If you feel the resistance to coming then drop into your body and see if there is a pull to come.

Does your heart beat faster?

If you say to yourself ‘I would love to come, but... just watch those 'buts'...

This could well be the resistance I am talking about.

For in the woods you just never know what is going to emerge the other side of the weekend. Give yourself a chance to be different, for your life to be different.

Michelle attended last years Space to Emerge and wrote these words on one of our Facebook posts…

“Last year, I met and was inspired by so many strong women. It helped me make the decision to resign from my career of 13 years, move back home, and start following my true calling.  It is slow progress at times, but I feel so much more me!! Thank you.”

Whatever the pull, and whatever the resistance, this is what is waiting for you on the other side.

"You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen" Paulo Coelho

If you would like to find out more about our Space to Emerge gathering please click here

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. I love this thank you and it popped into my inbox at the most perfect time as I was just thinking last night that I need to change some habits that are no longer serving me. I can now see and really relate to your blog that these habits are actually a way of avoiding me to connect to myself and to ‘tune in’ to me and my inner voice instead of tuning in to tv, sugar and late nights. I am very lucky to have some time out just now and although I have been doing really well with with changing so much in my life that is no longer good for me, it kind of feels that Ive become a little stuck so I have decided that this evening I return to my much loved dance class and buy a smoothie machine for more healthy choices with food. Thanks for this blog today. Its just the encouragement that I need 🙂 ps I am soo looking forward to the Space to Emerge wk end 🙂 x

    1. Super Jan, great to hear a little of your story and what you are working with. Sounds like you have made some good choices today to move things forward, well done. Roll on Space to Emerge… it will be great to share it with you 🙂 Enjoy those smoothies and dancing!

  2. This is truly what I needed to read, thankyou Nicola x
    My health has not been good for a while now and my energy is low
    I would love to have come to space to emerge unfortunately it conflicts with a week on Mull, hopefully I can attend if there’s a next time
    Blessings to you Nicola x

    1. A week in Mull sounds delicious Susan. You rest up and we shall look forward to welcoming you to Space to Emerge another year when the time is right 🙂

  3. Wow, perfect timing. I really needed this. The blog has really hit the spot for me. I have been resisting my own journey and my journeying. I feel inspired now to listen and acknowledge the snippets, hints and signs I have been receiving, I feel my focus is renewed. Thank you Nicola xx

  4. Nicola, this blog could not have come at a better time for me – thankyou so much.
    Feeling the resistance in a big way at the minute and needed to hear your amazing words. You are so right, you are always right! 😉
    The universe would never send us anything it didnt think we couldn’t handle and we must remember this when the confidence in ourselves disappears from time to time. Thanks for the guidance, lots of love Jayne x

    1. Oh great that the blog has come at a good time Jayne and that my words land with you 🙂 I will let Jason know that I am always right 🙂 he will be delighted to hear that!! 🙂

  5. I think one of the elements here is definitely that we’ve forgotten how to hear ‘the still quiet voice’ that is so central to Christianity (and other religious traditions?). Because spirituality/religion has been replaced by consumer society its value has been lost to the urge to consume, to make noise, and be getting feedback about our noise.

    For me I know a big part of my resistance is knowing that creating and journeying won’t make me money and are not of value to mainstream society. I’ve internalised the voices that say this work is pointless and worthless and even though I know it’s of worth to me, the gods and spirits, and a very small number of like-minded people it’s still tough.

    Thanks for admitting that, even for you as someone very good at creating community and holding sacred space, it’s ‘bloody hard’. I think we all have our struggles and Way of the Buzzard is a valuable source of support for those who are enduring them.

    1. Thank you Lorna, that is a really nice compliment that I am good at creating spaces 🙂 and that The Way of the buzzard is supportive like this – I absolutely agree with your point here about consumer society. I do rather enjoy putting my time into something which is outside the mainstream and have done right back since I was a teenager, but it is a balance with energy and time if it doesn’t pay financially for sure.

  6. Wonderful blog full of nuggets more precious than any gold ones you might come across!
    It all makes complete sense. Thank you, Nicola. You and Jason and all you create together are like anchors in the stormy times of life and your guidance brings the peace and calm of still waters.Xx

    1. Gosh what a thing to read about us and our work, thank you Laura. A beautiful thought being an anchor in stormy waters, lovely! Thank you 🙂 xx

  7. Enlightening blog Nicola, thank you. It’s interesting that Ive realised I can actually feel the resistance physically in my body, rather like being pushed back. At your events, or in nature or by the sea, I always feel so light and free – obviously as the resistance is gone and I’m in my natural state! It’s helpful to know other people feel it too and have needed to make a conscious effort to create change. X

    1. Hi Lindsay, yes it is really interesting to notice it in your body isn’t it, and how that changes when we put ourselves into our ‘natural state’. Thank you for sharing 🙂 x

  8. “Celebration lifts us in the darkest of times and is much needed right now …. ”
    Between your penning this and my eventual reading a very dear elder member of my family passed over. She was born in what must seem like another, less maniclly pressing world, 1929 Mayo, west of Ireland. We shall have a wake to honour her meeting our ancestors. When I think of her I can directly link those 5 C’s to her life. Hers was a simple, trusting faith …. I’m sure this modern life, as you say, contrives to hamper such fundamental connection.
    In focussing on what I will read, from our Celtic spiritual heritage at the wake I will have the solace of making a strong connect, between the legacy and my present imperfect journey and future spiritual potential. A potential I hope to ease along the way at Space to Emerge.

  9. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing Nicola! Many valuable lessons in here. Very excited to be joining you in Space to Emerge soon 🙂

  10. As always your blog is very interesting. It's useful to know I'm not alone fighting and feeling overwhelmed by this resistance.

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