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My wife's voice on the phone was panicked.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Stay there," she said. "I'm coming home."

"Is it bad?"

"Yes, it's bad."

In the 20 minutes it took for Lynda to arrive, I sat on the porch trying to imagine what had happened. Was it about illness? Work? Money?

Lynda pulled into the driveway, and I followed her inside. She looked me in the eye for a split second, then looked away.

"I'm having an affair," she said. "I don't think I can stop."

There it was. The single thing I had never considered.

For the next three months, as we separated, I was utterly lost. Every moment felt like a punch in the gut. I knew there was something I needed to do with my pain, but what? I asked a friend, an ex-Zen monk, who said, "Nothing. Do absolutely nothing to change how you feel. Every time your mind tries to figure this out, just reel it back in. Every time you're tempted by distraction, stay put and pay close attention."

My friend's advice sounded excruciating, but it also struck a chord. I decided to try it, to just sit in the soup of my suffering. I lived that way for three more months.

Then one day during my morning meditation, I had a mysterious flash of grace: I was filled with peace, joy, and a love beyond comprehension. My circumstances hadn't changed, yet everything felt completely different. I thought it might be a reaction to all the pain, like a pendulum swinging, but I never swung back the other way. It's been seven years now, and whenever I tell this story, people ask, "Are you saying you live in a state of bliss all the time?" The answer, of course, is no. It's always available to me, but I'm not always available to it.

Over time I began to investigate what brought me toward that wonderful state, and what steered me away from it. As I shared my observations, it became clear that what I found within myself also applied to others. Whenever something happens in our lives that we don't want, we instinctively push it away. This is true of both the smallest annoyance, like a mosquito, and the greatest misery, like the death of a loved one. Such a contraction can be physical, emotional, mental, or all three. Contractions are as natural as they are unavoidable. But when we stay contracted past the initial response, that's resistance—a decision to say no to reality. Resistance can last just a few moments or a lifetime.

Next: How to let go of resistance by Living the Questions