The first step–and sometimes the last–in any healing is to actually be willing to heal. What does it mean to be willing? Willingness means being ready to go for it one hundred percent. It means freely choosing something. It means full and glad participation. It means no holding back. It means being totally interested in doing something. Willingness is intention. It is volition. It is consent. It is an exercise of your power.
With healing work, you must be willing to be committed to total willingness. You don’t need to be totally willing right away, but you must at least be willing to be willing. You must be willing to allow the healing to happen, willing to let go of what is causing you pain, willing to know the truth of the situation, willing to receive the energy that will support you, willing to trust.
Without your consent, you will not change. Without their consent, other people won’t change. Willingness is essential. If you aren’t truly willing, you will block whatever it is you think you’d like to experience. You may think you are interested in healing, but you may be unwilling to let go of that which must be released in order for healing to occur.
In order to make a change for the better, we have to be willing to let go of what’s not working and willing to embrace what can support us.
This may at first glimpse appear to be simplistic and obvious, but trust me when I say that practicing willingness requires incredible inner strength and determination. That is because there is another powerful mind state in direct opposition to willingness, and that is resistance.
Resistance is a reaction to change. It’s how the unwillingness shows up. For example, if we have attachments to any aspect of the way things are, we might be resistant to changing them. We may feel reluctant because we can’t control exactly how the change will manifest in our lives. Sometimes we have intense aversion to uncertainty. We hesitate. We procrastinate. Even positive change, like healing, can trigger uncertainty and reticence.
How many times have you had a good intention to do something and then didn’t do it? How many times have you struggled to establish a new healthy habit or release an unhealthy one? How many times have you felt overwhelmed by guilt and shame for not doing what you declared you were willing to do?
I have personally struggled, and continue to struggle, with resistance. Sometimes I feel like I’m being ripped apart inside by the conflicting energies of desire for change and resistance. It’s painful, and yet even this pain is teaching me something. It’s teaching me a lot about change and the nature of resistance. It’s teaching me about having compassion for the process of change. It’s teaching me how to be grateful for all of my experience.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are some of the things I practice that help me when I’m experiencing resistance:
- Remember that resistance is a natural response to change.
- Remember that this too shall pass.
- Pause, take deep breaths, and let myself really feel what’s happening.
- Allow myself to sit with the resistance mindfully, breathe, and feel it in my body.
- Make a deal with myself that I only have to do the thing I’m resisting for 5 minutes.
- Listen to what the resistance is saying to me. Notice if it’s true.
- See the resistance as a sign that I’m on the path of powerful change.
- Let the resistance be a gift. Be grateful for it.
- Be so spacious that the resistance washes right through me.
- Take an internal warrior stance and blast through the resistance.
- Remind myself that I’m doing this because I love myself.
Note that what is more important than the form of the action is the energy behind it. Is it the energy of compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom or is it the energy of compulsion, addiction, and powerlessness? If you learn to discern the energy behind the action, you will have a powerful tool that will serve you in all aspects of this work and your life. With this discernment of the underlying energy, you won’t be fooled by the forms things appear to take, whether it’s resistance or anything else.
We have all experienced resistance in some form and to some degree. Resistance is the energy that comes up in opposition to change. When there is an established pattern, energy is flowing along the pathway of that pattern. That energy flow has momentum, like water flowing down a riverbed. If you’d like to create a new pattern, diverting the existing energy flow to another direction is akin to creating a new riverbed. All the earth that must be carved away for that new pathway to exist is symbolic of the resistance to change.
If you know how powerful resistance is, you can have more compassion for yourself and the struggle to establish new patterns in your life. You can also gain a deeper appreciation for working at the level of the mind, where the energy is easier to shift than it is in the denser energy of the physical world.