Willfulness is part of the human condition. We say, “it isn’t fair,” It isn’t right,” or “it shouldn’t be this way.” This makes us uncomfortable and angry. If we were to say, “It is…,” we might be sad or uncomfortable, but we will not suffer. Willfulness makes painful situations worse. Willingness does not take away our pain or discomfort, but it often moves us past pain into action.
Our present circumstances may understandably create a lot of willfulness. Willfulness can look quite different at different times and for different individuals. Willfulness can be angry, loud and oppositional (like refusing to play by the rules, talking about a problem incessantly, etc..) Willfulness is refusing to tolerate the present moment.
Willfulness can also be sitting on our hands, refusing to be effective or to do what works, refusing to accept the present moment and our emotions about it. It can feel like the steam is taken out of you. You might feel passive or helpless. It can be knowing we should eat something healthy, but choosing chips instead. Knowing we would feel better if we exercised or went to sleep earlier, but saying “it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Willingness, on the other hand, is doing just what is needed in the moment to be effective (not always what we feel like doing at the moment).
Today’s practice involves reflection to look for any ways in which we are experiencing willfulness and making our situation worse than it otherwise could be. The practice invites us to use body postures to cultivate willingness.
Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor. Take a few deep breaths and notice your thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself am I willful? What is the form willfulness is taking in my life this minute?
Are you feeling helpless, throwing your hands up or refusing to do the small things you know to be effective? Are you angry or self-righteous? Judgmental?
If you have identified any willfulness the easiest way to cultivate more willingness is through body posture. Take a few more deep breaths and place your hands on your knees palm up (see picture attached). Just sit and breathe with your hands in a relaxed and accepting position. If it helps, you can use the image of the grass. The grass does not judge the weather. It sits and accepts what the day brings. It doesn’t move or hide or recede when it rains. When it rains, grass drinks in the water and when it is sunny, the grass takes in the sun. You can imagine yourself accepting with your hands whatever is your experience today like the grass accepts the weather.
After 5 minutes of breathing with open palms, ask yourself, “What does willingness look like for me today.”
For me today, willingness is the treadmill, work calls, meal preparation, and providing assistance to master grade 7 Humanities and a powerpoint on the Nervous System. Off to the treadmill…I wish you well in all you must do today!
Michele Galietta, Ph.D.