October 4, 2006

The Power of Willingness

We already know about the power of resistance; we're experts at that. Resistance is the mind's way of protecting itself from ever appearing wrong or unsure. When we are challenged to move from our comfort zone -- and the worst depression or the fiercest rage can be comfortable if that's all we've ever known -- the mind offers resistance in the form of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," in saying "no" instead of "yes" and in proclaiming "I know" instead of "maybe I don't absolutely know."

Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie is a way of opening the mind through answering questions and exploring alternate perspectives. It is not the questions in and of themselves that are so powerful -- they are really quite simple. The power of inquiry lies in your willingness to answer to these questions with penetrating honesty. The effectiveness of Transformational Inquiry depends on a willingness to know the truth, as opposed to an insistance on being right. The results can be quite amazing...and I know this from my personal experience of using inquiry in my own life and work.

For the better part of 43 years, my middle name was "No." Because of this stubbornness on my part, I suffered to the point where it was difficult to get out of bed and face each day. I was an unhappy and very willful child. In my teen years I suffered from massive depression, turning to food and sleep to dull the pain. I had been in therapy for all of my adult life, and for several years I needed medication in order to function at all. I had my own home, I had relationships, and at one time I had a very successful home-based business...but each day, for many years, I was plagued by feelings of hopelessness. In my thirties, I was diagnosed with biochemical depression, and a respected psychiatrist told me that I would need therapy and drugs for the rest of my life. Something in me rebelled at hearing that...something that I now see as a willingness to be okay.

When I finally learned about The Work of Byron Katie, I knew it held the key to my freedom...and still I was resistant. Being right had served me very well for many years. It was a protection, and an excuse: if I knew I couldn't do better, then I didn't have to keep trying so hard, and it wasn't my fault. Resistance saved me from having to face my fears, and as a wise person once said, fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing as Real.

With willingness, I might have had to see that I'd always had at least a small part in my own failures and disapointments. With willingness, I had no one else to blame, not even God, my ultimate whipping boy and scapegoat. However, with willingness, I would also have had to consider that everything that had happened in my life was for a reason, there to teach me something, to nourish me, to put me on the path to self-realization. That was the carrot I lusted after, because deep down I knew that God didn't love me less than the rest of creation. Beneath the clutter of my sad stories, I knew I could be okay...more than okay.

The process of The Work's four basic questions -- "Is it true?" "Can you absolutely know that it's true?" "How do you react when you believe that thought?" "Who would you be without this thought?" -- is a way of getting very honest with onesself. When the questions are held in the mind the answers come from the heart, and the answers can be astounding. One of my cherished life-long beliefs was that I was a failure. I had a long, long list of proof for that one: I wasn't married, I wasn't a mother, I didn't have a million dollars in the bank, I didn't go to an Ivy League college, I hadn't written and published a bestseller.

Now, I could think of many, many examples of successful people who aren't married, or parents, or millionaires, or Ivy League grads, or bestselling authors...but, you see, I was SUPPOSED to have done all of these things by my 30th birthday. This is called, "being at war with reality."

At first, when I approached the questions, I would answer them out of the mind's habitual thinking, very quickly: yes, it's true, yes I can absolutely know that I'm right, and I react with depression, duh, how else should I react?...and I have no idea who or what I would be without this thought because I have always thought it and believed it because it's TRUE!

What I noticed was that it felt terrible to approach self-inquiry out of a place of resistance. And that noticing the feelings was the beginning of willingness. How much longer did I want to feel like the living dead? Not one second longer.

So I would ask myself the questions again...or, when I felt too afraid or resistant to do it alone, I would ask someone else to ask me.

"I'm a failure, is it true? It sure feels that way right now."

"I'm a failure, can I absolutely know that it's true?" And I'd wait, and I'd let the heart answer. "No. No, I cannot absolutely know that it's true. I have succeeded in many ways, great and small. I am successfully sitting here and answering these questions now."

"How do I react when I think that I am a failure?" And I'd revisit the way I'd lived my life...how I'd batted away praise, spurned affection, missed opportunities out of fear, lived in the past and the future but never in the present...how I'd let my health suffer...how I'd shamed myself...how much joy I denied myself as a result of believing this incredible lie.

"Who would I be without this thought?" I realized that with a little willingness, I could visualize myself without the "failure facade"...and I saw a woman who just keeps moving...who celebrates her successes of all sizes...who doesn't say "I can't" or "I'll never"...who has no regrets...and who feels comfortable in her own skin. I could see a lover, a listener, an available partner, a friend, one with open ears and open arms and an open mind. I could see someone with an immense and contagious sense of humor. With practice, I came to see that, without my tales of woe, I already was that resilient, loving and courageous woman. You can't even concieve of it if you're not it. The person I was without the belief in failure was - is - a more peaceful person. And peace is our true nature.

When I feel resistance now, it might stick around for a few days at most. In my life, willingness has become the conjoined twin of resistance, always on the other side of it, closer than close, sharing its life's blood. While once it was the weaker twin, having flexed its muscles, it is now the stronger one, and it will have its way.

Many clients show initial resistance to the process of self-inquiry, and what they -- what all of us have in common -- is this powerful willingness that ultimately brings us home. It is willingness that allows us to relax...to listen...to wait...to stop defending...to stop needing to know everything...to stop trying to manipulate the world to conform to our idea of perfection. Willingness is what turns nervous wrecks, hotheads and sadsacks into lovers of reality. Willingness is what turns enemies into friends, tragedies into comedies, crises into opportunities, fear into courage. Willingness is the "yes" on the other side of "no." Willingness brings you your own answers to the questions the heart has been asking forever. It is within you, waiting to take birth. I invite you to give it its life.

Click here to hear Carol repeat this message at EmpoweringMessages.com.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Ted said...

Thank you carol... I found some tears arising as I contemplated my "failure" along with your beautiful work. Willingness as the stronger brother to resistance... I love that! And I will invite it in....

hugs, Ted