Growth starts by establishing our willingness and confronting our unwillingness. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to ascertain where we are unwilling. And sometimes the area where we think our unwillingness is, just masks a deeper pain. In order to open this conversation with my own students, I sometimes tell the stories of two women that came to a teacher with absolute sincerity and determination to grow…

They were both very materially successful and in every outer way seemed as though they led charmed lives. However, they both had a very empty feeling inside and wanted help. They wanted to know why the perfect life did not make them happy. They both decided that spiritual growth was the possibility that they had not yet tried and were fully ready participants.

However, immediately the teacher felt their fear and rigidity. It was so palpable that the teacher could not begin without confronting it. But while the teacher tried and tried, neither one could understand what she was talking about. They were both highly intelligent and stated their readiness to take on most any task towards healing. So the teacher had to get creative.

The first woman’s name was Mary Beth. She was older, very cultured and wealthy. She took great pride in her attire and the way she presented herself to the world. From her hair to her shoes, she was picture perfect. She was the matriarch of a very influential family in her area. Yet she suffered from depression. It was a dark secret that she did not want anyone to know about. So, she sought help in the spiritual realm. And, as she did everything, she chose this teacher very carefully.

Mary Beth traveled hours to meet this teacher. Soon after her arrival she implored the teacher to help her. The teacher perceived a staunchness and inflexibility in Mary Beth. The teacher gently began the explanations of what a spiritual path looked like and what was required to move forward. Mary Beth agreed that everything sounded clear and that she was ready to listen and take the necessary steps.

The teacher knew she must quickly help Mary Beth see the hurtles she would have to overcome before being able to undertake her path. Soon, it came to her.

Mary Beth wore an amazing amount of jewelry. Beautiful necklaces, bracelets, rings, made of real gold, diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other precious stones. She was a petite woman and the jewelry seemed to be almost weighing her down. The teacher perceived their significance to Mary Beth and asked Mary Beth if she would be willing to stop wearing any jewelry for a period of two weeks. Mary Beth became incensed and indignant.

Her words to the teacher were, “My husband gave me each and every piece of this jewelry! I absolutely never take any of it off! I wear my jewelry to bed and even in the shower!”

Then, the words of pain came bubbling out, “This jewelry is the only indication and proof that I have that my husband loves me. I simply cannot bear taking it off.”

She looked down, then hopelessly at the teacher. The teacher lovingly explained that even though one could begin a spiritual path in a variety of ways and from a variety of different directions, that indeed, at some point, an attachment such as this would have to be released. That it was born of pain, sustained by pain and in order to let go of that pain, one would have to be willing to fully face it.

Mary Beth thanked the teacher for her honesty and left. She never went back to that teacher. At that time, the pain was simply too great. The teacher had nothing but compassion for Mary Beth.

Willingness is a perfect place to begin your path, to reignite your path, to quicken your pace, to move past stuck areas, and to challenge yourself about where you think you are!

The word is simple. The concept is simple. But, as you can see from this story, that the simplicity is deceptive. Because willingness is not so simple at all. In order to truly change, to move, to grow, we have to be willing. It could be willing to let go of what we think we know. It could be willing to let go of bad habits. It could be willing to let go of resentments, anger, pain. It could be willing to open our hearts. To embrace love. To believe in ourselves. The areas where our willingness can be applied are endless.

And, each time we find a new area of unwillingness, it takes the same perseverance to overcome!

The second story is about a woman who was very powerful, creative and confident. Her name was Darlene. Her life was really quite magical, but as I said before, she felt something was missing. So there she and her teacher began their work. It was quickly clear that powerful as she was, something was keeping her tightly tethered. She had a beautiful relationship, was starting a new business and had a wonderful circle of friends. And, unbeknownst to everyone in her life, she was suffering. She did not feel on top of the world. She did not feel happy.

Her teacher patiently explained the necessity of willingness in order to create a successful spiritual path. Her teacher stated that willingness could start, simply by being willing to look at the fears that are holding us back. Darlene insisted that she was strong and that nothing could hold her back. Yet movement was not happening. No matter what direction her teacher would take, each time, she hit a wall.

One day, the teacher became silent. She knew that no more work could be done without Darlene acknowledging her lack of willingness. She knew that her words alone, were not enough. She needed a clear and potent example.

Darlene had long, thick, beautiful hair. She had never discussed her hair with her teacher, but her teacher was guided to use the hair as an example. So, her teacher said, “What if, in order to grow, you would need cut your hair shorter?” Okay, probably almost anyone else would say, ‘no problem!’, ‘easy!’, ‘if that is all I have to do, let’s get started!’

But not Darlene. She froze. A look of horror came across her face. Then, suddenly she began to sob. In between her gasps for air, she stated, “I am a plain woman. The only thing beautiful about me is my hair. If I cut it off, I will not have one asset as a woman that would make me attractive to a man! I will not cut it!!!”

Darlene was beside herself. Her teacher comforted her while she released volumes of pain. A lifetime of feelings of not being good enough, pretty enough, attractive enough had all boiled into this one moment.

Her teacher painstakingly described the possibility that it was not about her hair, but her fear of not being wanted. Her fear of being alone. Her fear of rejection. These were the areas she needed to be willing to face and willing to overcome. These are powerful fears, but not insurmountable.

After careful consideration and assistance from her teacher, Darlene found the willingness to begin her path towards healing. Soon her life was changing in leaps and bounds. Her hair stayed long. It was never about cutting it. Once she recognized where her blocks were, she was able to open herself to healing those areas.

Everyone’s point of resistance is completely different. Both of these women would have gladly taken on the task of the other, with no complaint. However, the results would not have been the same.

You can take this powerful step towards healing and review the entirety of your being by asking yourself, what am I willing to face, willing to let go of, willing to embrace, in order to obtain my own freedom?

Each time I have ever felt stuck, I asked myself what I was afraid of. What was I not willing to let go of? Once I could see and feel the area of stuckness, I would then ask myself if it was more important and more enticing than my freedom. It may have taken a little time, but the answer was always, a resounding, “No.” I knew that my desire for freedom would ultimately prevail.

Always.

So can yours.

With all my love,

Sivan