willpowermemeAs a client and I were talking about her experience with a recent flare, I realized she was using language that was quite aggressive.

“I just have to make myself.,.” “I need to fight with myself to get this done…” “I don’t want to but I have to…”

“Wow,” I commented. “You sound like a general trying to get a reluctant group to move forward.”

“That’s just how I feel,” she responded. “I feel so lazy and it is so difficult to get anything done. I have to use all my willpower to get through the day.”

Willpower. Pushing and pulling to get the body through the day. In a very real sense being at war with a body that won’t co-operate.

That’s often how my clients describe their physical lives. The body won’t do what they want it to – and they feel the only way to get through is by sheer force of will.

But that only works for a while. We can use up our willpower, and the feeling of being over against our bodies is not a long-term strategy.

What I suggest to my clients is making the shift from willpower to willingness.

Rather than trying to force the body to submit to the expectations of the mind, what if you softened your approach?

Begin by asking yourself, what is my body willing to do?

A line in a poem by Mary Oliver says,

“…let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

What does your body love?  What does it lean towards? How can you be willing to move with your body?

A shift in the conversation we are always having with our physical self can reveal what is most important, and what is most possible.

My client practiced listening in new ways and saying “I am willing…”

Her body responded to the invitation by leaning towards some gentle dancing, a late afternoon nap, and being outside in the sunshine.

She changed her focus from a driven “getting through the day” to being willing to go through the day as easily as she could.

Yes, there are some days when that attitude doesn’t feel possible – deadlines loom, kids need to be fed, work has already waited and needs to be completed. Some days do call for a dose of willpower.

But not every day. It does not need to be the default response.

Willingness to listen, to lean into what is calling, is also an appropriate response.

Let me know about your experiences and what is working for you.