There is something that I have been struggling with lately. What is the role of Will Power in spiritual growth? And how does one reconcile it to Surrender?
The purpose of spirituality is to transcend our identification with the body and mind. This identification is called the ego. It makes us believe that we are a separate person with a past, seeking a better future. All our pleasures and pains stem from this identification. Liberation is recognizing I AM, not I am this or that.
But to reach this realization of our true nature one has to swim through our negative impulses. Our desires, craving and addictions to things in the material world. Not only things, but also our sticky relationship to what we do and who we relate to. Any notion that makes us believe that something outside us can complete us, is at best a fantasy of our mind.
Floating in this river of Samsara — attachments and aversions — how do we swim towards the Ocean of Oneness. Do we surrender ourselves to the flow of the river and pray that it will take us to our final destination. Or do we exert our will power against the force of our negative impulses that prevent us from experiencing our true Self. Let’s explore.
We all believe we have the freedom to choose. In this moment you can choose to stop reading further, stand up if you are sitting or stretch your limbs if you are stiff. But you cannot choose to teleport yourself to the Moon. Which means we have limited choice. The question is how are we making use of the choice we have?
Often our choice is ruled by our desire for a certain outcome. Or inversely, it could also be ruled by our fear of a certain outcome. Fear and desire are the most powerful sub-conscious forces that propel our actions. The primal instinct of self-preservation is the force behind most of our choices. Even our need for achievement is propelled by the need for self-recognition or power, whether we choose to admit or not.
In other words the limited identity called the ego wants to protect or promote itself. Definitely validate itself. And it will go to any extent to do this. Wars are not the outcome of good trying to prevail over evil, but collective egos trying to prevail over other collective egos. When we experience the destruction created by the ego and its resultant suffering we are ready for spiritual wisdom.
Most people, when they come to spirituality, try to apply the same template that they did in their worldly life. The template of will power and achievement. We try hard to wake up early, meditate, give up bad habits and avoid getting angry. Every time we fail we flog ourself or feel guilty. When we are able to achieve our spiritual goals there is a subtle sense of pride and self-worth. In other words will power again gets used by the ego to sustain itself.
The ultimate goal of spiritual practice is weaken our identification with our ego, not to fuel it further. The best use of will power is to prevent our attention from getting identified with thoughts. More often than not we are lost in our dream world of what happened in the past and what we hope will happen in the future. These thoughts create emotions, which in turn create more thoughts.
Can we use our will power to not get seduced by our unconscious thinking? Keep our attention focused in Awareness in which thinking arises and passes. This is the only true choice a human being has. To be conscious of being Conscious. Unawareness makes us live like a dream character in a movie Awareness makes us reside in our true Self.
“Let go” is wisdom we often hear. What is it that we need to let go? And how is it similar to will power?
One of the common illusions that our mind has is that it believes it can control events, situations and relationships according to its requirement. It exercises its will power and intelligence to do so. We continue with this endeavor until we hit a ‘will-block’. Which means until we experience, and painfully so, that it is impossible to control life. Perhaps a debilitating illness, death of a dear one or financial crisis may make us realize this.
Whatever makes us come to this realization is a blessing in disguise. Cause it brings us closer to the truth of our Existence. We may do the best we can, with the best intentions, but what happens next is not in our control. Perhaps it’s a reminder that nothing in the world belongs to us, not even our body. So why not live like a visitor on this planet, without believing anything belongs to you.
When we notice ourself caught up in identification with thoughts and emotions, we learn to let go of it. We also learn to take ourself and our roles lightly. Being too identified with goals and achievement is certain to lead to a breakdown someday. Constantly pushing ourself to meet deadlines is not sustainable way to live.
While we may use a prayer to invoke the Higher Reality, the best form of surrender is to surrender our attention to the Present Moment. In other words we acknowledge what is happening right now without resisting or indulging in it. We simply witness all mental emotional phenomenon from a distance. Like passing clouds against the background of a infinite blue sky of Consciousness.
If you care to notice, you will realize the best use of Will Power and Surrender is the same. To resist identification with unconscious thinking. Or to say the same thing in other words, to let go of identification with unconscious thinking. Whether we catch our nose straight, or from around our head the end goal remains the same. To avoid identifying ourself as the ego that is perpetuated through unconscious thinking.
Ultimately when we become fully conscious as Consciousness itself, all words and instructions will drop away. Consciousness is alive in the moment. A better way to say that would be — Consciousness Simply Is.