Three Steps to Align Your Personal Will for Joyful Living
I have just returned from a magical visit to Santa Fe where I spent five days with Amma, then immersed myself in a new creative project. I will share more about the project when the time comes. For now, I can say that I was deeply engrossed in an ongoing process of listening and taking dictation from the intelligence of Nature and the cosmos. Now that the first portion of the work is complete, I am still wrapping my head around the immensity of it all. I know that none of it could have happened through “me” alone, but was possible because I was open, surrendered and listening, knowing that the universe supports my joy. I would like to discuss this week how to best use the gift of free will we have been given, and how it relates to the experience of joy.
The common use of the word “will” conjures the notion of determination and focus to initiate an action. It is associated with the idea of pushing to get what we want and making extra effort to have things go our way. As such, when we feel that our will has been beaten by others or thwarted by the universe itself, we can often feel like a pile of roadkill pushed off to the side of our life’s path.
We can easily find many examples of this ego-driven understanding of the word “will”. It is praised in boardrooms, at schools, in sports, in entertainment – even in yoga classes, as I explore in my new book “Confessions of a Yoga Junkie”. This use of willfulness exists in most areas of life in which we wish to excel. But do we really understand the true meaning of “will” and the value it has along the spiritual path?
STEP ONE: From Unconscious Living to Spiritual Awakening
When we live unconscious lives, we feel we must make our lives happen. Unaware to being part of anything beyond our selves, we imagine that we are the universe. In this limited perspective, our willpower is our tool for survival. It is our identity. The stronger our attachment to that identity, the more chances we believe we have to get ahead.
But once we wake up to a spiritual reality, we start to contemplate the right use of will. We hear prayers that include phrases like “Thy will be done” that encourage the release of our singular way. We begin to consciously participate in a force greater than our limited will.
As spiritual aspirants, we seek to understand how we fit within the greater whole. We begin to question the absolute intelligence of our own personal will, and wonder if it is in alignment with divine will. We contemplate what divine will may be for our self.
We may have experienced first hand being led blindly by our ego into painful situations and ending up hurt. Perhaps because of this, as we evolve spiritually, we begin to feel less attached to things being “my” way and open instead to other possibilities. The notion of opposites starts to dissolve. The sense of you/me, us/them, yours/mine dissipates in exchange for a deeper sense of our innate interconnection. The possibility germinates, and eventually flowers in our hearts and minds, that God/the divine/the universe may just have a better plan than we may yet see. As we learn to live beyond our ego, our lives become bigger, richer and fuller.
In so doing, we open to divine will. Yet we are often left numb and floundering as to what that could possibly be. We may have let go of overly driven uses of our will, but perhaps only in exchange for becoming Mr. or Mrs. ‘Nice’, or ‘Oh-So-Spiritual’, unclear as to who we are. We have not yet found how our will fits into a spiritually focused life, and wonder if it does at all.
STEP TWO: Discovering Effortless Will
I have personally spent years in this quandary. I have shared in previous blog entries how I have been undergoing the death of my “feisty girl” who could conjure immense force to do the seemingly impossible, fueled unconsciously by a sense of being all alone and unsupported. Once she started to dissolve, I found myself questioning the right use of will.
I recently went through a sort of personal recalibration, a period of greater introversion. I found myself drawn to longer periods of meditation and contemplation. Something within me was growing, seeking to emerge, as something else needed to fall away.
Through this period, I experienced moments of exquisite effortlessness, as though finally, in my every cell, I was getting out of my own way and allowing my flower-like nature to simply bloom, each breath, one moment at a time. I could feel a hard shell around me, my ego watching to stake out an ambush, trying hard to hold on strong. The schism between my effortless, natural, unbridled self and the constriction of the ego would become painfully clear, and then, something would dissolve into absolute ease.
As I rode the waves between these two, a-ha moments would arise. In one such epiphany, I experienced how flowers exist effortlessly and are complete in their magnificence. Flowers never question. They simply are. In that state of “beingness”, they are everything and nothing. I witnessed how I question God’s will for me, as though it were outside myself, a distant, elusive, all-powerful thing separate from me, judging me from on high. Then something started to soften and I would experience myself as that flower again and God’s will was simply effortless joy.
STEP THREE: Practicing the Yoga of Will
It has become clear through this process that the right use of will is neither in being forceful nor in becoming roadkill. It is neither tense, nor soft. It is yoga, balanced, present, surrendered, and in flow. I realized that the right use of will is simply a complete and absolute “YES!” in my every cell to my soul’s joy, a total release of all thoughts of anything else being my purpose. Joy is my purpose. Joy is God’s will for me. So by focusing unequivocally on my joy, I align myself with universal, divine will. As I say “YES!” with each breath to my deepest soul joy, my life becomes a living prayer.
It is not up to me to then say, “I will make it happen.” That is the universe’s role. My job is simply to continually say yes, one moment after the next, and keep getting out of the way. From that place, clarity arises and I effortlessly breathe into my next step. I do not forcefully make anything happen. I am a dynamic co-creator, in divine conversation, in flow with the universe’s cosmic play.
Joy is not wanting. Wanting feels constrictive in some way. Joy is always rooted, vital and expansive. Joy is our connection to the divine within us. When I am in joy, I am in a state of receptivity. In that state, I am in abundance. When I am in abundance, I am in flow and all is already manifest. The universe knows my deepest joy, because within my deepest joy is the universe. They are not two, but one. God’s Will and my joy are not two, but one.
Ask yourself, “What is my deepest joy?” Open to your joy as you would a flower. That joy reflects your divine nature. It is the divine in you. Take three long, deep breaths and see if you can open to the possibility that your joy is the universe’s joy. Repeat: “My joy is the universe’s joy!” Repeat it until you feel it tingling in every cell of your being. Effortless joy is who you truly are. All you need do is believe it and get out of the way so it may flower and become your entire life.
If you are in Toronto, please join me this week at Amma’s programs at the International Plaza hotel near the airport. There are free programs Monday and Thursday, and a paid retreat during the intervening time. She is a living example and magnificent teacher of the beauty of surrendering your egoic will to a greater joy.
Until next week,
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.