If you want to go East just don't go West.
There is no greater friend in the world than our will
and there is no greater enemy in the world than our will.
For the past week or so I've been reading a book by Eknath Easwaran called Essence of the Upanishads, A key to Indian Spirituality. Have I mentioned how much I love Easwaran's work?
The simplicity with which he delivers the ancient yoga teachings is what makes his work so powerful.
Often times, as I stand at a crossroad of my life I experience fear, self-doubt, confusion. Life becomes overwhelming. During those times, even the simplest tasks feel monumental. The Upanishads have been my road map when I'm lost.
Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability
to choose one thought over another.
One of the simple, yet profound quotes from Easwaran's book is "If you want to go East just don't go West." It really is that simple. My teacher, Shiva Das, used to tell me "Just do the next right thing in each moment." It really is that simple. We give attention to those things in our life that we want to grow. I want more mental clarity and peace of mind. How I achieve those states of being is to make them a priority. Will drinking alcohol or eating Doritos bring me closer to my goal of mental clarity and peace of mind? or take me further away? It's that simple.
When our will is our friend, the choices are easy. When our will is our enemy making healthy choices is a much more difficult task. The key to achieving the life we want lies in the strength of our will. That's the good news. According to Easwaran, the will can be strengthened by exercising it.
As I continue to practice making friends with my will I have found some useful tips.
* Keep it simple
Remember, if you want to go East just don't go West. Are my actions and thoughts taking me closer to my goal or further away?
* Hold space
Allowing a bit of space between the experience/challenge and the response/reaction helps me make conscious choices instead of reacting from impulse. When a building collapses we need to wait for the dust to clear before we can assess the damage and before we can rebuild we need to clear the debris. The same holds true for any trauma. First, let the dust settle, assess where the work needs to be done. Clear the debris before you rebuild. Constructing a new building over the ruins of the old one will not provide the stability needed to withstand the next storm.
*Be honest with yourself
Avoiding the truth will always come back and bite you in the ass. Hiding, numbing, avoiding only prolongs your suffering. "You have to feel it to heal it". Don't hang pretty wallpaper to cover up the crumbing wall. Easwaran explains it like embroidering the seat belts in the car but not taking care of the engine.
*That which you give your attention to grows stronger in your life
Nothing grows unless you give it your attention. No matter how much I love this beautiful Gardenia plant if I put it in the corner and ignore it there's no doubt that it will die. The more I give my attention to finding beauty the more beauty I see. The more attention I give to seeing God's Grace the more I feel supported. The more attention I give to those people and things that bring me joy the more joy I experience.
We can pretend to be a victim of our circumstances or we can take our power back. I imagine it like a sailboat. We can set out on our little sailboat and allow the winds to push and pull us here and there and we can sit back and play victim when we don't reach our destination or we can lift the sails and adjust them as needed. That way the winds of our life will be the energy we need to direct our little boat towards our destination. There will always be storms. Whether we use them as fuel for our spiritual evolution or we allow them to get us stuck in the mud is up to us. The choice is ours.
It's really that simple. Ultimately, every time we engage our will and make the choice that takes us towards our goal, no matter how small the step is, we are strengthening our will. When our will is our friend we will surely reach our goal.
Om Namah Shivaya!