Below you will find a few notes from the Living From the Heart online class on the topic of the will. One of the several things we’ve been looking at so far is the difference between the will as exerted by an individual “self” and will as a manifestation of divine intelligence. See what you think, and have a good day!
(Ps, “Q” is a comment that comes from someone in the class. “D” is a response that I made.)
Q: I have been living with the question about will. It kind of took me by surprise, so I figured there were things for me to see there. I was just looking at the difference between will and willingness. Will is usually a conditioned thing for this person, “I WILL do it!” Not much ease or kindness or coming from the heart. Just get out of my way, because I am on a mission. But willingness is so much gentler. I am willing, I intend, I am ready to work toward something. But it allows for the willingness for it to go any way it does. There is a desired outcome, but all outcomes are accepted. I think that difference points to maybe the whole difference, for me, between living from the heart and living from conditioned mind. Will is hard and unforgiving and separating. Willingness is embracing, accepting, opening, welcoming, joining. Thank you for the question!
D: Love it!!!!! Yes! That’s an excellent way of talking about it, I think. There is an openness in willingness, isn’t there, that is not in the exertion of will that originates within a separate self. There is an openness to the direction Life is taking as it unfolds moment by moment.
As you know, I use the word “Life”, with a capital “L”, to indicate the mysterious intelligence that animates all we experience, inside and out. There is an order and a harmony that we live inside of. When we identify with a “self” then we step outside of that natural order (in our imagination, but not in reality), and we begin to resist Life, to wrestle with it and attempt to bend it to our desires, and so we suffer. To “suffer” is to be that self. When we are willing, however, as you say, we submit our individual will to the will of Life (in a matter of speaking–I don’t think we can really say that Life has a will in the way that a human does), we go where life is going, and we receive from the goodness inherent in the unfolding.
I appreciate the point you’re making about desired outcomes. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things, is there, so long as we are not attached to what we want. We are animals with bodies–of course we’re going to want some things and not others. If we identify with a self that wants, however, and if we invest our well-being in getting what we want, which is so the way of the conditioned human world, then we’re in trouble.
D: My favorite thing you said: “5 years ago, when I started on this journey, I would have thought that these heart-spaces are incredibly unique and rare gifts. Not so.”
Not so! Isn’t that amazing and wonderful! We may absolutely be here in a heart-centered place, and that doesn’t have to be just some random occurrence that happens in response to circumstance. We can practice being here: there is a tangible, practical way of being with ourselves that brings us into the moment, and it’s something we can choose. The more we practice it, the more skill we have and the more peace, ease, love, belonging, compassion, insight, and everything else good are available to us.
I threw in the question about the will because it requires us to look at who we are in different states of consciousness. As you say, if I’m a “me”, an identity within conditioned mind, then I’m exerting control towards an end. And again as you say, if I am present in heart-centered awareness then there is no “me”, no identity, and so there is no separate will. There is choice of a certain sort, however, isn’t there? As you say, in the moment we can choose where to direct our attention. This, to me, is a most beautiful and mysterious thing: in the place of heart-centered awareness we may choose, and yet there is no “I” choosing. Who/what is it that chooses? Right there is our authentic nature.
D: Yes! Another way of saying the same thing: there is a difference between identifying with our human experience and being awareness in relationship to our human experience. If we identify with our experience then things such as anger and sadness seem perfectly real and justified. What we learn to do through practice is to hold states like anger and sadness in acceptance without taking them personally, almost as if they are happening to someone else, as to a friend that we love and care about.
It’s really hard to let it sink in that we are not the experience we are having. We are, instead, in our essence, the awareness of the experience we are having. The step back into this larger place is the freedom we are all looking for. From the point of view of pure awareness, it doesn’t matter if we are “getting what we want” or “doing it right”, as you say. We can hold such things in compassionate awareness, let them go, and be the peace and moment by moment fulfillment that we are.