Here’s a link to the talk with Rep. John Lewis I mentioned in my talk. I hope you’ll take time to hear this too. I found it very inspiring and instructive.
John Lewis, Love in Action
Partial transcription of “Willpower”:
There are many different approaches to meditation, but usually the ones that we practice involve a point of concentration on something. It’s not always the breath. But the breath is usually the easiest place and it’s the most accessible thing for most people in the beginning. And it’s a really powerful way to meditate. So that’s to quiet the mind. Once you get the mind kind of quiet on something like the breath, then you know, at least a little bit, but you can be doing this all along, it doesn’t have to be linear but a real important feature of meditation is to open the heart.
So that’s why I talk about gratitude or kindness and that kind of stuff when guiding meditation. There’s actually an energetic connection that happens, kind of like between the heart and the front of brain. And you can learn to perceive it. It takes practice. It’s something that you can recognize and feel. You can have the brain guiding the heart, or the heart guiding the brain and there’s a balance in there. Think of reason and feeling and my teacher Paramhansa Yogananda said that in most men reason is predominant and in most women feeling is predominant. That’s why it’s hard to communicate at times. Guy’s do dumb stuff women can’t appreciate and women do stuff guys don’t understand etc because of this difference. Because were always coming from a different point of view. Whether we’re more centered in reason or feeling, doesn’t matter for now. But in meditation it’s very useful to bring these together.
In yoga meditation we focus on moving our energy upward. We understand that energy rising brings higher awareness, freedom and joy. Energy going down is more like control, contraction, frustration, anger, resentment fear etc. Energy moving up supports kindness, compassion, generosity, gratitude etc. So were always thinking of how to get that heart energy or lower energy in body to rise toward the front of brain. We’re working with the link between heart and mind. There’s Western and Eastern views that support this now. That’s what we’re trying to do. And so if you want to, do something to quiet the mind like following the breath, or it might be being at the beach and listening to the ocean, or feeling the wind on your face and your skin or moving over your ears and make it your point of concentration. Don’t let this become a dry, scientific analysis of what your experiencing. Try to at least feel some kind of gratitude or inspiration. Or, if it’s not about that, then be grateful for having the freedom to explore this kind of thing. There must be something and even if it’s the most horrible tests we’ve faced, they have made us who we are today. Find something to be grateful for if you can.
If you’re at a place where gratitude is not accessible, then the other thing to do is take the desire, the yearning, even the complete emptiness and loneliness of your heart and hold that out to the sky and feel like you’re bringing it to the front of brain. Emotion is energy in motion. You may be emoting in a positive or negative way, but it’s all happening at the heart chakra. If you bring it up, even a sad thing. In time you’ll feel, that as the center of the energy in your body rises it brings greater understanding and sense of freedom and opens you to answers and solutions that are within you. When I say offer it up, the sky is within you. Everything is within you. The whole universe is within you. When people think they are having an out of body experience I say there is no out of body experience. On a deeper level we are all connected and we are all one. You can experience this and then it is not a belief.
Is there anyone in this room who could use more willpower? There are a few of us right? Basically willpower is like a muscle. Something we develop over time. I’m out of shape, so if I was going to the gym for first time I would not pick up the heaviest weights. I would start with something I can handle. Start small. The thing is that if you want to develop willpower choose something you want to overcome that you believe is within reach. Not the biggest tests. Start small. But be extremely rigid even violent if that is what is needed to break that little habit. It might be a certain food or attitude.
A great one is non-violence. I have personal experience with this. It really changed me. It’s just to say I’m not going to tolerate negative thoughts. I have them, but I’m not going to tolerate thoughts that are violent to mine or another’s nature. They come. But when you catch that ruminating negativity, and see it for what it is. You can hang on the principle. Don’t say, “does this person deserve to be forgiven” because that often doesn’t work. The principle is “I don’t want to have harmful thoughts because they are killing me”. So you just let it go. And then you’re hanging out with friends and the energy goes in a negative way, you can choose to leave. Get out of that environment and do it kindly. Feel that when you do that, it’s not that you’re stuck up, but you’re working on being less harmful, less negative, that kind of thing. And even when you’re forced to go war… It’s a funny thing, but Gandhi, Martin Luther King, showed the power of non-violence. Non-violence can change the whole world. You don’t have to pick up arms in all situations. Interesting thing that Yogananda said that Gandhi was wrong. Yogananda said that he asked Gandhi if you were with your family and a crazy person came to kill all of you, and what will you do? Gandhi said I would let him kill me first. Yogananda said that in his opinion Gandhi’s answer was wrong. Yogananda said to let them take him first would cause more loss of life than if Gandhi killed the crazy man there would be less loss of life overall. This is why Yogananda said that there are times when war is unavoidable, dharmic, the right thing to do. But he also said, if you have to fight, you do not have to hate your enemy. So many people are polarized right now. I see people eaten up, crying, sad in response to current news. My stance on this is hang with the principles. These keep me sane. As much as I see things people do I don’t agree with, I don’t have to hate them. I refuse to hate them.
This thing about willpower, is just to say, is something you can develop if you start with the small battles. Leave the others on the shelf. Nothing wrong with that. It’s directional.
There is another kind of willpower. When higher principles are involved, when faced with a situation where you really have to put your foot down. It won’t look easy, but you’ll be supported. There’s a point when something is so right that it’s just the way it’s going to be and you’ll know it.
…continued in the audio