THE RIGHT USE OF WILL
Who, ever in their life up to this moment, has faced an obstacle - or two or three? Who is facing one - or two or three - right now? Then you are in the right place this morning!
Here's an important thing to know . . . whenever we face obstacles in life, we always have a choice: We can either be blocked by them and they can stop us in our tracks, OR we can say yes to them and then use them as stepping stones to expressing our inherent, our innate, our Divinely implanted greatness in higher and higher ways.
We are at choice, and that choice is our focus of the month. We are using The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday as our reference book.a
This book - this month - is a roadmap for our journey of turning:
* IMPEDIMENTS into chances for EMPOWERMENT;
* OBSTACLES into OPPORTUNITIES to grow bigger in God;
* MISFORTUNES into GOOD - not, just good, but GREAT! -- FORTUNES; and
* COMPLICATIONS into EXPANSIONS OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
So, I hope that you have brought a challenge to the table this month and that you are applying these ideas to it to the best of your abilities. I know I am.
According to Ryan Holiday, moving from impediment to empowerment takes three interdependent and interconnected disciplines that can be boiled down to three words.
We have looked at how imperative a shift in our Perception is. I love this illustration in Holiday's book. He writes: "Sports psychologists recently did a study of elite athletes who were struck with some adversity or serious injury. Initially, each reported feeling isolation, emotional disruption and doubts about their athletic ability. Yet afterward, each reported gaining a desire to help others, additional perspective and realization of their own strengths. In other words, every fear and doubt they felt during the injury turned into greater abilities in those exact areas. It is a beautiful idea. Psychologists call it adversarial growth and post-traumatic growth. 'That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger' is not a cliché but a fact. The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. . . .The obstacle is an advantage, not an adversity. [And] the enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this."b
And last week, we talked about action - not just any action, but Inspired Action, which is:
1. Action taken in service to our greater life.
2. Action that comes from a higher place within us.
3. Action that is part of "The Process," which is:
* Existing in the present
* Taking it one step at a time
* Not getting distracted by anything else
Today we look at the third of the three disciplines, remembering that they are interconnected and interdependent. It is the idea of Will. In our New Thought circles, the idea of using our will sometimes gets a bad rap. But today, we will look at the right use of our will.
What is will? Let me give you a couple of perspectives on will. First from the SOM textbook, Ernest Holmes tells us about the right use of our will. He writes: "Will is the conscious, directive power of the intellect and, as such, has a very important place in the creative order, but in no case is it to be used as though it could force things to happen. Any idea of using the will to influence people [and I'll add, to influence anything!] is a mistake. The temporary effects of [this type of] will power continue only so long as the will forces them to. They have no real life within themselves and must disintegrate as soon as the unnatural force is withdrawn. Moreover, this use of will power contradicts the main foundation upon which all true mental science is built -- that we use a Creative Power which does not need to be urged or forced into action. . . . The will holds attention to the mental viewpoint until the Creative Power has time to work through the law of unfoldment."c
That's a mouthful, isn't it?! What did it say? Well, some really valuable ideas about will.
* First, will is a very important piece of the creative puzzle and not to be discredited, but also not to be misused.
* Misuse comes when we try to use our will to force an outcome.
* In that event, at best, an outcome we want will be temporary.
* More importantly, we don't need to force anything! There is a Creative Power that will do all the work.
* The correct use of the will is to keep us steady and focused (keeping the perceptions we have decided serve us and taking the actions we have been inspired to take) so that the Creative Process can unfold a beautiful outcome in its perfect timing.
Now, a different, yet powerful, take that can compliment Holmes' from our resource book: "[Our will] is our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world. It is our final 'trump card.' If action is what we do when we still have some say over our situation, the will is what we depend on when options have all but disappeared. Placed in situations that seem unchangeable and undeniably negative, we can turn them into learning experiences, humbling experiences, chances to provide comfort to others. That's will power. We often think of will as how much we want something. Actuality, the will has a lot more to do with surrender than with strength. True will is quiet humility, resilience and flexibility; the other kind of will is weakness disguised as bluster and ambition. See which lasts longer under the hardest of obstacles."d
I want to share with you a true story of the right use of will. In it:
* You will see the ability to have a different perception of the obstacle.
* You will see humility, resilience and flexibility.
* You will see inspired action!
* And what you won't overtly see, but what is happening through it all, is the Creative Power of the Universe behind the scenes unfolding something truly, remarkably amazing!
It's a story about a guy you just may have heard of - the greatest inventor of all times - Thomas Edison.e
At age 67, Thomas Edison returned home early one evening from just another day at the laboratory.
Shortly after dinner, a man came rushing into his house with urgent news: A fire had broken out at Edison's research and production campus a few miles away.
Fire engines from eight nearby towns rushed to the scene, but they could not contain the blaze. Fueled by the strange chemicals in the various buildings, green and yellow flames shot up six and seven stories, threatening to destroy, and ultimately destroying, the work Edison had spent his entire life developing.
Edison calmly but quickly made his way to the fire, through the now hundreds of onlookers and devastated employees. He was looking for his adult son.
When he found him, he said, with childlike excitement:
"Go get your mother and all her friends. They'll never see a fire like this again."
"What?!" his son said somewhat incredulous.
Edison calmed his son by saying,
"It's all right. We've just got rid of a lot of rubbish in there."
Now, there was definitely more than a little rubbish in Edison's buildings. In fact, years and years of priceless records, prototypes and research were turned to ash.
The buildings, which had been made of what was supposedly fireproofed concrete, had been insured for only a fraction of their worth. Thinking they were immune to such disasters, Edison and his investors were covered for about a third of the damage.
His was a pretty remarkable reaction, wasn't it? But when you think about it, there really was no other response that would have made any difference.
What should he have done? Wept? Plenty would have.
Blamed someone for not turning off a Bunsen burner or not properly extinguishing a cigarette? Would have been justified.
Gotten angry at the manufacturers of the "fireproof" concrete? A common reaction - go sue them!!
Just given up? After all, he was 67 years old and he'd already done some remarkable things. No one would have thought less of him for that.
But, he didn't do any of that because he wasn't done doing remarkable things.
According to Holiday: "To do great things, we need to be able to endure setbacks, even tragedy. We've got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens."
So Edison didn't do any of those things. Rather, the entire experience invigorated him. As he told a reporter the next day, he wasn't too old to make a fresh start. He said:
"I've been through a lot of things like this. It prevents a man from being afflicted with boredom."
And here are some facts that might seem astonishing -- this is where we see the Creative Power of the Universe at work behind the scenes.
* Within about three weeks, the factory was partially back up and running.
* Within a month, its men were working two shifts a day churning out new products the world had not yet seen.
* And despite a loss of almost $1 million (which would be more than $23 million in today's dollars), Edison made nearly $10 million in revenue that year ($200+ million today) alone.
Holiday wrote: "He not only suffered a spectacular disaster, but he recovered and replied to it spectacularly."
Edison rightly used his will and gave Life a chance to rebuild. He used his will . . .
1. To stay with an empowered perception that this was not a horrible tragedy, rather it was an opportunity;
2. To be humble (it's just rubbish!), resilient (I'm not too old to start over) and flexible;
3. To move him into inspired action (let's get this up and running again); and we are going to add a 4th and 5th one here that are the key to it all. Are you ready? Lean in so you can hear it. Poke your neighbor and say "are you listening?"
4. He used his will to accept the "what is." His plant burned down, and there was nothing he could do to change it. And . . . and this is really big . . . so lean in even more . . .
5. He used his will to face it with enthusiasm and even cheerfulness ("Go get your mother and her friends. They will never see the likes of a fire likes this again"!)
Your obstacles may not be so serious or violent as Edison's. But they are nevertheless significant and seemingly outside of your control. According to Holiday, they warrant only one response:
Not just: I'm OK with this.
Not even: I think I feel good about this.
But: I feel great about this. . . because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am meant to make the best of it.
Now the place I veer away from Holiday is that he doesn't seem to give any room for our emotions in the mix, and I realize that just to get from "this stinks!" to "I feel OK about this" we need to love, honor and feel our emotions. And most certainly to get to "I feel great about this!" But we can. We can have our emotions and then move to this place of empowerment, which is really a place of surrender, isn't it? Surrendering to the Power and Presence of Life Itself, knowing that it is on a course of ever expanding goodness?
When we surrender to the Power and Presence of God Within, the synonyms for surrender take on a whole new meaning:
* Yield: to give way to the flow of life rather than to oppose it.
* Relinquish: to let go of resistance to accepting what is, to allow ourselves to choose differently.
* Resign: to resign ourselves to more of the Goodness of God expressing through and as us.
* Submit: to submit our wrong use of will, which is to force things to happen, to the right use of will, which is to keep us mentally, emotionally and physically on track so that the Creative Power of Life Itself can unfold in beautiful and amazing ways in our lives.f
Those are some synonyms that work for me!
So, let us this morning use our will in the right way, in the highest way - to "surrender" to the All Good of Life. Will you say "yes" to that?
aThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday
bThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday
cScience Of Mind textbook Ernest Holmes, p. 192, 193
dThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday, p. 125
eThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday, p. 150
fadapted from Diane Harmony, 5 Gifts for an Abundant Life, p. 128