Updated: Jun 8, 2022
One of the most heartbreaking moments of my life was witnessing my best friend from childhood lose her 10-day old baby. He was appropriately named Will as he was 14 weeks premature but survived anyway and made such an impression during those 10 days Earth-side. I often think of him as an example of the human will, one of the most fascinating creations of consciousness.
But what is the will? The definition that seems to hit the nail on the head is by the author John Bradshaw who describes the will as “the intensity of desire raised to the level of action.” Simple enough, we get a desire percolate up in our consciousness, then move our bodies to carry it out.
However, it is not so simple when so many of us have had our wills thwarted from a very young age. If you were ever punished for acts of autonomy or forced to align your desires with a parent or a figure of authority, your will was undermined. If you were told your desires were silly or even that desire itself is evil, your will was undermined. When we become adults, these ingrained experiences can interfere with detecting where our will wants to take us and can sabotage our follow through.
When our will is weak, it damages our self-esteem which then causes us to be afraid to move into action next time. Why try to embark on anything if our track record is we lose steam or mentally attack ourselves the whole way through? Understanding what the will is can help to unwind some of these patterns.
The will is often depicted as standing up to nature, a force of resistance. It is, however, the opposite. That desire that percolates up in us is nature itself, the intent of the cosmos signaling what it is we should be doing next for the evolution of ourselves and everyone else.
In so many of the Vedic stories, there are examples of great battles, Gods against demons (called rakshasas), heroes fighting incredible odds. These myths are all meant to be expressive of the battles happening in the world as well as in our own minds. These characters often have unstoppable wills. I’m thinking right now specifically of Hanuman in the Ramayana, who, after having a major crisis of confidence, manages to leap all the way from India to Sri Lanka. (Good thing a talking bear king was there to give him a pep talk and boost his confidence). It may seem like the heroes are standing up against the elements of nature Herself, however, they are actually in line with nature.
There may be challenges that are put in our way, but when the desire is so clearly our intuition talking, there is no inner friction. Challenges with clarity are simply a series of actions, a series of tasks. It is the struggle of “what should I do,” and the voices that tell us “you’re not good enough, you will fail,” that are the true obstacles. These heroes show us what can be accomplished when they are listening to their inner voice and following through even in the face of great odds and inner doubt. The so-called outer, more physical “obstacles” are simply elements of the storyline that make things interesting.
I remember when I first was inspired to go to India to learn to teach meditation. At the time the idea first entered my mind, it seemed completely impossible, as if someone had told me to jump to Sri Lanka. But the desire was so strong and so clear, I just kept moving in that direction. Although there were many actions to make it happen, the experience felt unencumbered.
To strengthen the will, we must strengthen the intuition, and to do that, we meditate. Meditation makes the inner voice so clearly distinct from the voices of stress in our minds that we have the clarity of purpose that makes action effortless. A very advanced meditator is never found wondering what to do. They go straight from Being into action. The will is often described as something very individual, but the individual is Cosmic and so is her will.
Our will is the force propelling our dharma, our dharma being the path where we can be a source of contact for Universality through our individuality to other individuals. In simpler terms, the path where we can be a healing and helpful presence that inspires love in all things we do.
When I think of baby Will, it humbles me to see how one so small can have such an immense effect on so many. I remember his mother made him a tiny superhero cape with a “W” on it for Halloween, a little hero like Hanuman and all the others in the epic stories. His will to live inspired “Team Will” in which over $100,000 has been donated to Boston Children’s Hospital in his name. The amount of love that has coursed through the hearts of so many because he was here shows the power we all have within us to make a difference.
If you would like to make a contribution to Boston Children’s Hospital in the name of Will Jamieson, CLICK HERE.