Prem Geet explores stillpower vs. willpower
Can I trust enough to wake up each morning and walk into God’s wet painting, adding my speck of color through authentic response?
How much to push and how much to let go are two questions that constantly wrestle in my soul. I come from willful homesteading people and a tradition of hard work against all odds. Growing up with iron wills all around, I heard that people who watched TV before 5pm were lazy no-good bastards and daytime naps indicated incurable insanity. Only two generations away, my ancestors rose at 4am in a frozen sod house to start the fire stove, bake biscuits from scratch, and wash laundry on a metal washboard. Working long days in the harshest conditions, they were all alone, just tiny specks out there on the scraped prairie horizon. A fierce work ethic was needed for survival and it became their proud identity. So it’s an inherited love of impossible challenges and a feeling of ‘westward ho’ that fuels my pure pleasure of work.
Early on, I was rewarded for developing willpower so much that it was terribly confusing when later in life things did not work out my way. Facing a brick wall, I kept pushing to make certain things happen because the vision was calling, the vision was already there, perfectly perfected, just waiting for me to catch up with my rush of doing. Even in an obvious valley and the deepest dark night, it is very hard to let go. When nothing makes apparent sense, could some high order intelligence really be directing this movie? Taming and claiming, forcing and conquering their wild naked land, the pioneering people would not understand:
“…all of our societies have been teaching you to succeed, to have a strong willpower, because, ‘Wherever there is will, there is a way.’ You will find the way, but those ways lead nowhere; they are dead-end streets. And meanwhile, your life is slipping from your hands.“ (1)
There are the maddening times when nothing works no matter what you do or don’t do. You let go, and nothing happens, and then the fear arises of not doing enough. The soul doldrums happen. It can seem that heaven’s door closes for years at a time, as it happened in the ancient time of Elijah. You can knock and knock and no one answers. Famine comes. Drought devastates the land. The existential waiting room of extreme suffering is furnished with powerlessness and nobody-ness. A confusing recognition comes that things don’t work the way they used to, and there is no way to figure out how things work now. The cosmic Self has forced the ego’s hand.
In work, love, relationship, do we push or let go? Just when I really needed an answer, it was given so perfectly by Osho:
“Willpower will not help you. Will-power is not a power at all, because will depends on the ego – a very tiny phenomenon, it cannot create much power. When you are will-less, then you are powerful – because then you are one with the whole.
“Deep down, willpower is a sort of impotency. To hide the fact that we are impotent, we create will. We create the opposite to deceive ourselves and others.” (2)
There are nights when I ask God to give my life back, the way it was. My mind thinks I was frequently much happier when I was totally unconscious. Back then, life seemed to reflect that I was in charge and could do anything. But now I walk on a floor of moving puzzle pieces whose rhythms don’t make sense, and the one in me who was that willful is not here anymore. She faded, not easily and not without a fight. She finally became exhausted but present, learning to wait and watch:
“While watching just watch…a river flowing, the stream of consciousness flowing, atomic thoughts floating like bubbles, and you sitting on the bank watching. The stream goes on and on and on. You don’t say this is good, you don’t say this is bad, and you don’t say this should not have been, and you don’t say this should have been. You don’t say anything – you simply watch. You are not asked to comment. You are not a judge – just a watcher.” (2)
Leaving willpower for stillpower is not easy if you enjoy adventure and the creative rush. Making things and making things happen are based on patterns of desire. For the willful, it seems God has to finally just wear us out. It took me a very long time to see that I am not in charge and not the doer, not even in demanding creative acts. Creativity comes out of thin air so I can’t even claim it is mine. In flow, I am just a receiver. The will that was needed in early development is not needed in maturity. Osho says,
“The very existence of will is against your being – it degrades your being into becoming. Then there is search and then there is longing, and naturally you will find a way, just to go away from yourself.” (1)
After years of thrashing, I finally claim the power of sleep. It hurts nothing to take a nap or a let-go to settle, and recall the potent phrase from the Book of Psalms: “Be still and know that I am God.” Osho says, “Be still and know.” What it means to me is: Be still and know that I am the One witnessing the one who is reading this now. I have always been here and I will always be here, and you can melt into me any time.
“When you look in, when you watch, you become aware that desire is the cause of your whole misery. Seeing it, desiring disappears – just by seeing it, desiring disappears. Seeing that desire never leads anywhere, but that you go on moving in circles and desire goes on goading you in the same repetitive patterns, seeing this – not because I am saying it, but seeing it on your own desire disappears. And the disappearance of desire is the stillness, the real stillness, I am talking about.” (3)
How much to push and how much to let go? I still don’t know so I listen, and I listen to the listening that is listening, reaching a vast canyon of silent echoing. Willpower expresses a high level of aliveness but also makes us lose the path to wholeness, the Tao. Through stillpower, things happen from a higher order.
Here’s a centering device for times of fear, a mantra that quickly braids body, mind and spirit together in felt truth: “Trust means TRUST.” And so I wait.
Osho’s discourse excerpts
(1) The Razor’s Edge, Ch 18
(2) My Way: The Way of the White Clouds, Ch 3
(3) Be Still and Know, Ch 10