The force I reference in this title is not the Star Wars kind, but rather the kind that’s inside your head and probably a little mean. The force that’s in opposition to gentleness.
I like to force myself to do things all the time. “I don’t feel like walking all the way home, but I’m going to force myself because I need the exercise.” “I don’t want to go out tonight, but I’m going to force myself because I need to be social.” The list could go on. I usually force myself because I have the best of intentions, but do you see how in forcing myself there’s opposition? There’s the “I” that doesn’t want to do something, and then there’s the “I” that makes me anyway. I think it’s probably my ego trying to exert control because, well, that’s what the ego does.
What I’m noticing lately though is I’d rather be in complete alignment with myself. I’d rather treat myself with love and gentleness because also, I realize eventually I’ll have the willingness to do what I need to do. But instead of forcing myself, I’ll just want to.
Let me back up. When I first started meditating it was suggested to me I needed to meditate twice a day every day. I would force myself for about two weeks before my routine petered off and I just couldn’t anymore. My willpower deflated. Then my senior year of college I wanted to meditate that frequently just for my sanity. What with all the stress of graduating, living with roommates, and entering the “real” world I wanted to meditate every day, twice a day just so I could get through. That’s how it is with me. It’s the same way with yoga. My teacher came to me in a dream and told me to practice my yoga postures and I refused. Because I didn’t want to. Then three years ago, all of a sudden I wanted to, so I did.
I bring this up because today I went swimming for the first time in probably three years and it was glorious. I smiled to myself and skipped down the street on the way to the pool because, “I was going swimming! I was going swimming!” Prior to today I tried to force myself to go. To somehow work swimming into my already busy schedule, but it just wasn’t happening. And now it has.
I’m not sure I’m making sense, but I guess my point is I don’t have to force myself to do anything – not even brush my teeth – because I know one day, someday, I’ll want to do those things. And it’s true. I want to brush my teeth twice a day and floss every night. I don’t ever have to use force with myself. I don’t ever have to do things I don’t want to as long as I’m willing to live with the consequences, like cavities, or whatever the case may be. Eventually my want and my willingness always line up. So I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to contemplate adding a kung fu class to my life or learning bookkeeping or whatever the other million things are that I think are good for me that I “should” be doing. I just don’t. Eventually the willingness always manifests. And if it doesn’t, perhaps I’m not meant to engage.
I feel so much more at ease knowing I don’t have to ever rely on my ego or the “should” voice because everything lines up. The time, the willingness, the money. It all comes together in a magical package where force doesn’t come into play. So I can relax and let go, and instead allow myself to live in harmony.
I dream of a world where we all allow ourselves to be where we are. A world where we recognize eventually, if we’re supposed to, we’ll find the willingness to do the task at hand. A world where we can relax, knowing all is well.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.
Interesting. The philosophy you just enumerated is the underpinning of unschooling, except that unschooling is specifically concerned with education. That is, the idea of unschooling, which was Mom's educational philosophy when she first started homeschooling me and my siblings, is that people learn quite well when they want to learn something, and not well at all when they are forced to learn it.
I think that's basically true, and that what you're saying is also basically true. It's better to do things you want to do, instead of forcing yourself to do things you don't want to do. On the other hand, "want" can be sort of complicated. I find that when I allow whim to dictate my actions, I pretty much spend all day web-surfing and not getting anything useful done. And when I allow whim to dictate my workout schedule, I don't work out very much.
And yet, I like having a well-organized life, getting productive things done, being fit, and so on. What I want in the short term, in other words, is often opposed to what I want in the medium and long term. In the short term I want a nap or a cupcake or a Buffy marathon. In the medium term, I want to work on projects and build muscle.
So basically, I think that in the context of a broader vision, going with what you want is a great idea. But without that greater vision (medium/long-term vision, that is), doing what you want can lead to self-destruction. And if you do want to achieve medium and long-term goals, you have to work with yourself, and occasionally I think that means you have to show self-discipline. But it's definitely best if you make life easy for yourself and keep the self-discipline to a minimum.
Thanks for reading and commenting! I can only speak from my own experience, but eventually my short-term wants dissipate. After about a month of doing nothing but watching Netflix and taking naps, I get bored. I actually *want* to start working again and being productive. (I know, it's crazy, but true.) It's the same with exercise. After not exercising for a few weeks, I start to feel sluggish and gross and the pool calls to me. I guess I'm saying, eventually my short-terms get replaced with my medium- to long-term wants. Which I think you were referencing in the first place?