Willpower is one of the greatest gifts of humankind. It gives us self-control. In the words of an acquaintance: “If you can’t control yourself, someone else will.” Emotion is one of the strongest sources of lost control. This is why it’s so essential to remember that even if you are hurting emotionally, you don’t necessarily have to be hurting in other areas of your mind. We really shouldn’t break down and lose the ability to think when we’re in emotional pain. When we’re angry we often say and do things we don’t mean to people and hurt them. This is because our emotion consumes the rest of our mind and handicaps our rationality. It’s fine to feel anger, but our rationality should never go by the wayside. If we don’t have control, then we’ve given up our will, and our will is quite possibly the greatest gift we have. That’s the point of fasting, for instance: to strengthen our will power.
Strong will means strong love, too. The love of someone with more willpower is more valuable than the love of one who has next to no willpower and is at the mercy of their innate tendencies because it comes from a place of true compassion or intentional devotion rather than their biological desire for the person. Innate tendencies push us to be what we don’t want to be. It takes a great deal of strength to assure otherwise. Emotions in part are natural reactions to things, but they don’t have to consume us so far that we lose the rest of our mind. If we do, that indicates a lack of willpower and self-control. Animals cannot control their emotions and think rationally. We as humans have the amazing gift (and duty) to be above that, and fully utilize our will.
Emotion is not the only source of lost control. More commonly it is the senses which reduce our will. Pleasures of tongue, touch, smell, eye, and ear bind us, while avoiding certain things unpleasant to the senses helps secure that bondage. In the spirit of this i’ve outlined the sense experiences in my life which i most need to gain control over:
1.) Sleep – My inability to control my sleepy mind and to retain full awareness when tired; the inability to force myself to wake up after taking a nap.
2.) Eating and drinking – i’ve pretty much gotten control over my drinking habits by drinking water almost exclusively for the last couple weeks. i was nearly addicted to soda and energy drinks, but now they are beneath me, and it hasn’t been too hard to maintain. In terms of eating however, i’ve had little luck. When i eat typically i don’t feel full until i feel sick. Actually even then i still usually feel hungry, which i attribute to the food i eat. Delicious food is extremely attractive to my sense of taste, and i don’t have much command over it. i also typically have eaten anything and everything put in front of me. Now i’m avoiding sugar and meat as much as possible (sugar makes me crash and the meat makes me groggy because of the energy it takes to digest it).
3.) Exercise – i have avoided exercise thus-far in my life because i don’t like to feel tired, nor the minor discomfort of physical exertion. Now i’m attempting daily exercise, however minimal such as push-ups, sit-ups, yoga, jogging, etc. Anything at all really.
4.) Sexuality – i am a teenage boy. so sexual desire comes with the territory. a firm reminder to control myself so as not to let sexual thoughts arise, or to prevent sexual arousal is a MASSIVE test of my willpower.
We’ll see how these new lifestyle changes go from now on, as i don’t plan to stop at any point if i can help it. Hopefully my willpower will be strengthened significantly to increase my ability in focus and concentration, especially in meditation. The added willpower i will gain from this will go to my effort in trying to always bear in mind patience, and awareness of the present moment, awareness of the dream-like nature of phenomena (for dream yoga), and awareness of my innate Buddha-nature and capacity to affect the world as an enlightened being one day. In addition it will go to my simply trying to get my work done.