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Willing Power
Two Dolphins by Isabel Cattadoris When I registered for my first psychology class in college, I was desperately searching for the secret to acquiring "will power". I was thoroughly enmeshed in a relationship with a fellow student who had made it clear to me that if I wanted to continue to be his girlfriend really, his "trophy" I had to lose at least 15 pounds. But losing weight turned out to be far more difficult than simply deciding on a diet. To my horror and dismay, my body and psyche immediately revolted when they figured out what was in store for them! My happiness was now on the line: I was convinced that will power and following a strict diet was the only way to achieve the thin body my boyfriend desired. I came to believe that my self-worth and my supply of love depended on success.

You can guess the next chapter of this story: I quickly became caught in the trap of "yo-yo" dieting. Cycle after cycle of pumping myself up with visions of an attractive, thin body - grimly resolving to go on yet another restricted diet - invariably backsliding into an out-of-control binge shortly afterwards - feeling mortified by guilt and shame - sinking into long periods of numbness and depression - only to scrape myself up off the floor to slog through the cycle all over again, continuing long after my relationship with that young man had ended.

Fortuitously, in the midst of one of those cycles, I became acquainted with and joined a community of seekers practicing the Gurdjieff method of spiritual transformation. I began to learn a spiritual psychology that emphatically declared that, as he is, Man cannot Do. Man, the product of social conditioning, has no independent Will, no unified Individuality, and only limited Consciousness. With such a Man, Life drives him not the other way around.

This thought-provoking idea at least provided me with an explanation of sorts for my seeming lack of will power. But the finality and starkness of the statement, "Man cannot Do", didn't set well with my hypersensitive personality. Besides, the Gurdjieff system was said to be very slow working and oriented to long-term results. I was convinced I didn't have that kind of time to invest. I was convinced that my life depended on somehow manipulating will power into being NOW if I only knew the secret! I continued to scour various teachings and self-help books for just such a secret, but of course, to no avail.

Finally, after ten grueling years of trying to control my weight through frantic dieting, I had to concede that all I had to show for all the pain and suffering was a net gain of five pounds over where I had started. At long last, some tenacious part of me was willing to give up this tortuous pursuit. Perhaps I did have time to try the slow way after all what could I possibly lose after such a devastating defeat?

I took stock of everything I had learned in the Gurdjieff teaching for some guiding principles. I had learned that cycles are a manifestation of universal laws at work. The wild swings between dieting and binging had the hallmarks of what Gurdjieff called the "pendulum effect", reminiscent of "what goes up, must come down", or "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". I formed the intention to study all aspects of these laws in order to better understand my plight.

By this time I had also begun practicing the basic principles of spiritual psychology through participation in the Gurdjieff community's activities and study groups. I became aware that my desire to lose weight was exclusively motivated by the conditioned self, or ego, with its obsession with image and addiction to the approval of others. Just the act of making an inner separation from these powerful impulses and circular thought processes, witnessing them as the workings of my human machine, was evidence of a significant internal shift of consciousness that had come about in me. My ego still believed it was the center of the universe, still believed it possessed great "will power". But now "I" knew better. I came to recognize my utter ordinariness, that I was just another grain of sand, virtually indistinguishable from all the others on the beach of humanity. Such a realization of one's nothingness is said to be the beginning of the Way. Certainly it was only after exhausting the limited resources of my ordinary self that I was finally "willing" to open to receive direction from my Higher Self within. I had discovered "willing power".

Guided by the intuitions received through this new openness, I began a slow, deliberate path of restoring balance. I let go of any notion of attempting to adhere to "diets" with their endless rules and lists of "okay" and "no-no" foods that continued to preoccupy my mind. For a time I had to observe with forbearance the swinging of the pendulum back in the opposite direction of constricted food intake. Feelings of anxiety desperately tried to convince me that I had to quickly regain "control" or I'd surely turn into a circus fat lady and how would I ever get love then? I held onto my conviction that it was precisely this grandiose delusion of being "in control" that had pushed me so far out of balance in the first place. Slowly, over two years' time, the pendulums began to lose momentum until finally my body established a new equilibrium of moderation. The old obsessions at last subsided so that other matters could now enter into the field of my attention, and even take priority. What a relief!

During this period of willingness to listen to the promptings of intuition, I had to make a conscious effort to turn away from old associations triggered in my mind about food and health that I'd picked up over the years so that I could directly experience food as if for the first time. Perhaps it truly was the first time! I found myself giving a great deal more attention to the act of eating food. I noticed the energy and vibration of food, how the degree of care during its preparation affected food. I noticed the effects of different foods on my body while eating, how my body felt afterward, and the cumulative effects over time. My body became more sensitive to the degree of Life force present in fresh vegetables, fruits and grains compared to processed foods. My body informed me that this Life force was also a most important "food" in itself. Never were my body's or psyche's favorite "junk" foods totally eliminated. I did not have the "will power" to enforce any such restrictions. But my "willing power" guided me to very gently, minutely adjust the proportions, so that after a few more years had passed in this way, my diet had changed significantly. Also along the way, as a totally unexpected by-product, my body quite naturally dropped some unnecessary pounds. My aim had truly shifted from "losing weight", motivated by fear and vanity, to "restoring and maintaining health and well-being", motivated by a growing love for myself.

Some twenty-five years have now passed, and all the while I have applied this same approach in other areas of my life. I now regularly start my days with a meditation practice. I enjoy a daily thirty-minute walk. I stretch and flex my body's muscles and joints using Yoga postures. I take time for an evening period of journaling and reflection. I practice patience, respect and kindness with others. Each of these endeavors were woven into the fabric of my life one strand at a time over many years. As I reflect on my life now, I realize that by outward appearances the changes seem so inconsequential, so ordinary as to be hardly worth mentioning. There is nothing about my life that sets me apart in a crowd in any way. But from my internal perspective, these changes are "extra-ordinary".

The story would not be complete without mentioning the psychological changes in my psyche as I continued to apply the universal spiritual truths to my life. I discovered that until I was "willing" to give up the belief that I needed love from outside myself in order to thrive, I was unable to experience the Indwelling Love already flowing within me. I discovered that, completely independent of the approval of others, this Love bubbles up from within, nourishing me with unconditional acceptance and patience with my humanness. I realized that in my youth I had mistaken the ego's desire for external approval for the Heart's desire for Love. As I continue to decondition from mistaken beliefs, I find that the quality of my life has also changed, from persistent bouts of moodiness and depression, to bursts of joy and contentment with the simple life. All thanks to Willing Power.

Created on 08/23/2005 12:45 AM by admin
Updated on 08/23/2005 01:22 AM by admin
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