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Will is the original impulse that comes out of the soul and is important in thought, feeling, and especially action. Will is an active energy and directing force. Through will we exercise our freedom by choosing where to direct our thoughts, feelings, and physical actions. Ultimately all will comes from Spirit, but each soul as Spirit has a personal and free will to create experiences. With the use of our will comes the responsibility for balancing all of our actions according to justice. We can align our personal will with the divine will for the highest good and purest expression, or we can create our own limitations and unique experiences. Ultimately all personal will makes up the divine will anyway, and after enough experience the individual soul expands until it merges with the total Spirit. Thus even the rebellious will is just a temporary foray into the illusions of independence and separation. The psychology of the will includes the original movements of consciousness in attention, the pursuit of purposes, goals, and objectives in intention, conscious choices and decisions, and self-control and discipline of various aspects of consciousness.
We are free to move and direct our own consciousness by choosing how we focus our awareness. We always have choices where to place our attention. We can open our eyes and attend to our physical environment, or we can focus inwardly on any thoughts or feelings we choose. Naturally many of these patterns have ongoing energies that tend to continue certain experiences or causes that produce specific effects. Nevertheless even when our senses are being bombarded from outside, we can still choose to concentrate our attention on something else by an act of will. It is not always easy because our previous will has already acted along with the actions of other souls’ wills also to create the present circumstances. No one soul is omnipotent over other souls because of equality; thus we are continually interacting with other wills, and our will is constantly changing. In this way we can choose to change our patterns, even those that have been strongly willed previously. The first step in any act of will is choosing where to place our attention. By giving something attention we are making it important and allowing our consciousness to work with it. Attention is a prerequisite for conscious learning and understanding. Concentration is when we persevere in our conscious attention and thus magnify the power of our thought with an enduring focus. In this way effort is an important factor in developing mental ability and achievement. Attention can also be an openness to whatever demands or draws our interest. Every little conscious choice of attention we make defines our values of what we believe is important.
As attention directs our consciousness of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, intention chooses and decides our conscious actions. We may attend to various possibilities and alternatives for action by examining and imagining their effects. Because consciousness is intentional we have purposes, goals, and objectives that we choose to pursue consciously or unconsciously. Thus eventually we decide on a course of action, which means that we intend to do or pursue something.
How and what we decide depends on our process of evaluation and particularly how we play upon the scales of motivation. In that previous chapter we discussed seven levels of motivation which concurrently compete with each other and blend together. The conscious self is responsible for choosing alternatives to consider and deciding how and when to commit itself to action. As souls we choose as a conscious self according to our conscious awareness. Through self-examination we can explore the relationships between our motives and our conscious purposes and aims. Each decision produces an intention, but this dynamic process is always changing and flowing. Thus weak intentions can fade away or be changed by new resolves or temptations. A strong will is a concerted effort to hold to a course of action or particular purpose with a dedicated commitment. People may judge a strong will as positive or negative depending on whether they agree with the objective, either as perseverance in one’s duty or as stubbornness and inflexibility. The weak will tends to drift and become a victim of circumstances. Our intentions direct our lives according to our motives and goals. If they are selfish and unjust, we are likely to have trouble. Our present experiences are the results of our previous intentions. Our abilities to perform develop naturally depending on our intentions and the effort we put into them. All of these choices of our will create and define who and what we become by experience.
Will power has become a controversial issue because many people have had difficulty with it in those terms. Often the negative use of will power becomes “won't power.” “I won't do this;” or “I won't do that.” This approach tends to backfire because we are giving more energy, and negative energy at that, to our problem, instead of focusing on the solution in a positive manner. For example the person who tries to lose weight by using will power to restrain eating habits has set up a problem and a conflict that is liable to be self-defeating because the focus of attention is on not eating the food the person is accustomed to enjoying. The intelligent will focuses the attention on the solutions and their positive and motivating aspects by finding exercise that is fun and interesting, perhaps enjoying eating by taking longer to chew and savor smaller amounts of truly nourishing and healthy food, visualizing oneself as slimmer and more athletic, etc. In other words, self-control does not have to be self-restraint as much as redirecting our attention and giving effort and enthusiasm to positive intentions.
The sense of completion is a very satisfying feeling; but when many things are left undone or half-finished, our energy can be scattered and dissipated. By consciously deciding which projects we want to do and which we do not, we can stop wasting our concern on some and focus our attention on the others. By persevering with what we really want to pursue we can bring it to satisfactory conclusion. This successful completion builds trust and cooperation between our conscious self as decision-maker and the natural self, which always must provide the support.
Self-control is a process, then, where we integrate all the levels and aspects of our consciousness. The conscious self asks for and follows the guidance and ideals of the higher self, takes responsibility for making wise, clear, and definite decisions that are easy for the natural self to support enthusiastically. We listen to our intuition and our feelings, evaluate and think through each situation, imagine a positive expression, and put it into practice with diligence and perseverance. I believe that if we practice the divine principles with this holistic cooperation, the result will be personal integrity.
LIFE AS A WHOLE:
II. The Individual