'Willpower: the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave' Cambridge Dictionary
We're all familiar with willpower, whether we have it spades or not. The willpower it takes to stay calm in an emotional debate, the willpower to get to a yoga class on time, the willpower to not eat the second slice of cake, whatever it is, willpower is definitely something worth having,
Willpower can help us achieve things we never thought possible. We can reach greater levels of health, prosperity, success and happiness than we imagined. We can use willpower to help us succeed in our work, succeed in our relationships and maybe even to find a deep sense of lasting peace.
It takes practice to cultivate willpower, and it has to be accompanied with kindness. Too much willpower in the hands of a power-crazed person, without kindness or compassion, could be a frightening thing. It could be hard to imagine, apart from . . .
Trump. He did it. A lack of political policy, a lack of respect for minorities, an almost laughable amateur-ness about him; none of this stopped him from today becoming the most powerful person in the world. Talk about willpower.
In yoga nidra, we sometimes work with san kalpa. Translating more-or-less as vow from the heart, a san kalpa is an intention set at the beginning of a yoga nidra practice before entering into the state of deep yoga nidra. The idea is that the state of yoga nidra (meaning yogic sleep) is perfect breeding ground for our intentions to grow and come true. By skipping past the logic, rational brain - you know, the one that tells you all the reasons you can't do something - you get to access the subconscious, which any personal development book will tell you is the one that matters when it comes to breaking through our limiting beliefs or thoughts.
In this way, it becomes easier to muster up the willpower to do something, because we've bypassed all the negative, habitual responses the rational brain usually throws at us to get in our way. Yoga nidra, like all yoga, when practiced with intention, can be transformative.
It just depends on one thing: that the person making the intention comes to it with the understanding that they are not separate, that they are part of the universe around them, and with this knowledge comes the desire to, as Yogi Bhajan says, 'feel good, be good, do good'. Without this appreciation, our intentions are not yogic, they do not stand to serve humanity, and they're unlikely to last long.
How long Trump's residency in power will last is a mystery to any of us. His rise to presidency is an example (no matter how unpleasant, distasteful or unsavory we might find it) of how willpower can overcome the odds to achieve anything.
On a today like today - with newspapers screaming at us to 'be afraid, be very afraid', in the aftermath of Brexit, and with the future feeling more uncertain than ever - it can be easy to lose our willpower, our sense of belief in ourselves and the world around us. It's on a day like today that I remember a story I used to hear a lot when I worked at Oxfam.
In 1942 a small group of committed individuals in Oxford got together. They were distraught about the feminine in Greece during the second world war. The group campaigned for food supplies to be sent through an allied naval blockade to starving women and children in enemy-occupied Greece during the Second World War.
There were called the Oxford Committee for Famine relief, later to be shortened to Oxfam. If I ever feel despondent, powerless or weak, I remember this group of individuals, and I am reminded that, with strong will, we can do achieve anything we want. And perhaps we can hope, the majority of us seek change which serves the whole of humanity - not just one man's desperate fight to power.