“the obstacle is the path” – excerpt from Zen teaching
What holds us back from living our dreams? How do we cultivate the qualities that bring us success? One of the most important qualities that walks hand-in-hand with success is determination. A close relative of commitment, determination is the driving force that compels us to the finish line. Apathy would appear to be its counterpart – always lurking at the shadows, beckoning our will to concede defeat. Ha!
What nurtures determination? A kissing cousin of discipline as well as commitment, determination can also be called will. Sometimes it seems to take a whopping share of suffering to urge our being to take the steps we need to take. Most of us would prefer to skip the suffering and move directly on to the successful outcome in our lives but this doesn’t seem to fulfill the purpose of life. It seems to me that one of the main purposes of life is the experiencing of challenges. The obstacle IS the path, in other words. And each obstacle, somehow perfectly placed by the Great Mystery detours us to the perfect destination, teaching us along the way the great lessons of life.
Relaxation may seem antithetical to determination but I don’t think it is. Stress derails most things, a tight grip on the steering wheel doesn’t allow for fluid movement on the road, and that analogy flows straight into real life, where approaching life as a dance is just so much more fun than marching in military formation. So, relaxed determination leaves space for commitment and flexibility – a strong will doesn’t need to reside in a tense body. Keep breathing!
Allowing the Divine currents to flow – to inspire and to direct – creates a path for great determination to provide the energy to complete projects, to create and manifest. Allowing happens in a state of relaxation, but also allows for the greatest source energy to come through us. Letting go in order to hold on…another powerful paradox reveals itself.
There are a multitude of suggestions about how to urge myself towards determination. Most of them start with a morning meditation practice. Wake up with a plan – put that plan into action and then surrender into the day. What’s a good plan for the morning? Once awake, I reach for gratitude and positive thoughts. It’s a lot like cleaning house – sweeping out the cobwebs, dusting the furniture and so on. Sometimes I envision gathering all the negative energies that have come to reside in my being and gather them all up expel them in a powerful breath. The ancient yogic breathing practices called Pranayama are well described and powerful.
So, first a daily reset/refresher. Then, on to a meditation – generally even before I get up. This might break all the “rules” of a Zen or other system, but what the heck, it’s ok to meditate in whatever way is most effective, says I. Some yoga, always a good idea and the day is now heading a very good direction. That could be enough to foster determination, which together with a “to-do” list supports me towards relaxed accomplishment.
Sometimes I’m overtaken with passion for a project, or with a deadline. Both of those situations foster and support determination. The aging process has brought with it a slower pace, so even in times of great passion and determination I need to accept my own limitations and practice self- care to make it over the finish line with grace. Deep inner listening has become one of life’s most precious necessities. Self-respect, coupled with a sense of humor brings a lot to the table – and reminds me that in some way that may even be incomprehensible – life is good, and all is well.