What is free will? (Part 3)

Click for part 1 and part 2.

What is will anyway

Let’s look at this idea of will. As we have discussed, an animal’s life is largely fixed and they are not really equipped to go beyond their limitations. For humans, the possibilities are unlimited. Will, or conscious choice, is the highest quality we humans have been given to create ourselves and our lives in any way we like. Now that you see or experience that you have a little bit of this will a natural question of “How do I get more?” invariably follows.

A short glimpse into this consciousness, or intelligence, which pervades our entire life can set people free from suffering but it is in breaking the habits of our current personality where the real work and growth lies. It is work, much like an addict has to work to come off heroin, because of conditioned patterns in our bodies or minds. Most people are not addicted to heroin, fortunately, but they are addicted to their minds.

It is effectively like swimming upstream. Not fun, but a little bit is required. That being said, the work is worth it. It is so worth it. And once you set your intention on the highest, i.e. not to make a billion dollars, or have a baby, or get a new job, but to go beyond the need for all of that, everything in life will conspire to help you. Getting clear inside so that something larger can take over your life is so worth it.

When I say it’s worth going beyond the need for all of that I do not mean that you ought to go live on the streets and “become spiritual”. That’s nonsense. I mean that it is crucial to understand why you want or need the things you think you do.

To put it succinctly, and as we have looked at earlier, you have over the years built up certain likes, dislikes and preferences. You’ve built up your personality. Your identity. And every single day, you’re out there to build this personality further and to prove to others that you are really this person. You’ll go to a certain school because of this, you’ll choose a certain partner, you’ll treat people a certain way, find a certain job, a certain house, you eat a certain way etc.

You’re mostly acting out of compulsions, and once again the question of free will is not even in your reach. You need all of those things on the outside so that you can go to sleep at night feeling safe in knowing that you are that person, so that you can feel a little security, maybe a little happiness or a little love but really nothing so special. And all conditional. But really you’re suffering while holding it all together, and when something goes wrong it’s a full blown crisis in your experience. This is what most people use their lives for: to create a limited and largely unconscious life. Is this what you need free will for? Why on earth would you want free will for this? To create more of the same?

As an aside

Between you and me, isn’t this an anti-social way to live? Using the world and other people so that you can confirm to them that you are really so and so (but really you’re confirming it to yourself because frankly they don’t really care) isn’t very nice. People call yogis and hermits anti-social. I see it differently. I think most of the rest of the world is anti-social.

This is a very indirect way to live. It is a very indirect way to feel okay. A direct way to live would be to look at why you need all of those things. What are these deep-seated likes, dislikes and preferences that are taking away from your free will?

Don’t give it names

At this point in your search, you’ll inevitably come across this word ‘spirituality’. Let me tell you, this word, along with ‘consciousness’, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘energy’, is probably the most overused word in our modern lives. What has been done in the name of spirituality is quite terrible.

For me, spirituality is simply realising that you’re neither the body, nor the mind but something much higher than that. That’s it. Once you turn ‘spiritual’ it simply means that you want to know and won’t stop until you realise it. Your aim is at the highest and you’ll not settle for morsels.

You don’t have to give up your job, your family or your business to find yourself, because you are already ‘You’ even though you don’t know it. There is nowhere to go to find ‘It’. It’s a deceptively simple thing but because clarity of perception is so hard to come by there is an entire industry built around it. All to take your money and most importantly your life.

I often get asked: “Where do I start on my path?” The answer to this question is: right where you are. You use your current life situation and turn it into your path, or your ‘spiritual process’ so to speak. You don’t have to give it a name, you don’t even have to call it ‘spiritual’ or go to the Himalayas. You don’t have to meditate, practice yoga asanas, pranayama and so on.

All of these things are wonderful, and can help you tremendously, but what’s more important is your intent. Your commitment to go beyond. Just to simply do the work on yourself. People commit to all kinds of things. To lose 10kgs, to get married, to get a new job. The minutiae of life. Why not make a commitment to improve the quality of your life and how you experience life itself? If you are committed to going beyond yourself, to reclaim your true willpower, life will present you with the opportunities to help you do so.

Start where you are

Dislike your boss? Can’t stand your mother-in-law (that evil dragon!)? Dislike the restaurant you just ate at? Feel too attached to your job title? Don’t bother making conclusions about where these are coming from. Instead make a commitment to yourself that as long as you’re entangled with this minutiae you’re only building your personality and that you are truly intending to go beyond.

It is like in martial arts, say Judo or Aikido. If someone is attacking you, you use their energy against them. You’re simply working on releasing these likes, dislikes, preferences, in other words your ‘personality’, in order to reclaim your will, aka your true power, to touch the very existence within you. It is not about creating another personality. Again, that’s just a bundle of thoughts and emotions. Rather, go beyond it. The spiritual ego is the worst one to build. I’m sure you’ve met so-called spiritual people whose eyes are full of contempt for you because they believe themselves to be more spiritual than you. Like such a thing was possible.

Therapy helps, meditation helps, breathwork helps, authentic yoga helps… These are all wonderful things, but as long as you have these elements of your personality bothering and running (or ruining) your life, I can guarantee you that you will not go anywhere!

It’s called taking responsibility for your life

This is the greatest thing us humans can do for ourselves and the world. If you want to know the real ‘You’, it takes some amount of work, but more importantly an intent to do so. I can assure you it is more than doable. As you do this work on yourself and extricate yourself from this dream that you and society have crafted, you’ll see how lost everyone is.

Everyone has their own morals, ethics, judgements, philosophies, prejudices and believes. Very (very) few people actually know or have clarity. This is the greatest source of misery, agony, anxiety, aggravation and fighting in our lives. You think one way, I do another way and I’m intent on battling you until you see it my way. If you don’t see it the way I do, but you’re not in my way, that’s fine by me too. There are almost 8 billion of us on this planet so if we all want to express our morals and views, and if we all want our needs met, we’ll end up destroying ourselves and this planet.

Oh, wait…

If you saw life clearly, just the way it is, you’d not need any of these. The only appropriate action is to have compassion for others. If you start judging because now you have experienced something others haven’t, you are no better. Instead, identify with your humanity. Very few people are identified with their humanity. If more people would be so, the world would be a different place for sure and you wouldn’t need morals or ethics, because those are just made up things based on individual or collective memory anyway, a product of the intellect, which is inherently limited as a tool. Nothing much to do with life itself.

13.8 billion years in the making

There are two more things I’d like to talk about here to round out our discussion: (i) life experiences and (ii) what do we really know?

First, let’s imagine that you and I are travelling somewhere in a car. It means that existentially I am sitting in the car and you are sitting in the car and we are going somewhere. However, your experience is probably different than mine. You listen to the radio, you dislike the song, the driver in front of you is driving too slow, the road is too long, you’re bored, the AC is too cold, you agree or disagree with what I’m saying and so on. I could be doing the same things or others. The road trip is happening, but your and my experience are very different. We are going from A to B but your mind has criss-crossed the entire alphabet. To make a long story short you bring your personality to the road trip and it colours your experience. You add more things to reality. However, existentially it is really just two people going somewhere. Neither right, nor wrong it’s just what’s happening. Your experience doesn’t affect reality itself but reality affects your experience. Once you can be with things as they are, really just be, and experience and see things in a way to transcend your personality, you’ll see how life happens.

Why is this important?

Because life has been around for over 13 billion years. That’s a lot of zeros. We are here for something like 60-90 years. That’s not a lot of zeros. Life has a long history behind it. We don’t individually, collectively a little more. There is a very good reason the way things are. Once you see clearly and realise that for everything around you (yes, even your mother-in-law!) it took over 13 billion years of everything happening the way it happened for you to be where you are today, you cannot but be in awe of this life. Life did pretty amazing, really without much of our input.

In this existence that’s been created over these years what is it that we really know? If life did all of this on it’s own, why do you think that it needs your advice as to how it should go on? Why wouldn’t you let something larger into your life, and let it take you to your peak? I’m not talking about this law of attraction nonsense (“I’m driving a lambo, I’m driving a lambo, I’m driving a lambo…hey where is my lambo?!”).

Why would you try to break your head and create suffering by telling life what it should do so that you can feel somewhat okay? Do you tell your liver how to work? Your heart how the beat? Your kidney what kind of secretions it should make? Your hair how to grow? Would you like to put your liver function on manual instead of auto-pilot? Seems stupid to me. Are you spinning the very planet we live on? No. It all happens by some higher intelligence. What do you really know? Maybe you have a PhD in physics but what you know is nothing compared to all of life.

Everything that is enabling you to live your life fully is doing its job, so to me, the real question is why aren’t you doing yours? Your role in this life is so minor but you’re still not playing it to the best of your abilities.

Make believe death came knocking on your door today and told you today is your last day. It’s non negotiable. Tomorrow your family, relatives and friends might be a little sad (hopefully, right?) but existentially speaking, life would go on. What would happen if planet Earth disappeared from the solar system? Would the Milky Way galaxy be impacted? No. No one would care. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies (potentially even up to 2tn) each with a million to trillion stars (that we know about). Some seriously large numbers! The universe is beyond vast. Our existence is really insignificant and yet, here you are, worrying about your free will. Or your lack of it. Ha-ha!

Our existence is inconsequential. It’s nothing. Just a blip. Where are all the people who were here yesterday? They’re all topsoil. In the context of this existence, we’re born yesterday and we are going to die tomorrow. To spend (really to waste) this life in suffering, agony, fight, misery and enslaved to something that doesn’t even help us experience the fullness and richness of this life is just plain silly.

The greatest thing we have is that we are alive

Just ask the person who is about to die: what wouldn’t they give to have one more day on this planet? Just one more walk in a forest. One more full breath. One more bout of laughter. One more kiss. We are alive and it is our time to create a conscious planet. So for me, this debate about ‘what is free will and do we have it’ is really unnecessary.

For me, the question is, now that we know that our experience of life is happening largely unconsciously and for most of us it’s terrible really, now that we can see better, how can we wake up and take charge of our lives? How can we collectively say we don’t know where to start but we are willing to try? How can we create what we truly care for? Because this is very much possible.

Viktor Frankl says it more clearly: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I know it’s been quoted a ridiculous amount of times, but he says it so succinctly (and, well, it always helps to quote a real hero). As this space increases in your experience and you identify with it and how to craft a conscious response, and as you respond less and less to the stimulus, your life changes. You begin to take charge of your life. To create it in any way you like.

You’ll go from serving your compulsions to serving something higher than you.

Once you have no ambition in order to build your personality, identify with your humanity and achieve clarity of perception these will enable you to do the most appropriate thing in any given situation.

This is the greatest thing we can all aspire to as humans!