The will is a remarkable asset – without will you’d do nothing and die – with will you transcend apathy, you overcome fear, you take action and you stay in the game – the game of action.
You take many actions. In fact, you take so many actions in each and every moment, you take most of them without even noticing. Like learning to drive – at first every movement of your foot on the pedal, hand on the gearshift, every turn of the wheel, is a major event, requiring total focus. A year in, if that, and you’re driving without thinking about it. It’s the same with everything you’ve ever learned how to do or will ever learn how to do. Originally you even had to learn to breathe, then to suckle, then to digest, then to eliminate. None of that came without a brief shock of learning the new to your system.
Without engaging with the pointless conundrum of whether we have any free will or if everything including every apparent choice and decision is predestined, it seems apparent at least, that even if there’s nothing that isn’t predestined, we can still choose between enjoying it and fighting it in any given moment – this one, being the perfect example.
That means enjoying the challenge as much as the achievement and once the choice is made to receive the experience that way, it’s your will that enables you to both agree to it, and then stick to your agreement.
Will, not to be confused or conflated with sociopathic willfulness and ruthlessness, is possibly the most powerful tool for change at your disposal.
Without galvanizing your will, you proceed through life like a blancmange, wobbling this way and that with every shake of the dice. And that’s unlikely to lead to much fun, let alone any sense of satisfaction or deep joy for being alive.
So I’m giving will a shout here. Alright Will?
Strengthen your will and provided your intention is clear and focused, and your health is sufficiently sound, there’s nothing you can’t achieve within the realms of physical possibility. Yes, you also need courage, and you need imagination, and you need to be able to attain and retain perspective, along with a whole host of other qualities – strength, stamina, clear-mindedness and so on, but your will is central to success in the greater sense of living the adventure to the full.
And of course, for a well-rounded result, your will must be exercised within the parameters of basic decency in respect of others, lest it fuels the objectivistic egocentricity associated with sociopathic tendencies.
Which well-balanced state in Taoist practice is engendered as follows:
Will, as a force, is a product of the kidney energy. When the kidney chi is strong so is the will – the will to live, the will to engage, the will to take action when required. When the kidney chi is weak or unstable so is the will.
And vice versa, developing the will strengthens the kidney chi.
To wit, while there are a thousand approaches to strengthening the kidneys, on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis, the most effective is to constantly be mindful of your lower abdominal area and of pushing backwards there into your kidneys. Lean into them. Let them feel a bit of weight. They love it. It warms and relaxes them, which is what they need to function well.
You’ll feel your will instantly supported.
From back here focus on your heart area up and in front of where you are, and let it soften and relax – this to encourage emotional intelligence, whence comes human decency, and thus preclude falling into the egocentric objectivism that spawns sociopathic behavior (and vice versa).
Now contemplate whatever it is you wish to achieve and from your back, from your kidneys, mobilize the will.
And this is the interesting bit – now instead of habitually, automatically pushing your energy forwards towards the object of desire, push backwards inside, away from it instead.
Not only does this conserve and grow your kidney chi, it also creates in front of you, so to speak, the very vacuum required to draw in the seeds of everything you wish to achieve and accomplish.
It’s all about pushing backwards inside instead of pushing forwards – like when pulling up weeds, and you push them down first to soften the roots so they come out easier.
That’s the nub of Taoism for you - doing the opposite of whatever’s normal.
I sincerely hope I’ve managed to convey the significance of acquiring this skill of pushing backwards inside, because of all skills, if we were never to meet again, as it were, if I’d managed to impart this one to you, I’d feel I’d served you proud.