Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | December 29, 2009

Willpower; Mind Power

I guess I’m on a kind of “good old fashioned” kick lately, yesterday posting about the good old fashioned football tackle, and today, wanting to talk a bit about good old fashioned will power.

In the spiritual life, we are called to holiness. In fact, as human beings, we are called to holiness. This is our purpose and meaning. We strive for holiness using a number of practices: contemplation, meditation, love and compassion for others, following tried and true methods of different matrixes, such as catholicism, buddhism, taoism.

But one of the most important tools to help us on the road to holiness is good old fashioned will power. We have to work at it. Iy is not beyond us, it is not something only for the “holy” or for the saints. We areall called to this, and we all can call upon our will power to help us get there.

It’s so easy for us to make excuses, to give up easily, to lay down on the sofa after a day’s work and turn on the tv. But with will power, forcing yourself to do it, we can progress in the spiritual life.

We have to work on our mind and thoughts as well. So many human beings are walking through life oblivious to their calling to holiness and sanctity. Or we allow our minds to meander and get mucky and mirky, allowing things like tv and adverisements fill our heads with nonsense, or allowing our own rampant imaginations and fantasies to take over our minds. Our emotions are very powerful, and we can be consumed with thoughts of desire, hate, revenge, power, money, selfishness. We need to make a conscious effort to cleanse the mind, to purify it, to wipe it clean, and to focus on the finer things, on holier things. One of the advantages of the catholic way is that it provides a plethora of images and concepts and ideas to keep the mind busy, focused, attentive.

In tai chi chuan as well, we have a focus for the mind. In meditation, it is the dan tien and the breath, in and out, bringing us into union with the rhythm of life, and transforming our inner selves. In the practice of the form, we engage in a mystical dance that is slow, rhythmic, in harmony, in tune, sunk, rooted, centered, aware. All of this comes from the doing of the form which is the amazing thing about tai chi as a contemplative practice. Tai chi chuan is also unique in that it uses an important aspect–the unity of mind, body, and spirit. To fully become human, to develop, to evolve, to become holy, we must engage in unity all aspects of ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Tai chi chuan does that all in one. In the catholic monastic life, they are done rhythmically, but somewhat separately, but it’s still good: work, prayer, study, socialization.

So, we/I need to use some good old fashioned will power, first, to practice every day, second to clear my mind of the negative thoughts that I spend way too much time on, and begin to bring my mind and thoughts into a more holy way. It is perhaps more difficult for those of us who live in the temporal world(actually we al live in the temporal world)or at least have to make our living in the temporal world, or who have vocations to family life, because we don’t have a lot of time to devote to our spiritual practices; we have to make the time. But it is fruitful nonetheless, well worth the effort.



  1. I thnk humans have a spiritual component, and that component exists outside of time and space. But if you were to separate the spiritual from the physical, you wouldn’t be dealing with a human any more. We are both, which is why the notion of a physical ressurection is so important in the Christian worldview.

    What this new, resurrected physical form will be like and what sort of new, eternal heaven and earth we will have on our hands, I don’t know. But I can speculate. In the world I see, we don’t get sick or die, and the material world around us bends readily to our will. In the world we inhabit now, man lives by the sweat of his brow, and any efforts he makes to alter that world is met with difficulty and imperfection.

    Take a farm, for example. We take the chaotic raw materials of a field, and some plants, and so on, and we struggle to bring order to it, an order only we can perceive. We want even columns and rows of good, healthy plants. In the current world, we can conceive of this ideal, but implementing it always has difficulties.

    In a better world, we still conceive the same ideal farm, but bringing it into existence is basically no more difficult than planning it out. We still operate within physical limits– a corn plant yields corn, and not elephants, and we have to have some corn plants to start with– but the corn behaves itself. We don’t get runt plants, or the wrong number of ears, or disease, or what have you. So too for the behavior of the dirt, the water, the sun, etc. Our farm thus is an expression of geometric ideals that only humans can apprehend. We can go about reshaping the world, making all of it conform to the transcendant truths that we, due to our spiritual nature, can comprehend.

    That is paradise as I envision it. I don’t know if that is what it will really look like or if what I have described is logically consistent. But it seems to me that there would be boundless room for love in such a world, and I think I would like to live there.

  2. Intuitively, I believe it might be possible, because of the practice of tai chi chuan, to step out of the time/space continuum. What this means exactly I’m not all that sure, but something makes me think it’s possible. What do you think?

  3. “It is perhaps more difficult for those of us who live in the temporal world(actually we al live in the temporal world)or at least have to make our living in the temporal world, or who have vocations to family life, because we don’t have a lot of time to devote to our spiritual practices; we have to make the time.”

    We all live in the temporal world because we all have material bodies. Think about it. Time is a purely material phenomenon. Spiritual things are eternal, and therefore don’t experience time. For time to exist, for time to have any meaning, there must be matter undergoing change. Material change is what time is.

    Humans are an incredible paradox– spiritual creatures with physical bodies. Combining the two is impossible, and yet God did it anyway; only God could.

    Temporal existence, then, doesn’t get in the way of our spiritual life. Temporal existence is where our spiritual life happens, because we are humans. Why do we sell shoes and build irrigation canals and so on? We do it because we, and we alone of all God’s creatures, have the power to alter the temporal, physical world and bring it into harmony with eternal, spiritual truths like justice, and hope, and love. We don’t just do this when we pray and meditate, we do this all the time. (We’re supposed to, anyway. It’s a fallen world, and easy to go wrong.) Things as mundane as putting on your socks, buttering your toast, and brushing your teeth are spiritual practices.

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