|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 422 ]
Willpower is an important factor in spiritual evolution. This fact cannot be understated. From the external demands of life, to discouragements from others, to constant mental activity, or just plain boredom, the aspiring yogi is relentlessly presented with challenges. With a weak and feeble strength of will, one cannot hope to conquer even the simplest of them.
Epidemic in our culture is a degeneration of willpower. In an age where gratification of the senses is easily at hand and where meeting the most fundamental needs for survival is scarcely of concern, we as a society find ourselves weakened by affluence. The tragedy of it is that when one does not need strength of will on a daily basis, then one will lose it.
Willpower is like a muscle, when it is not exercised then it indeed will atrophy. Consequently, most people would find that their willpower is indeed weak. How many cannot even start their day without a cup of coffee? How many cannot resist a piece of chocolate cake when it sits on the table in from of them? How many frequently give in to the slightest of urges, and how many of these simple things in life rule us on a daily basis?
If one has no strength of will to conquer even a chocolate chip cookie, then how can one hope to conquer the mountains on their path to spiritual liberation? Ok, maybe you don't enjoy sweets, but your weaknesses are undeniably there. Look and you will find them!
Modern lifestyles have, for some time now, been increasingly fostering the atrophy of this strength of will in mankind. Science and its main motivating force, the market-place, stride forth, relentlessly seeking new ways to make life easier and to make every conceivable task of daily life as effortless as possible. We have microwave ovens to cook dinner in seconds, gadgets to start the car's engine from our kitchen window, non-stick frying pans and self-cleaning ovens, stain-free fabrics and permanent press clothing, electric toothbrushes and razors, voice activated appliances and one-touch phone dialling. Over the internet, from the comforts of home, we can order our groceries, book a vacation, read hundreds of newspapers, get counselling, apply for a job, do our taxes and buy just about anything we could possibly imagine and have it delivered directly to our door -- all at a touch of some buttons. Who can remember the time when they had to do more than lift their index finger to access hundreds of television channels from the reclined comfort of their sofa?
In this day and age, almost everything imaginable is within reach of the touch of a finger, and that which isn’t probably is not too far away. As a collective society we have been completely removed from the processes which heat out homes, power our vehicles, grow and process our food, etc. -- to the point where the average person could scarcely last even a few days in the wild.
All this has fostered more than just potbellies and clogged arteries though. It has degraded the strength of will of nearly an entire civilization -- retarded the ability of people to physically or mentally do often even the simplest of tasks without feelings of stress, strain and discomfort. So when presented with a significant challenge in life, many simply cannot see it through; or at the very least, they suffer immensely through it.
Ease of life has made people soft, so to speak. Like a flower in a greenhouse, we flourish in a perfect environment, but outside in the harsh elements, we will wither and die...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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