Desire, Life’s Supreme Force
Without an inextinguishable desire, nothing is achieved.
Napoleon Hill, the twentieth-century mystic, said in his book Think and Grow Rich, “Behind this demand for new and better things, there is one quality one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”
Knowing what you want and the desire to possess it. If you are clear that you want to live a focused life, then the subsequent question is: How badly do you desire it? Most don’t desire it badly enough, and the lack of intensity of this desire is what ultimately causes them to not be able to live a focused life. This applies to anything we pursue.
The Wright brothers desired to fly. Edison desired to light up the night by his own means. Hillary and Norgay desired to summit Everest. Rosa Parks desired equal rights. Gandhi desired independence through nonviolence. The list goes on beyond the archives of history of the men and women who channeled the power of desire to manifest that which they sought. The power of an inextinguishable desire can mow down all opposition and surmount any obstacle. It is the silencer of the flatulent voices of critics and disbelievers. It is the veil that shrouds the eyes of all obstacles. The supreme force behind success.
Intention and Obedience
Blind obedience is following someone or something without ever questioning, reasoning, or clarifying their motives. Intelligent obedience to someone you trust is a surrender to the experiential wisdom born of their years of successfully navigating and learning from the subject they have dedicated themselves to. In the case of intelligent obedience, one is encouraged always to ask for clarification should the need arise.
The patient awaiting a heart transplant trusts the surgeon and his team. Intelligent obedience. Millions of travelers, every day, trust a pilot to safely fly a 900,000-pound winged metal canister across an ocean and land it safely. Intelligent obedience.
Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich was the result of over twenty years of study of some of the most financially successful people of his time. When a person goes to that length and depth of work and summarizes some of the greatest learnings on the power of the mind, one must listen to him.
Obedience simply means you will strive to follow their advice to the letter. If there is any part of their instruction that you do not understand, you should ask for clarification. Obedience does not mean you won’t fail at doing what they instruct or that you will actually be able to follow their counsel to the letter. You may fail many times in executing it until you eventually become really good at living that advice.
Your intention for reading this book and your obedience to its contents will determine how much you get from it.
The Mind as a Mansion
In understanding awareness and the mind, let’s view the mind as a mansion. Imagine a grand mansion set on an estate at the end of a long, meandering paved driveway with sprawling gardens around it. Large front double doors open into a marble-floored foyer graced with a sweeping staircase at the front, a grand chandelier overhead, and flanked with hallways and towering wood-paneled walls. You are now about to explore its catacomb of hallways, stairwells, floors, and rooms.
This mansion is your mind. Now imagine awareness as you. Just like any house you live in, you can go to any room within it that you want to go to. Each room in this mansion represents a different area of the mind. One room is joy, another room is happiness, another anger, another jealousy, and so on. Imagine yourself, pure awareness, walking through this mansion.
You walk up the sweeping staircase, arrive at a grand landing, and take the passage to the left. You open the first door that you see, step into the room, and close the door behind you. You realize that you have stepped into a room that represents an area of the mind called happiness. You become conscious of being happy. You are not conscious of what is in the next room, or the room down the hall, or the room upstairs, or the room downstairs. You, awareness, is absorbed in being in this room called happiness and experiencing being happy. Are you happy? No, you are not. You are pure awareness residing temporarily in the happy area of the mind.
Now you step out of the room, close the door behind you, and walk down to the end of the hallway. You choose to open another door, walk into the room, and close the door behind you. You discover that you are now in the angry room—an area of the mind called anger—and therefore you experience being angry. Are you angry? No, you are not. You are in an area of the mind called anger, but you are not anger. You are pure awareness residing temporarily in the anger area of the mind.
While you are in the anger area of the mind, or the angry room in the case of the mansion, you do not experience happiness. You do not experience what is in the room you were in previously. Why? Because you are no longer in that room. You are in a different room right now, and therefore will experience what this room has to offer, and this room holds the feeling of anger. You also realize while you are here that you were just in happiness and that you consciously moved to anger.
You leave the angry room and continue with your exploration of this mansion. Each room offers a different experience, and while you are in a particular room you are not conscious of the other rooms you were previously in.
This is just like awareness and the mind. When you look at the mind as a mansion with many different rooms, where each room is a different area of the mind, you realize that you can choose which room in the mansion of the mind to visit, or even to live in. The choice is yours. The longer you stay in one area of the mind, the more comfortable it becomes to you. There is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in one area of the mind, or in one particular room, as long as that area is uplifting and is serving you well.
The analogy of the mind as a mansion is another way to convey the concept that there is a clear separation between awareness and the mind. You are not the mind; rather, you are pure awareness moving through different areas of the mind and, most important, you can choose what areas of the mind (which rooms in the mansion) you wish to spend time in.
The rewards born of learning to control awareness in the mind far exceed the effort that goes into doing so.
Awareness in Daily Life
It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon, and you’re lounging around your home not doing anything particularly important when your friend calls you up and says, “Hey, let’s go watch the latest Bond movie. Let’s see what James is up to this time.” You excitedly reply, “Let’s do it.”
If the movie you are about to watch was created by an outstanding director, the story will be able to move your awareness from one area of the mind to another. The opening scene of a James Bond movie is always riveting: conjured up from the depths of the director’s wildest imagination, it has the ability to snatch your awareness away from the area of the mind that it was in and anchor it in the area of the mind that is exciting. Bond makes a miraculous escape as you hold your breath, completely fixated on the screen.
The better the movie, the less conscious you will be of watching it. In a deeply enthralling movie, your awareness would be so absorbed in what you were watching that you could be oblivious of passing time and all that is around you. As your subconscious mechanically guides your hand to repeatedly stuff popcorn in your mouth, your awareness is on a ride in your mind that was meticulously designed by the film’s director, experiencing one area after another. And with each area of the mind that you visit, you experience the emotions associated with that area.
Now, this is obviously what you paid for. You signed up to be entertained—to be taken to all these various areas of the mind and experience them. You gave the director and the story permission to take your awareness on a journey in the mind in order to have all of these different experiences.
The important thing to realize is that the exact same thing happens to most people all day long. Most people unknowingly give their environment, the people and things around them, permission to move their awareness from one area of the mind to another all day, every day.
For most people, the people and things in their lives become the director of their daily experiences. Their environment dictates where their awareness goes, causing them to have a myriad of experiences throughout the day. Not all of these experiences are sanctioned by the experiencer. Some of these experiences are uplifting, others not. Some are emotionally disturbing and others joyful. It’s as unpredictable as where a falling leaf might land on the ground.
The inability to sufficiently control where your awareness goes in the mind results in you living as a slave to your environment. But we do not need to live this way. Instead, we can free ourselves from such a tumultuous state of mind by realizing that we can take control of our awareness and choose exactly where we want it to go in our mind. When we decide to do this, we gain freedom, because when we direct our awareness to where we want it to go, we are choosing what we experience. Once we take control of our awareness, nobody can decide how we feel unless we give them permission to do so.
In order for awareness to separate itself from what it is being aware of, awareness first needs to be aware of itself.
The ability to do this comes from the ability to be observant. Observation is a by-product of prolonged states of concentration. We will dive into observation and concentration in the chapters ahead. Only when my awareness has developed sufficient powers of observation can it then become aware of itself. Once it’s aware of itself, it can bring itself to attention, or, to put it another way, bring itself to notice itself. Now that it has noticed itself, it can redirect itself to where it wants to go.
The better you learn to focus, the more observant you become. The more observant you become, the better awareness gets at being aware of itself. As you get better at this, you get better at separating awareness from that which it is aware of or absorbed in.
A person who cannot focus very well does not have well-developed powers of observation. If his awareness drifts away from what it was focused on, it may take a while before his awareness becomes aware of itself (he becomes self-aware) and realizes that he is distracted. For example, a person working on his laptop at work remembers that his favorite team played earlier in the day. So he switches from his accounting spreadsheet to his internet browser to look up the score. He finds out that his team had an emphatic win, and he’s now eager to see the highlights. He searches on YouTube and finds the highlights. When he’s done watching them, he clicks on a suggested thumbnail video and watches that. Thirty minutes later he becomes observant of the fact that he has been watching one video after another. Upon his awareness becoming aware of itself—or, said another way, upon his realizing this—he pries his awareness from YouTube and diverts it back to his spreadsheet.
His lack of ability to focus makes him not very observant, resulting in a much longer time before his awareness becomes aware of itself. During this period, much time and energy is lost. Productivity plummets, and ad revenue increases for YouTubers. There are many people who stand to benefit from people’s inability to focus.
As you learn to focus and become good at it, your awareness will get better at being aware of itself.
The Steward of Awareness
Now that you know this, ask yourself, who or what controls where your awareness goes? You? Or the people and things around you? What percentage of the day does something or someone else control where your awareness goes, as opposed to you having control of your awareness?
You must make a choice. The choice is yours and yours alone. If you decide that you want to be in charge of your awareness, then firmly resolve right now that this is what you want: to be the master of your awareness and where it travels in your mind. Resolve today that you will work tirelessly to bring your awareness under the dominion of your will even if this endeavor takes years.
If this is what you want, then you can do this. You just need to make up your mind that from this day forth, you will use your willpower and powers of concentration to guide where your awareness goes in your mind. There will be days when you struggle to do so and there will be days when you fail. That is all part and parcel of the journey. True failure is not having tried. Never give up and don’t lose hope!
Here’s a wonderful quote from Gurudeva: “Those of you who are wrestling with the mind in your many endeavors to try to concentrate the mind, to try to meditate, to try to become quiet, to try to relax, keep trying. Every positive effort that you make is not in vain.”
Affirm to yourself each morning as you wake up and each evening right before you go to bed, “I am the steward of my awareness!”