Awakening Iccha, the Power of Will (from an article I wrote for the YT Newsletter) By KK Ledford, M.A. In this hemisphere, we have just emerged from the saturation of darkness at midwinter. At Solstice, the Goddess gives birth to the sun, and the promise of the light returns. We begin to feel within ourselves the stirring of the seeds that were planted in the dark time of year. As the light waxes, so too does our own longing to express our heart's desires. We must step into our own hearts, set on fire with desire for remembrance of our inherent freedom and fullness. When we live with a heart ignited, it becomes our heartfelt intention to consciously and daily align with the Divine. We begin to invoke an embodied experience of our iccha, the energy of will.

From a Kashmir Shaivism perspective, the Absolute Consciousness, reflecting the whole universe, is full of five energies: chit shakti (energy of consciousness), ananda shakti (energy of bliss), iccha shakti (energy of will), jnana shakti (energy of knowledge), and kriya shakti (energy of action). The universe was created as a reflection of the Divine's own will, or iccha shakti. The Absolute is absolutely full, and yet has a will to express, a divine urge to create; this is an expression of unbounded freedom. Understanding this, we can begin to live in our own fullness, and still feel the throb to move toward what is most valuable and life-affirming to us, to clarify and create a fulfilled expression of the deep purpose we cannot ignore during this lifetime. We are meant to live fully, to delight in this embodied experience, and by aligning our individual will with the Divine, we begin to refine and manifest purposefully the most beautiful articulation imaginable as our very own lives.

Yoga, like life, is an ecstatic play of consciousness, the grand pulsation of the Maha Shakti as the power of the universe. Yoga can be experienced as an entrance into the heart of embodied spirituality, a place to enjoy and delight in our connection to the Divine through our senses. Embodiment is a gift to be savored, rather than a burden to disdain or transcend. Our poses are like heartfelt prayers or expressions that bring us deeper into our own hearts and bodies. The practice of yoga on and off the mat assists us in cultivating heart qualities that are already inherent, but may be forgotten or hidden inside of us. Yoga clears away the veils and reveals the splendor that is always present so that we can see ourselves more clearly. Consciousness herself chooses as an act of free will to pulse and become the Universe (visva) and all things contained in it. We too employ our own will, or iccha, to align with the pulsation of the Supreme Consciousness and dedicate ourselves to our spiritual practice. We possess free will as part of our nature, and are free to choose how to live and with what to align. We choose moment to moment either to celebrate embodiment and live in a way that creates more beauty, or to veil our true nature and fall into forgetfulness and enact harmful habits.

Spiritual practice is not separate from daily life but rather an intimate part of it. We must daily dedicate ourselves to our own unfoldment, and listen attentively to the wisdom of our intuition. When we regularly align with nature, connect to our own body, remember that our nature is part of the boundless Consciousness, we are participating honestly in the very enactment of yoga. It is iccha, our will, that acts as the driving force that calls us to spiritual practice. It is iccha that activates our sense of enthusiasm and exuberance for life.

We undoubtedly face challenging times in our lives, and we can draw understanding from our yoga practice. When we encounter a difficult pose that brings up fear, penetrates into a long-held trauma, or brings up uncomfortable emotions, we steady ourselves and find our breath. When we are disconnected from our own body and heart and disconnected from the natural world around us, we inevitably feel cut off from the Supreme Consciousness, which can lead to suffering. Through yoga, in this deeply connected place, we remember physically, psychologically and energetically that our true nature is divine and that the Divine Shakti supports us always. The same pulsation of will that sets our hearts ablaze with love invites us to the mat during the troubled times, when we are dealing with illness, personal challenges, grief; it calls us onto the mat, onto the meditation cushion to sit and breathe deeply, or into our bodies to feel and reconnect. We have inside of us a will to live, to act, to know, to create. Practicing yoga in a genuine and thoughtful way is an invitation to coalesce with the Divine pulsation of the universe; we have the revelation that we are not separate from the Divine, but deeply interconnected with and immersed in the heart of Consciousness itself.

The question to ask is, what is our heart's deepest longing? And how can we live fully, freely, outrageously, and imbued with Grace? What stirs you, calls you, impels you, what breaks your heart open? What invokes a sense of extraordinary love and ferocity, grace and power? And are you willing to live from this place? These are not questions to take lightly or simply ideas we talk about casually; we must take seriously our sadhana, and engage in a genuine contemplation of what is most powerfully pulsing deep in our own precious hearts. We must feel that strong will to learn, to listen, to be, to express. When we turn inside and feel the pulsation of our awakened consciousness, which is innately free and full, and we move forward in the direction of our heart's longing, we occupy a profound place in the center of the power of will. It is our fiery will that inspires us toward our crystalline vision of our own lives.

May we live with an awakened and ignited iccha, a bright fire of willpower, and a constantly renewed sense of wonder for the gift of this experience of life.