What Drives You?

In August, Briana and I released a book called Rituals for Transformation. It’s a three-month process in which you read a short lesson each day about the body, mind, or spirit; meditate on it; write a bit about it; and be open to having your life change. I expected people to have transformative experiences with it, but I’ve still been amazed by all the inspiring stories our readers have shared.

I also expected people to experience some pushing of their buttons, and I haven’t been disappointed. We set up an online discussion group where participants share their challenges, and as much as I enjoy hearing about healing and revelation, I’m just as pleased to hear about the hurdles and to see the ways people support each other. Although it has become clear that not every person is ready for every teaching at any given moment, it’s also clear that those who are the most resistant to a certain lesson are often the most “ripe” for it.  

Speaking of resistance, one reader was stuck on this lesson:

Who would I be if I had no resistance?

Today’s lesson lies entirely in what you can learn from asking yourself a single question and being willing to hear the answer. Ask yourself as often as you think of it – especially when you feel uncomfortable, bored, upset, critical, disappointed, impatient, unhappy, tired, blocked, or anything other than peaceful. We encourage you to direct the question not just to your mind, but also your body, your soul, and your Highest Self. There is no additional explanation to offer; let the question go deep within you and receive the guidance that comes.

What his mind came up with was that without resistance he would have no ambition, he would become irresponsible, he would get taken advantage of by others, and he would lose his physical fitness. It was a great response because it highlights just how much our minds are invested in resistance, and therefore, in conflict. But is it really resistance that drives us?

There is a lot of energy in resistance because it engages our survival mechanisms. If we feel we’re involved in a conflict, it gives our mind something to fight with and turns on stress responses which liberate reserves of energy. (Incidentally, these reserves are best saved for legitimate survival situations, and tapping them habitually eventually leads to exhaustion.) It’s exciting, in a way, to have something to resist, so we’re enticed by stories of things that outrage us.

But is this the source of our will to actualize our potential, or does it actually get in the way?

I don’t want to assign you an answer to that question, because it’s important to experience it for yourself and come to your own understanding, but I would like to introduce a concept from the Tantric texts of India as food for thought. I like this philosophical framework because it’s so clear, and, because it’s relatively unknown in the West, people have fewer preconceptions about it.

In this system (Nondual Shaiva Tantra) the Supreme Consciousness (AKA God, Goddess, Universe, Dao, or whatever other term you like) has two main forms: Shiva is the term for the Divine in transcendent form – timeless, formless, ungraspable (note that this use of Shiva differs somewhat from the concept of Shiva as a Hindu deity). And Shakti is the term for the Divine in immanent form, meaning perceivable through the senses and mind. Shiva and Shakti are one interdependent whole, but it’s sometimes useful to be able to discuss them separately.

The term Shakti also means power, and there are five main expressions of this power. For our purposes, I’ll discuss three. Iccha Shakti is the term for creative impulse. Jnana Shakti means the power of knowledge. Kriya Shakti means the power of action. Thus, the Iccha Shakti, the urge for expression, is the basic will to play in this world. Jnana Shakti, the power of knowledge, shapes this urge through any of myriad structures – music, words, dance, art, devotion, etc. And Kriya Shakti, the power of action, makes this expression a reality.

If you have set up your life in such a way that these powers have the freedom to move through you, through your work and deeds, then there’s no need to engage your stress mechanisms for an extra trickle of energy. It’s possible that this power may direct you to do work that involves some degree of conflict. For instance, you may find yourself moved to provide access to clean water for people who don’t have it, and in that capacity, you may discover that you are in opposition to corporations who seek to control water sources. Yet even in such a scenario, it’s worth considering, is it the resistance to such corporations that drives you, or is it something else?

What parallels to this scenario exist in your life? Where have you found yourself seeming to derive power from resistance? Does the resistance make you more – or less – effective at taking purposeful action? Is it actually the fight that moves you, or is it something deeper? If the conflicts disappeared, would you just lie in bed drooling on yourself, or might there be something that still motivates you?

Let me know what you discover.

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten

5 thoughts on “What Drives You?

  1. Is the Rituals for transformation book for sale? It isn’t listed on your site. It sounds great.

    Warm wishes.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      You can find the Rituals For Transformation book here: https://dragontreeapothecary.com/products/rituals-for-transformation-book

      Thanks so much for your interest.

  2. It’s often more difficult to observe and re-direct energy in the moment than it is to think about it afterwards, but in another way it feels so complete and transformative when you do muster the will to channel the energy in a healing and sustainable way. The intuitive and experiential wisdom us humans had and still have is profound, and the funny thing is how simple and understandable it can be. But it’s true, when we work to dissolve the things that block our potential energy we feel so much better, and we take action from a different standpoint. A more all-encompassing view where fear takes a back seat.

    You emphasize personal experience and practice, which people can actually work with instead of following a sentence and losing the big picture of the purpose of the teaching. I’m struggling with a situation at work where I’m letting my thoughts really sabotage my energy and I can be aware of it, but it’s another thing to take action in the moment I realize how much it affects me. I did that a little yesterday but was overwhelmed, and today I had a lot of fun! And I know that I can always practice this, so it’s not something I need to rush. There comes a time where you know it’s worth pursuing and you don’t need to fear falling away.

    Thanks for this article, there’s a lot of insight to be gleaned and it makes me curious to read your book. I appreciate it guys!

  3. Wow, I was actually a little shocked to hear the reader’s response to that question, because my perspective is the complete opposite–that resistance is opposition to the natural flow of energy through us. I see my resistance as a hindrance to my ambition/motivation/creative urge, rather than the source of it. The idea that it would be a source of energy for me is totally foreign (especially since I am also a lover of physics!).

    In the end I don’t believe that absolute Truth is perceptible to the thinking mind, so I always ask, does this perspective or belief serve me in the journey I desire to take in this world? Reading this helped me to see that my perspective is much more empowering in how I want to show up and experience Life. That is a satisfying discovery!

  4. I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed my Rituals book – I’m not finished and I’m kinda dreading when I do! My family has noticed that I’m more calm and less frazzled. Any advice for life after I hit that last page?? 🙂
    It’s been so interesting to see what it stirs up in my head and helped with issues I didn’t know how to deal with on my own.
    Thanks so much

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