My yoga instructor, Charles DeFay, is a kind, well-intentioned man, who is undoubtedly sincere in his beliefs, despite delivering his instructions a bit like a drill sergeant on Ritalin. He repeats the same phrases along with the asanas (the positions) in each session; sometimes the phrases serve as punctuation, but just like the asanas, they are always the same.
This drives me crazy, because I despise conformity, and repetition of phrases, unless it is great poetry or literature, makes me want to tune out. The phrases are recited as though they were scientific facts; some are simply incorrect, while others, such as energizing “protons, neutrons and thought-trons” are just plain well-intended gobbledygook. But every once in a while a phrase pops up worthy of some real debate. “Intention is stronger than will” is one that has perplexed me now for quite a while.
Now, I am a big fan of intention, or intentionality, as the existential philosophers like to call it, but I am also a big fan of will, and in a fight between these two superheroes I’m just not sure who would win. While it is easy to fall into a pit of semantic mumbo jumbo, let me give you an example where I do think intention just might have an edge.
There is a common saying in aviation that if you believe you are going to crash, your job as the pilot is to fly through the crash—not into the crash, but through the crash. I love that idea, because it rests on an assumption, a set of beliefs, that one can survive anything, that the situation is never hopeless, that one must never give up.
If you intend on surviving a crash, while there are certainly no guarantees, you will give yourself every opportunity to make decisions even as you go through the storm. On the other hand, if you simply willed yourself to survive, I suspect you would be more likely to stop making decisions, and in those particular moments, the Force may be busy with someone else, Luke.
Will usually has an object attached to it, but in its rawest form it is like an engine that roars but has no place to go. Intention is the direction we give our will to go. That is why, when an autopilot fails, instead of calling it George or Otto, I like to call it Willy Nilly.
To say that intention is stronger than will presumes that they are separate entities. But if anything, will feeds intention and intention requires that food to survive. I certainly intended to go to yoga today, but it wasn’t that intention that got me out of bed. I am certain of that, because I stayed in savasana (corpse pose) while I tried really hard for the intention to get me upright. Without pure will, and a whole lot of it, I wouldn’t have made it to yoga.
If you are inclined to argue with me, and if you are anything like me, you will be, then you could always argue that it was my intention to go to yoga that drove my will and not the other way around. Or, even, in its more fundamental form, it was my intention to live a long and healthy life that drives the will to do so. I am not going to argue with you. I am only going to say that intention alone gets me nowhere slowly. It is my will, a fundamental life-force not unlike Freud’s libido, that powers this fragile vehicle in which my intention resides.
At least that is how my thought-trons see it.