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Photo by Scott Diekema, Nepal Semester.

The Super Power of Determination

Milarepa is a revered Tibetan yogi who is known for his extreme determination and unwavering commitment to spiritual development. He went from being a murderer to becoming enlightened – in one lifetime. There was not a second of the day he was not focused on the dharma (the teachings of Buddhism). He committed his life to purifying negative karma, spiritual practice, and being beneficial to all living beings. Nothing in the world inspires me more than this level of conviction, determination, and commitment. If there was one message I have for the world it is: anything and everything is possible if we believe, and if we are willing to go to any length to rise. Milarepa has proven this statement to be quite factual! He is the epitome of the human potential. The ability to rise from a seemingly hopeless state of mind. He is the pure embodiment of what it looks like when a human falls in madly in love with knowing their true self.

I met a very special human this past week who also portrayed the same qualities. I had the very honor to be her student at a Buddhist monastery called Kopan in Nepal. This incredible woman’s name is Carla. I don’t know that much about Carla’s history but what I do know is she is a woman on a, excuse my language, fucking mission to know her true self. She does not mess around when it comes to refusing the games of the ego. Carla laughs over and over again ‘I am an ordinary suffering human-but I have given my life to the Dharma.’ In 2012 Carla couldn’t meditate for more than two minutes, two times a day. By 2013 she spent an entire year in mediation, and then spent the years following in meditation. Today she is an ordained nun and if you ask me, a meditation ‘master’! If you meet Carla you would think she has been practicing since the time she was a wee little one.

Carla is the catalyst who brought me back to my Self and the super power of radical determination. Five years ago I decided to get sober and radically transform my life. Every single morning for the first few years of my recovery I jumped out of bed exhilarated to heal and discover more of my potential. The only reason I lived and breathed was because of spiritual-development. I was an utter spirit junkie. As soon as I woke up everyday I recited prayers for myself and others, eye gazed with myself in the mirror while saying affirmations, recited mantras while brushing my teeth and every single time I walked anywhere. While I was driving I listened to spiritual teachings or recited more mantras and whenever I ‘waited’ in line I blessed every one who was in sight. Almost every moment of every day was consciously devoted to purifying my mind. At this time I had no other choice because my mind was so dark and terrifying. I struggled with intrusive thoughts and if there was not a laser beam focus on the light, I felt like I was going to literally die. As my psyche began to integrate some of my determination began to fade. The path and my practices became habitual. It was almost as if I forgot why I was doing what I love the most – heal past karma so I can progress on the path of spiritual development and remember true Divine love.

Every morning during the buddhist retreat we began the day by stating an intention: “May this precious human life not go to waste. May every moment of this day be dedicated to the benefit of all sentient beings. May this day exhaust negative karma and be in service to creating positive karma.” Karma means action. Life is cause and effect. We are constantly creating the causes and conditions for everything we experience. We literally invent our lives one action at a time – through thought, speech, and action. Getting the flat tire does not happen because life is against us and wants to purposely annoy us. The so called ‘shitty situations’ are an opportunity to practice an empowered way of responding to life. Adversity is the greatest teacher to embody virtues qualities.

The precious gift of being human is having the ability to exhaust old karma and create positive deeds every single day. Every moment is an opportunity to purify. Every moment is one to be excited when triggers and irritating situations arise because we can heal and embody more of our true nature. Every conscious action dedicated towards love and mature responding helps us embody our highest self and the life we desire to live. Every moment we can be inspired to be a better human. As homegirl Carla stated, “One of humanities greatest issue is mental laziness.”One of my favorite sayings I ever read on a yogi tea stated, ‘Your strength is your own belief’. We overcome mental laziness when we become determined to put in the work and believe in our strength. An olympic athlete doesn’t enter the olympics from half assing it. They put their all into training.

Every time we think a judgmental thought we can internally say ‘may this be purified’, take a deep breath, send the person light, or wish for their health and happiness. Every time our mind is spinning like a cracked out hamster on a wheel, we can chant a mantra or walk away and take ten deep breaths in a different location. When we take a shower we can set the intention to purify while imagining white light pouring down. When we are in a bumpy car ride we can imagine black fog being shaken out of us. When we walk we can dedicate every step to the healing of humanity. Every mundane thing we do can be a prayer, an opportunity to bless all beings and become more free, if we choose for it to be. There is endless moments for devotional creativity.

Another sparkling gem Carla taught me is to consciously focus on the qualities I desire to be instead of trying eradicate the ‘negative’. Again, everything in life requires practice and we don’t get good at something unless we practice. If we practice impatience, we will be freaking rockstars at impatience. If we practice anger, you can guess what we will kill it at – anger. If we practice kindness, maybe one day, or in our next life (or few more) we will be more like darling Mother Theresa. If we practice humility and warmth we might notice ourselves attracting more friends. In every single moment we get to choose how we want to show up. When we don’t show up how we wish to, we can always choose again. The most important thing to remember is to be gentle with oneself with these teachings- although they sound simple they are not easy. We will have days where we want to cave into ego and say, ‘F this I am throwing myself a pitty party with pitty poppers and iItty pinatas’ – that is totally okay and so human. The question is how long do you want to sit in the muck? It isn’t about perfection. Progress comes from determination.

Milarepa didn’t become an enlightened being from snapping his fingers. He freaking did work yo! He didn’t let a second go to waste. He was a man on a mission to know his Divinity. Milarepa and Carla aren’t any different than you or I, they were just convicted AF and overcame mental laziness. They tapped into the super power of determination. Because of this they were able to discover genuine happiness, true compassion and selflessness. At the end of the day it is up to each and every single one of us to decide how bad we want to be genuinely happy. Being genuinely happy doesn’t mean life is going to be easy or that every day will feel like daisies and fluffy clouds. Happiness researcher Sean Anchor says happiness is the pursuit of embodying one’s potential. Embodying one’s potential means the shadow will creep up from the woodwork quite often because we can not know love without the shadow detoxing itself. The question is how willing are you to go to any length to embody your potential? How determined are you to purify so you can know your true self? If your being is screaming ‘HELL YES,  I AM READY’, just keep turning to love over and over and over again.