I've been receiving emails from a new New Age center in the Chicago suburbs, and this is what it said today: "True wealth is being easily able to manifest your desires." I promptly clicked on unsubscribe.
In fact, one of the most classic of yoga texts, the Yoga Sutras, says the complete opposite. It's persistence, confidence, hope, hard work that moves you closer to your goals. There are those special exceptions, which Patanjali notes in the 19th sutra of the first book. Bhavapratyayo videhaprakrtilayanam: for some special beings, birth itself is the cause. A Mozart, for instance. There's little explanation for his ability; he just arrived in this world with clarity, creative genius, super focus.
For the rest of us, the process is key. In the very next sutra, Patanjali talks about the ways that the rest of us move toward a goal. Faith - sraddha -, commitment to the goal, remembering where you want to go and maintaining that focus despite the roadblocks, strength of mind - these are the things that lead us closer to our designation.
So, for me, a non-process skeptic who read too much existential literature in high school, the process-and-hope-in-an-unknown-outcome experience is tough. To be honest, I have a hard time even saying or writing the word "faith," because it's become such an easy way to point toward a supposed effort that stays at the level of thought rather than moving into action. And I'm still not sure what faith is. When I asked my teacher why some people have a strong faith and others have a wobbly faith, she didn't have an immediate answer. Apparently some folks are born with a strong sense of confidence, while others waver along. A good teacher can make the difference, she acknowledged, by figuring out what brings out your self-esteem and confidence and thus nurturing the seed of hope.
Imagine my surprise, then, to have knit a whole, tiny little sock in just a few days, when I didn't believe, at first, that I could make a sock. You would think that my knitting would manage to teach me that same lesson that I keep learning over and over: it's okay not to know how something will turn out. In fact, it's even better to have that persistence, that faith in pursuing something, without a guaranteed reward.
I pushed along at the sock because I wanted to figure out the puzzle that is knitting a sock. I had sraddha - self-confidence, persistence, faith if you will - that there was a goal ahead, and that I would somehow manage to get there. But now I have a sock. What a surprise! If I could only work this willingness to suspend the outcome until I get there to the rest of my existence.