One of the fundamental notions of the New Thought movement and positive psychology is the idea that we have the power to choose. And as I’ve written in past posts, the inevitable counterarguments arise: “I didn’t choose to be abused”; “I didn’t choose to lose my job”; “I didn’t choose global warming/war/etc.”
Regardless of whether or not we buy into our participation in creating the circumstances of our lives, there is something to be gained from acting from the place of “I chose this.”
“I chose this” means that we not play the victim. “I chose this” means that we take responsibility for how our lives look. “I chose this” reminds me that I have the capacity to shift things in my life if I don’t like how it looks.
What would it be like if I related to my past with “I chose this”? What would it be like if I looked at what is going on right now in my life and said, “I chose this”? If I did, what is the next choice that I get to make?
At the end of any Alcoholic or Addict Anonymous meeting, we are encouraged to “Keep coming back!” Although this is a specific invitation to continue coming to meetings and drawing from the strength of the fellowship, it is also a great spiritual principle.
It would be easy if we could just choose to do something, and it stayed that way. However, the nature of life is that it is dynamic and ever-changing. Yesterday’s triumph begins tomorrow’s failure. Every choice requires us to keep coming back, to revisit and re-create our commitment to living in a way that is consistent with our most heartfelt values.
And our practice of coming back doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t need elaborate meditation practices or prayer rituals and tools. The most basic and reliable practice is coming back to the breath. The breath is always there for as long as we are truly living. We don’t have to worry about whether or not we even get to the space of clear-headed-ness. All on which we need to focus is coming back, coming back, and coming back to the breath. …
In one of my recent sitting meditation sessions, I found my spine starting to collapse. I acknowledged the contraction in my back and just allowed myself to relax. Soon, my spine just started to lengthen on its own, each vertebrae finding a little more space from the next.
It made me think: Peace is not found in the right alignment or structure of thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not found in thinking the right thoughts, nor saying the right words, nor doing the right things. It’s not in any of these things themselves. Rather, peace is found in the space between the thoughts, words, and actions such that we consciously choose each one of them, instead of the immediate reaction without spaceto consciously choose.
“In fact the spiritual path can be viewed as one of progressive surrender to uncertainty, for the known is the past, while the unknown is a field of infinite possibilities.” – David Simon M.D, and Deepak Chopra, M.D., in Freedom from Addiction
As I continue to work on letting go of my addiction pattern as a series of life-diminishing habits, I stand facing the inevitable unknown that lies before someone who has grown too used to my morass. It is the very nature of addiction that we rely on the familiar because it feels safe to us even if it is harmful to us in the end.
The above quote from Dr. Simon and Dr. Chopra of The Chopra Center helps to put the seemingly daunting unknown in perspective. By our own doing, we have gotten ourselves to this point in life. It is of our choosing that we now know … know the short-term comfort and subsequent emptiness left us by indulging sex, alcohol, drugs, eating, gambling, spending, etc. And it is knowing that tells us that we are stuck in the past rather than being in the deliciously present moment.
It is when I don’t know that I can have hope. It is when I don’t know that I can celebrate … because it means that a different future, rather than a familiar, predictable one, is possible.
“We have come to accept such declarations of faith as commonplace and natural. We breathe, we eat, knowing that certain things will result. We turn on the lights, start the car, light a fire, plant a garden without a bit of hesitancy, fear, or doubt. We have faith. We know certain things work in a certain way and that is all there is to it.”
– Ernest Holmes and Willis H. Kinnear, A New Design for Living
Yesterday, I was feeling really confronted by the overwhelming frustration that I would never be able to let go of the addictive behaviors that have run me. I was relating to myself again as a limited being, as the powerless self to which my self-talk has taught me to relate. As I sat in meditation, I found enough space to remember that I am much more than that, … that although I don’t yet have the experience of being powerful in the face of my addiction, that that possibility exists and that the choice I have is between staying trapped in that self-fulfilling, self-defeating prophecy or to have faith that I am letting go of and recovering from my compulsions.
I must remember. I must know to the core and beyond my fears that I am the beautiful and unique expression of Love.
As the train rushed by in front of me on the platform this morning, I had a thought that occasionally comes up for me, especially when my life is feeling really rough: I could throw myself on the tracks, and problems solved! … I don’t have a death wish. Really, what I was experiencing was the feeling that many feel when they are confronted: We want to escape. … And death is the ultimate escape. …
Immediately after that thought, I told myself, “I am triggered.” Being able to name my own experience gave me enough space to wake up and realize the funk that I am in.
When we want to escape, it sometimes is because we are not willing to confront those things in our lives that need to be confronted. Instead, we deaden ourselves to the pain and the suffering. I suspect we are not willing to confront the dead parts of our lives, because we are afraid on some level that, in doing so, we might discover the truth that we have been more complicit in keeping ourselves unconscious than we realize.
Awakening to our own lives requires that we be willing to confront the places where we have chosen to go unconscious and escape. We must be open to looking at the places where we have chosen death over Life.
This morning, I got back on the yoga mat for the first time in two weeks. It felt good to have muscles I haven’t visited in a while be worked and stretched. As I leaned into a standing pose in a warrior sequence, I felt my quads begin to burn. I almost pulled away from the discomfort. Yet, I breathed a deep breath and chose to just go into the discomfort … without any judgment … without wanting it to go away nor to have it be other than what it was. … And I found myself just … being with it. …
Being with the emotions that make us feel uncomfortable isn’t something that just happens. We must choose to accept and greet these feelings, having faith that what got us into those emotions in the first place will eventually lead us out of our emotions and back to ourselves.