Many is the time, over the years, that I have reflected on the choices to be made and the consequences of the choices made. It is with our choices that we create our world. But how often have I thought deeply about the importance of what I tell myself and recognised that what I tell myself is a choice?
What is it that we choose to tell ourselves about ourselves? Am I loveable or unworthy of love and attention? Am I competent or do I always mess up? Am I a ‘good enough’ lover, mother, father, child, friend or do I tell myself that I am a failure, or that soon they will discover that I am less than they think I am? Will I be discovered as a success or a fake? How much time do I spend worrying about how things will turn out? Are my choices clustered around trying to make myself safe, or do I tend to assume that all will be well and there’s no point worrying?
How am I visualising myself in the world? What judgements am I projecting onto those around me; judgements about myself and judgements about them?
I always have a choice. They always have a choice. You always have a choice.
Every action and every thought motivating that action, or inaction, is the karma creating our world. It is the karma creating our future.
It is true that we are predisposed to repeat what we have most often repeated in the past, whether that be a particular type of thought, emotion or action. Worriers are predisposed to worrying and it is harder for them to stop worrying than it is for the optimist; harder than for those who expect to succeed because they have many noticed successes under their belt. What makes the difference is not just the amount of worrying done previously (and for worrying, read also anxiety) but, perhaps even more importantly, how much you notice the exceptions when not worrying or anxious. You always have a choice to pay attention to what you do, and to notice the consequences, or to stay on automatic and ignore the sequences of cause and effect. ‘Ah! I’m just a worrier!’ Or, ‘I am always anxious’, rather than making the choice to change this habit, or predisposition, by looking more deeply and becoming curious about noticing triggers and noticing antidotes to these painful states.
If we have become predisposed to noticing the dangers, the unpleasant aspects and the disappointments of life, this is how our life appears to us. This is what we see. If, on the other hand, we have trained ourselves to look for the positive and for what we can learn from a difficult situation, then our life appears full of possibilities, satisfying activity and joy.
We always have a choice. But first we have to notice what we are choosing and what are the effects of these choices. It is wonderful to realise that if we notice that we are caught in habits that bring pain, then we can train ourselves to make different choices when confronted with familiar situations and obstacles. Admittedly, it takes some effort to pay attention to the detail and to override the habituated response. Only a new response will bring a different outcome.
On a slightly different note, years ago when I was doing doctoral research on how the meanings people made of a cancer diagnosis effected both the healing strategies they adopted and the levels of suffering or wellbeing they experienced from their choices and constructed meanings, it was clear that the crisis of a life-threatening diagnosis was a great habit breaker and often prompted new choices. Several of my research participants had believed themselves caught in oppressive or unhappy relationships; others felt they had been stuck in jobs they no longer wanted but believed they could not change; others experienced seemingly unsolvable role conflicts or value conflicts and many felt they were unworthy and unloveable.
It was so inspiring and heart-warming to see how the majority of those research participants who had adopted an holistic approach to their healing, looking deeply into the unsatisfactory aspects of their lives, their attitudes towards themselves and others and their spirituality, suddenly found the motivation and the energy to make different choices and change that which had seemed unchangeable. Their new insights and motivations were prompted partly by the crisis of contemplating their mortality and partly by choosing to learn how to relax, manage their worries and stress differently, train their mind with meditation and make effort to discover resources – such as books, counselling and supportive people – to help them change.
And these new choices led to such significantly increased levels of love, joy and satisfaction in their lives that many fervently expressed their gratitude to cancer for prompting them to change direction! While many attributed their success in long outliving dire prognoses to the changes they had made, even those who had made positive social and spiritual changes but their bodies continued to deteriorate, claimed that they experienced new levels of love and happiness and had an acceptance of their approaching death. They had chosen to heal what could be healed, including their relationship to themselves and to others, and death was no longer frightening or perceived as failure.
By looking deeply, many of the people living with cancer who were taking a proactive, holistic approach to their healing, were able to connect for the first time with their inner goodness. Through finding the freedom to love themselves, they were able to express their needs and their feelings in new ways that promoted deeper and more honest connection with others. They were warmed and supported by the love they had uncovered and, even as they faced pain, loss and death they found a dancing energy within and a new sense of lightness and acceptance.
You always have a choice. But it is better not to wait till death threatens. After all, we don’t all get warnings that death is immanent! And whatever one’s present circumstances, there are sources of joy all around us, if we look deeply.
Clearly, there is much more that could be said on the benefits of remembering that we always have a choice and that it is these choices that create our world but this blog is entirely prompted by my desire to share with you the film that set off these reflections. The film is shot and edited by my daughter, Pippa, and it features impromptu dancing by Tara Jade Soh as she and Pippa travelled round India on a shoestring in the heat of the monsoon. Pippa did the editing and wrote and recorded the voice-over as she continued her journeying through another eight countries, aided only by her laptop and camera. I have now viewed this short film at least a dozen times and each time I hear more. So I share it with you.
If you want to see more of Pippa’s work, her website is http://pippasamaya.com
I would love to hear your comments.