Can’t make up your mind?

A young lady recently asked me, “why am I always stuck between two choices and always confused?” It’s a problem most of us have had. “It’s impossible to know the outcome of a choice beforehand,” I said. “But there are principles that can help us think clearly about our choices, such as the four principles of Dharma, truth, respect, values and effort.”

“Let’s start with Truth (satya). Take the time to reflect on yourself and your needs in the situation. What are the facts of the choice you have to make? Meditate on how your choice will be authentic to you. Reflect on your personal truth, what it means to be you and how your choice will express that. Remember that you are a work in progress and that, while you can’t be sure you will make the ‘right choice’, you are confident that whatever choice you make will get you closer to a better you.”

We talked about how big choices can have a sense of finality about them, and the fear that once we make them, we are stuck with them. I explained that the truth in Dharma is that we are here to learn and grow into the best version of ourselves, what you might call your potential future self. Looking at it this way takes some of the pressure off, because you know you are not perfect and that you will definitely make mistakes. The truth of Dharma tells us that those mistakes are important because we learn from them. Not making choices, waiting until we are ‘perfect’, means that we stay stuck in our imperfection. We can’t progress because inaction stops the learning process.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful in making choices. The principle of Purity (saucha) tells us to aim high and for the ideal.

“What is the best way to do that?”, she asked.

“Let yourself be guided by your values – by what you value. What does your heart tell you? Purity is a symbol of the heart-mind which tells us to listen to our intuition. That can only happen when you are in a place of stillness. In stillness, you will know if your heart is in it or not.”

“OK. Connect with my true self and my values. Got it. What’s next?”

“Let’s stick with the heart for a moment.” We talked about how choices are part of the journey to our personal truth. Also, how there are no good or bad choices, because we learn from both. Still, we naturally want to make good choices, which can awaken our inner critic – the culprit most often responsible for indecision. When that happens, we need the third principle, which is Respect (ahimsa). “Ahimsa means non-violence, but as Gandhi said its deeper meaning is ‘love for all.’ And that includes you. When the inner critic wants to sabotage your choices, you need self-respect. You need to love yourself enough to make room for mistakes.”

“OK. So you are saying that I should have a healthy self-respect based on knowing that I am a work in progress that will in time achieve the realisation of my potential future self by being brave enough to make choices and compassionate enough to know that I will not get anything right the first time around?”, she said.

“That’s it in a nutshell”, I responded.

“And the bravery? Where does that come from? Because I am quite timid.”

“Enter the fourth principle of Effort (tapasya). Once you make a choice, you have to live into it with effort. This takes passion, determination and discipline. You can be both timid and brave, when you embrace the humility and vulnerability you need when moving into the unknown.”

“So, go ahead, make a choice and move forward”, I said.

She put her hands together, bowed her head and said, “I will start by reflecting on my Dharma, my truth, values and self-respect”.

“I think you got it”, I said, bowing in return.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    HI Michael
    Thanks for writing. It will help us find clarity.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I am happy that you think so. Thank you for your comment. Do let me know if you have any further thoughts on the topic.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I really liked this post. It was just what I needed to hear. When I was 18 I wanted to be 30, thinking that by then I would know who I was. Of course 30 just showed me that there was so much more to know. When I started meditating I thought I would reach enlightenment & then everything would be fine, but that too is not the way it works. So this post is reminding me that I am a work in progress, learning how to become my potential future self. My yoga teacher keeps reminding us that we’re not perfecting yoga, we are practicing it. Similarly, in the mistakes that we make in our choices we are learning & practicing how to improve . The principles of Dharma are a road map to help us on our way.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I read your comment Rupa with a smile on my face. If you are of my generation the discovery that enlightenment doesn’t come quickly is a shared disappointment. With the benefit of hindsight, we can blush from our one time naïveté. But in fairness, the sages and saints we read about did make it seem easier, or at least more easily accessible. Standing in my garden today, I thought that at least I now know something about the journey, and how much further I have to go. Humility is what we learn from this. And like your yoga teacher hints, it’s really about continual progress, not perfection. Namaste.

      Reply

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