A few years ago I was welcoming a new associate to my team, he was a young, very well educated Russian and over lunch we started chatting about current affairs and how things were going in Russia after the end of communism and the advent of Putin. Somehow the conversation turned rather philosophical and we ended up talking about what makes humans so different from all other animals: the ability to make choices! A goose will always fly South in Winter, a tree will die in the exact spot where it was first planted and a fish will always live in water. Humans are blessed with the ability to make an infinite number of choices at any moment in their lives but very few actually are aware of this and exercise this ability to its fullest potential.
In regards to Putin , I postulated that a man of his stature, who could do so much for so many, was instead choosing to support oligarchy and promote values of authority and supremacy over values of tolerance and solidarity , seemingly ignoring the examples given by history and the reality of his brief human existence on earth.
Lately I have been re-considering the theme of choice or free-will as I daily come face to face with some mundane choices and more serious ones.
Choosing begins the moment you open your eyes in the morning: what sort of day will you have today? You may think it all depends on the outside world, on how well (or not) you slept last night , on how burnt your toast was or how cold the shower was but actually it does not ... all these events and much more are external events and have nothing to do with how you feel inside. When we blame events and other people for our moods we delegate the responsibility for our own state of mind and happiness to others.
Of course some things will have more impact on your mood then others and we all experience days of deep, inconsolable unhappiness or anxiety , but they will also pass and you can choose to dwell in the sadness or remind yourself that everything changes and that no matter how bad things may be right now , you also have plenty of things to be happy about.
Our mind is naturally drawn to its lower level , the level where our fears , insecurities and phobias live, this is why we react as we do , to protect ourselves. The key to rise to higher levels in our mind is to meditate. Regular meditation offers an opportunity to become familiar with the workings of our mind, especially the subconscious mind and allows us to become more aware of our ability to make better choices.
Patanjali's sutra 3.53 says: "Complete awareness and control for each and every passing moment brings discriminative knowledge which results from the ability to tell what is really real" - the gift of mindfulness brings about the wisdom that allows us to see reality as is and not as we think it is , this in turns allow us to make better choices.
I have plenty of examples where this sutra has come in hand: choosing to eat the food my body needs rather than the food my body wants, choosing to let go of feelings of guilt when for example doing something for myself and my own enjoyment or development , choosing to accept that someone may disagree with me and still be right and the list goes on ... just like asana ( postures) , this kind of mindful living takes practice , a lot of practice, sometimes I get it right, sometimes I say ... Stuff it ! I give up and eat that muffin or shout at the kids ... then I go back to my breath and remember I have that super-power ... the power of choice.
Thanks for reading ... keep practicing