Should I or should I not? May I or may I not? Did I or did I not? Can I or can I not? Will I or will I not? Do I or do I not? These questions, perhaps, succinctly summarize dilemma of life's choices that confront us almost every day. A strong case could be made of inscribing these questions on our tombstones, encapsulating, in a nutshell, the story of our lives. How much time do all of us spend trying to decide, doubt and dissipate our energies! However, there is a good reason why we spend so much of our time deciding - because invariably decisions (good or bad) often have a big impact on our lives. How does one make "good" decisions? That's a question worthy of further exploration. Let us take a crack at it!
The other day I was reading the book, "On Personal Power," by Carl Rogers, one of the most distinguished psychotherapists that lived on American soil. He writes in the introduction to the book*: Some months ago a strange thing happened to me. I think it was the nearest I have ever come to having psychic experience. I was intent on some work I was doing at my desk, when suddenly there flashed into my mind a complete sentence: "I walk softly through life." I was puzzled by the intrusion, but since it had nothing to do with the work at hand I shrugged it off. A bit later the peculiar nature of this "flash" struck me, and I began to speculate about it. All sorts of associations crowded in. As a boy I'd read hundreds of books about frontiersmen and Indians, men who could glide noiselessly through the forest without stepping on a dead twig or disturbing the foliage. No one knew their whereabouts until they had reached their destination and accomplished their purpose, whether they were on an errand of mercy or a warlike mission. I realized my professional life had had that same quality. I haven't made a fuss about where I am going until I have arrived. Rogers then later on goes on summarize this approach as: It is not that this approach gives power to a person; it never takes it away.
And this is the essence of my personal realization too on how one can lead a life of peace and calmness even in the face of big decisions. Being in tune with nature is the easiest and only way of ensuring a life of contentment and happiness. But how does one go about implementing this "right" method of living in our decision-making? Below I describe a procedure that I have been experimenting with for sometime and find it quite useful. Maybe some of you will benefit from it too. So here it goes** '
0. Approach the Decision with Equanimity and not Need
We often feel a compelling need for things to work out the way we want it to work out. This creates desperation and obstructs the universal intelligence to guide us freely. Approaching the decision process with a balanced outlook is the key for the right decision to unfold. It's only when the confusing clouds of "need" disperse that the clarity of nature's wisdom shines through, showing us the way.
1. A Prayerful Invocation for Guidance :
As we think so we become - and this pithy statement is true for this procedure to. An invocation is an invitation for Mother Nature to lead us and provide guidance. A simple, silent internal invocation is not only acceptable but also most effective. Acknowledging manifests the universal intelligence, both within and without, to guide us unambiguously.
2. Feelings are the Key that Unlock Our Preferences
We think and think, and think some more, and then think even more. But sometimes too much of thinking just numbs our heart. And heart is the seat of intuition. While, it's neither advisable nor possible to stop thinking, try practicing keeping the mind blank or empty, even for some fleeting seconds. Erasing our mental thoughts and patterns allows our inner-self to show its preference to which way it would like to proceed. Don't worry if, initially, there is some difficulty in identifying preferences by this method. If there is confusion regarding your preference, make an initial choice that gives you most flexibility in retracing your steps. Even if that is not clear choose something and carry on the procedure with faith. Regardless of the initial choice, the next few steps will guide us to a decision that is most appropriate. Eventually, by repeated practice, thinking and feelings will converge to spontaneous intuitive choices.
3. A Nudge is Where the Fun Begins Baby
Once a preference has been identified, give a small momentum of action in the direction of that preference; a small nudge, a fledgling step that shows nature your initial choice. It is useful to give only a delicate and soft direction (much like the gentle gliding Rogers describes above) and not jump into a commitment assuming that this is the decision. A humble tentativeness is not a sign of weakness but a show of faith in the higher self to reveal its choice.
4. Listening is an Unconditional Acknowledgement of Existence
We are often so enamored and engrossed into "doing" that we forget to listen. And unless we tune-in to listen, how can the message be transmitted? Having set the wheel in motion, suspend judgement and just listen. The message will reveal itself either inside or outside or both, but reveal it will for sure. Do not doubt that! It could be words of others, reading something, even radio/TV, or just come directly from your own self. Any or all of these will suddenly be messengers that will guide you. For somebody else it may not have any meaning but for you it will carry a message. The key is listening and it can't be overemphasized. Our being begins reverberating to the music of the infinite as we tune-in to its harmonious rhythm; its unalloyed notes manifest the message that is meant for us.
5. Acceptance is the Harbinger of Oneness
Now that the direction is indicated by the universal intelligence, we have to set aside our personal preferences and accept the direction that is meant for our highest good. "Highest Good" sometimes means challenges and does not automatically imply smooth sailing. It may even mean failure in the mundane sense. But in the long run, this choice will bear fruit - a fruit that is ripened under Mother Nature's own tutelage. Acceptance implies universal connectivity that showers us with peace, contentment and freedom.
The wonder of wonders is not that there is a "magical" decision guide inside of us that is ever accessible to lead us, but that most of us are looking for that guidance outside. We forget that outside is we, ourselves, inside out. The more we tune inwards the more outside tunes in to us. Then there is no choice, no decision and no decision-maker either. Only the maker!
Don't just accept or reject my word - at least not yet. Try and see for yourself whether it works or not. If it doesn't, feel free to reject it. Good luck!
Perhaps a more appropriate motto for our lives is not "Doing our Best" but "Doing our Bit". Its in doing our bit that Mother Nature finds an opening to "Do its Best"!