“If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
The worse situation to find yourself in is when something is happening that you don’t like, yet you don’t do anything to change the situation – you lament about it and suffer, but you make no move towards a resolution. It could be a relationship issue – a difficulty with your spouse, parent, child, boss, employee, family or neighbour’s pet. It could be an internal condition – health, mood, wants and desires. It could be an issue with the environment you live or work in – weather, location, era, universe, etc.
No matter what the situation is – there is always a choice. And that choice must be made or else you stay stuck and oh well, it’s not fun neither for you nor for others involved… In a short or a long run this stuckness/unresolved state usually brings on a decease, since your body is wise and it’ll try to signal to you that things have to change with perhaps some pain, some fatigue, some emotions, and if you don’t get the “gentle” physiological signals – it will bring the heavy artillery and force your removal from the situation, usually by making you very sick, bed-ridden or in extreme cases even kill you.
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Choosing Difficulty Over Ease Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Idea
If one day you introspect your life till this day you may notice that it’s the difficulties that your life set in front of you that helped you grow and acquire character and strength. And you’d also realize that the good days – as wonderful as they were – they probably weren’t contributing that much to your growth. In the best case you were getting a well deserved rest, preparing for the next battle. In the worst case you were just getting lazy.
If you have observed this and believe that this is the way life gifts you your growth, then you have just acquired a new choice. If in the past the only choice you had to resolve a difficult situation was to get out of that situation, now you have a new choice – you choose to stay in the situation, accept it wholeheartedly as a challenge, thank all the participants for their kind offer at being not so kind to you, and grow and grow and grow, and build your character and strength and do so by choice. If at any point you feel that you need a break or it’s really not helping you to grow, you can always fall back on the only choice you had before – and that’s get out of the situation, get a break, rest, recover, and once ready again jump right back in.
If you don’t believe that difficulties are gifts, that’s perfectly fine, chances are that as soon as you run away from the current difficult situation life will present you with another challenge. Or perhaps life would leave you alone so that you could just hang out there… In any case the choice is totally yours.
How do you make a choice of whether to take the challenge or not? There are many approaches, and I’d say there are two main ways to tackle the task – by using either the intellect of your mind or the wisdom of your heart.
Using Your Mind To Make a Choice
While using your intellect is an obvious first thing that comes to mind, this is a difficult method because your mind will always have pros and cons about any situation. If they are close to 50/50 – you end up in an impasse. Then the mind fluctuates a lot, for example a choice that looks great in the deep darkness of the night, doesn’t look so great in the bright light of the following day. So it’s easy to go back on the made choice and change the decision, and back again. If the decision is not made at once, you start “spinning wheels/going in circles. This is very exhausting and as the time goes by it becomes impossible to make any choice whatsoever and you end up back at squire one, resulting in an indecision compounded by mental exhaustion.
If you tried for a while and still can’t make a choice – try the following trick. It’s a simple “tossing a coin” – the coin will use the universal wisdom to make the choice for you. In order to make this work you must:
- assign which choice stands for heads and which for tails before the coin gets tossed.
- toss the coin only once, regardless whether it landed where you expected it to land or in some other place.
If you entrusted the universe to make the choice for you in your best interests – leave no space for regrets – boldly and courageously implement the decision.
Even if in the short run the decision might appear wrong, in the long run chances are very high that it’ll be the right one.
Using Your Heart to Make a Choice
It’s so much easier to make choices using your heart. The heart cannot reason, argue or suggest pros and cons, it usually gives you an instant and clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer1. Your heart is the oracle of your soul and it has access to knowledge your mind doesn’t. You may have an amazingly smart mind, but it’s limited to the knowledge you acquired up till now, the heart on the other hand is connected to subtle eternal springs of wisdom that knows so much more – if only it could talk.
 Personal note: I think sometimes my heart stays quiet and gives no indication of preference, but perhaps I haven’t mastered the listening process yet and at times I can’t hear the subtle whisper of the heart.
Developing a communication channel with your heart could be challenging at the beginning, as typically nobody teaches us how to go about it, and there aren’t many people that we can model after. So you have no choice but to start building that channel yourself and then you can teach others to do the same.
In my personal experience after several cautious gingerly attempts at asking my heart to tell me what to do, I was so amazed at how simple the process was. I stumbled upon this method when I was collapsing under the weight of spinning wheels for many days about a difficult circumstance I was experiencing at that moment in my life. First I realized that I had to make a choice or else I was going to crumble to pieces, second I no longer could rely on my intellect to help me make the decision, as it just couldn’t deliver a satisfactory resolution many days into the process. My heart gave me a very obvious answer and the situation was resolved instantly.
It’s important to remember that sometimes the immediate outcome of the choice made by your heart may appear as a bad one, and even horrible and disastrous at times, but in my experience in the long run it proves to be the perfect choice, as often what seemed to be a very stupid decision at a time, in a long run created an opportunity for something wonderful to come forth.
Integration of Heart And Mind
I’m a very “brainy” person so while I found that I have been using my heart a lot to make choices, it’s very difficult not to engage my mind in this process. After some contemplation I realized that it’s not about choosing heart over mind, it is about integrating the two. The solution I came up is very simple – I let the heart make the decision and then I let my mind figure out the details of how to implement the decision. Now each “department” is “hired” to perform the tasks it excels at. Problem solved.
Where Does Intuition Fit In?
There is also the question of whether intuition/gut feeling is same as heart as far as decision making process goes. There is no agreement about it as often intuition is attributed to the navel brain (and that’s why it’s also called “gut feeling”).
I think intuition works the best when a small snap decision is called for, and there is no time for an heart introspection or mind argumentation. Say you face a cougar and you need to run for your life, intuition is the one to pull out here. Once you are safe, then you can use the heart and mind to figure out what to do about potential future encounters with cougars.
Including All Layers In Making a Choice
I learned the hard way that it’s not always enough to make a choice using my intellect. In one of the very difficult situations of my life I thought that I was staying in that situation by choice and my mind was totally behind it, and I was “growing my character” or going through “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” process. Except after a year or so into this journey one day my mental and physical body have collapsed – I was having a complete breakdown, even though my mind was still on the barricades – since I wanted to stay alive I had no choice but to move out of the situation. Several years have passed since then and I still haven’t fully recovered.
The learning here was that perhaps my emotional and physical bodies weren’t as strong as my mental body, though most likely my body was screaming ‘no’ all along but since the choice was made intellectually I did not pay heed to my body’s voice.
The Cleanup Stage: Cutting Ties and Forgiveness
If you decide to resolve the difficulty by removing yourself from it, it’s very important to go through the tie-cutting process, especially so if the difficulty has been going on for an extended period of time. Your mind creates invisible but strong energetical ties with the persons or circumstances involved and those ties would continue to drain your energy and wellbeing long after the nightmare has been forgotten.
Typically you’d cut ties by first visualizing vines extending from you to the other person or event and you then visualize a sharp knife and use it to severe those connections. It could take some work especially if you are not a visual person. If you’re auditory try to imagine you hearing the vines popping as they are being cut – like the strings on a guitar. If you’re primarily kinesthetic try to feel the ties being pulled out from their portals in your body.
And finally it’s absolutely crucial to forgive yourself and the others about any hurting that happened. You must do you it for yourself and for the others separately. You may have to work at it for a while. Only when you can think of the events that made the life difficult for you and no negative emotion comes up then you know the situation has been resolved. When you forgive others you can do it in person or not, whatever works the best in the given situation. I usually use the litmus test of a smile, if I can visualize myself and the others involved in the trying circumstances smiling then I know that it’s been fully resolved.
Here is a brief summary on how to go about making a choice to no longer suffer in any difficult situation:
- Make a choice about any situation that calls for that as soon as possible.
- Ideally use your heart for making a choice, and have your mind support and implement it.
- Try to make sure that your physical and emotional bodies are in agreement and alignment with your mental body.
- If a snap decision is required, try to tap into your intuition.
- Once a decision has been made – make sure to perform a clean up process, which involves forgiveness for all involved, and especially yourself, and cutting ties if needed.
Here are a few ideas that are of a more philosophical nature and you can skip them for now until you master the art of choice making and are wanting a more refined challenge.
There is one more advanced choice to deal with any situation – good, bad or in-between. And it’s the approach of simple awareness. This choice requires no decision making at all and asks the participant to simply observe the situation as it is without passing any judgements or needing to do something about it, as if you were sitting in a theatre and observing your life unfolding on the stage.
So if you are experiencing indecision and are collapsing under the weight of incessant “spinning of the wheels”, you could invoke the awareness and enjoy yourself watching yourself being indecisive. If you are making a choice to be a warrior and grow, you’d still observe that and you’d enjoy that too. And if you are making a heart enquiry, just the same you can watch in amazement how the spectacle of life is unfolding in front of you.
This is an advanced practice, but anyone can do it, even if you succeed to do it only for a few moments at a time. Give it a try, at the very least you’d have a free chuckle about yourself.
Another interesting idea to contemplate is a concept of parallel universes. One belief system suggests that every time anybody makes a choice about anything – a new universe is created in which everything is the same as the current universe except that other choice is made there. Given that there are myriads of beings on this planet, and each makes one or more choices daily, can you imagine how many universes are out there.
But the interesting part is not the number of universes, but that no matter what choice is made in the original universe, the other choice is made too. In which case does it really matter which choice you make?