Getting Conscious about Who We Are
Of all the things humans can do, the ability to choose is possibly our only superpower. I’m not talking about which of fifty brands of dish soap to select, or what school to send the kids to. I mean something that is more enclosed, like how we experience our lives, and how we interpret what happens to us.
It can be the outer world landing on our inner state, such as an argument with a loved one, or an interior drama like getting caught in traffic when we’re already late. However it shows up, our point of view arises from a decision to like or dislike, accept or reject, approve or condemn.
How we react or respond is a choice which belongs to us and us alone.
We exercise that ability all the time, mostly without noticing. A lot goes on, we’re busy, on auto-pilot. And set in our ways. We like some things, don’t like others, and each reaffirmation adds more evidence to the sense of self we have fashioned. But to the extent our choices affect our well being, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s really going on.
We need to get some self awareness going, to track our experience.
It’s been said that each moment is fresh and new, but that is only so if we meet it that way, which rarely happens. The reality is usually more complicated. According to the teachings on karma, each moment in our lives is the fruition of numberless causes and conditions. Some of this we know about, but most of what happens is untraceable. We would need to be omniscient to comprehend it all.
Moreover, each moment is not just the effect of karma, it is also karma producing.Every instant contains both cause and effect, waiting for our experience, and our reaction.
Cause is where the decision maker can direct some traffic, to stop creating difficult karma, and intentionally create good karma, or perhaps best of all, create no karma whatsoever.
Here are some rules that can help:
1.When something upsets us, hit the pause button. Stop right there. Resist the temptation to go straight to judgment, or some other form of reactivity. Just rest in the gap. This disconnects the linkages required for karma to be created.
2.Then review what happened. Was anyone hurt? How? How much? Has our sovereignty been breached, and if so, are we feeling diminished? Have we been disrespected? Most of us take life and ourselves very personally. Is this one of those times?
3. If it is, perhaps we could choose the view that this person or situation has no power to affect our value. If we took the need for self-validation out of the equation, what would remain? Defending ourselves in a way that strengthens the ego is exactly how we keep the pain of the ego going. And if we have hurt someone else, do we need to repair? Do we need compassion for the entire situation? If we could interrupt that long-running script for at least for a moment, we can feel what it’s like to be deactivated.
It takes intention and commitment to monitor ourselves in this way. We are not always going to make good decisions, and more often than not, we may not realize our decision until after we have already made it and acted on it. But we do get do-overs. We can’t go back in time, but we can see what has happened and go easy on ourselves, and make a commitment not to do that again. That counts too. And then, we do it all over again, each time getting better with our choices.