Learning to Choose

Aug 05, 2020
Learning to Choose


The wise G.I. Gurdjieff said, “man cannot choose.”

The reality of this statement could not be more true, but it is up to all of us to understand why it is true.

This absolutely drove me crazy when I first encountered these words. I felt like I did have choices and often attributed adverse consequences to making the wrong choice. Only until I recognized that I had no ability to choose did things begin to change for me. 

I saw how my actions were habitually tainted with completing a picture of myself and when that did not happen, my reactions soared. Situations and scenarios were not matching up to how I saw myself. 

I was asleep to this and thoroughly believed my reactions and fear were justified.

I had to see the disjunct over and over again to get it. The false picture of myself to which I so desperately clung did not allow me to accept things about myself or others. It influenced everything I did, but I couldn’t know that until I saw that the image and the belief of who I was not me but an identified attached state.

This recognition required several things to be in place.

My attention had to be developed. The power to notice comes from a place of stillness and I had done a tremendous amount of meditation in a Zen school for six years. I had not been taught that attachment equals the inability to choose, but by direct experience of meditating over and over with the goal of detaching from thought, it was clear I couldn’t choose. The goal itself became the problem. My notion of me was simply that I always achieve my goals. The reality was that I could not achieve this goal, but it placed me in greater and greater stillness as I went along.

Secondly, I needed to understand how to be curious and question what was actually going on within me. What got me worked up and in full reaction? 

I learned quickly that there was a huge discrepancy between who I thought I was and what I was actually doing. The reactions were signs of frustration that these two pictures were not matching up. One part of me did not want to see the other part. I needed to learn to watch and question my experience. Some part of me outside of these many facets had to be developed to be able to observe them without being swept away into the immediacy of the situation.

I took everything personally. It was all about me and I could not understand the experience of someone else. Thus, other people’s words and actions held great power over me.

What they did defined me.

Thirdly, I had to learn to feel instead of filter or fix. All of us learn along the way that it is distasteful or unevolved to have anger, jealousy, or insecurity, for example, so we learn to overcompensate with brute strength or on the flip side utter victimhood. Some of us like me had it all. Instead of overriding my feelings, I had to learn to stay the course in order to observe them. In this way, I had to accept that I have those feelings which my ego did not want to believe. My ability to muscle through anything was the way to cover up severe abandonment and its resulting insecurity. The search for love and attention was great. 

To truly immerse in the feelings of fear felt like it would crush my very existence.

In comes the justification for doing this or that…the biggest sign of attachment. To continue to justify my fear and all the resultant inaction was to continue to be a victim instead of learning to choose. If I continued to identify as a victim, then I have no choice.

But you can’t just tell someone to accept what is.

I built a whole persona around not accepting and covering up the real me. The real me could not afford to be weak, scared or insecure. It took recognizing this deep vulnerability to begin to accept.

I began to choose once I had built the strength to accept and that came from stillness, catching myself in the act over and over again, and accepting that I was actually feeling the things I was feeling. My Essence was built up through these practices.

Every time I saw myself as I was, something was accepted. I accepted what I was actually feeling. I learned to abide in that feeling and gained authenticity.




And then…



If you would like to know more about the principles of stillness, self-observation, self-acceptance and living by choice, consider taking the Practical Awareness Live 8 week Course which runs Fall and Spring. 


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