It All Comes Down to Choice

In America, we are trained from a very early age to consider choice as a marker of freedom. The more choices we have, the assumption goes, the more free and happy we will become. But the reality is that we are inundated with choices, large and small, from the minute we wake up (e.g., what to have for breakfast, what combinations of clothes to wear), to the way we spend our days (what people to associate with, what jobs to work, what music/media/shows/books to take in, what products to buy, what foods to put into our bodies and on and on). Indeed, we are conditioned to constantly express preferences and pick options, so that, over time, our so-called “choices” come to shape our very identities (e.g., I’m a Yankees fan, a Coke person, a Nike lover, a Tik-Toc devotee).

Most of our choices, it turns out, are between things that aren’t very different from one another, and that don’t particularly matter in the grand scheme of things.

Upshot: By allowing our egos and societal norms to drive and dictate our choices—our life path— we become strangers to ourselves, stuck in a story that we are not enough… never enough! Is it really any wonder that so many of us have become separated from ourselves, from each other, and from Earth, our home.  

Are You Living Your Life?

At the beginning of Awaken 101 we posed the question: “Are you living your life or are you being lived?” To be lived implies conforming to the status-quo by going along with the crowd. By contrast, to live your life means to be fully alive and grounded in the present moment, day-by-day.

Living your life is not as easy as it may appear. For example, in my early thirties, while grappling with the existential question, "Who am I?" I was shocked to realize that, instead of being the author of my life, I was, for the most part, mindlessly enacting culturally-inscribed patterns—e.g., thought patterns, behavioral patterns, consumption patterns, judgment patterns and on and on—leading me conclude that who I was, was, in fact, a pattern!

Though our patterns may help us to keep our lives predictable and, relatively, stress-free, succumbing to a patterned existence has the potential to rob us of our aliveness, and with this, our life’s true meaning and purpose.

Exercising Choice in Your Life

If it is your intention to wake up, a good way to begin is to create a list of the things that you do each day on auto-pilot. For example, you could start with your eating habits. This could include: i-the range of different foods in your diet; ii-the physical spaces where you tend to eat; iii-the types and amounts of liquids that you consume; iv-the role that you play in preparing your meals; v-the awareness that you bring to the act of eating (e.g., the attention that you give—or don’t give—to chewing, savoring, smelling and swallowing); vi-the things that often divert your attention while eating (e.g., texting, reading, watching TV, and so on). Once you have compiled a list of your eating habits, pick one habit that you would like to change. For example, if you frequently have your phone out during meals, you could choose to put it away, with the intention of placing your undivided attention on the delights of eating.This practice of identifying and then flipping patterned behaviors can lead to awakenings in all aspects of our lives. For example, you could:

-Try saying “Hi” and smiling when you pass strangers on the street, if you are in the habit of looking away.

-Explore being a listener in conversations, if you are usually the talker.

-Try stargazing, if you are in the habit of gazing at your TV at night.

-Explore what it’s like to bike around town, if you are in the habit of driving everywhere.

By choosing to break free of our life-sapping routines, we awaken, ever-more fully, to our precious lives.

Attuning to the Voice Within

As human beings, we each have—deep within us—a hidden reservoir of wisdom that manifests as our inner voice. Learning to attune to this embodied intelligence acts as a catalyst for our awakening. But this isn’t easy, especially insofar as many of us are barely aware of this Inner Voice. This is tragic, because it is only by discovering and connecting to this voice that we marshal the courage to embark on the journey to become our most genuine and awakened selves.

But what do we have to do to attune to this soulful source of wisdom? It turns out that this is the question that Melissa and I have been exploring with you in each of the thirty-one steppingstones that comprised the five parts of Awaken 101. Here is a recap.

Part I: Waking Up: We began Part I by positing that many (most?) of us are sleepwalking through our lives—i.e., we are not so much living as being lived. We then proposed that waking up is our main job in life; it is our shared calling; it is why we are here!  

Part II: Breakdown: Stepping into the Unknown: Though our culture teaches us to view Breakdown as something to be avoided, at all costs, in Part II we revealed that it is Breakdown that often sets the stage for our awakening by reminding us that we each have a seed—a gift, a calling—at the core of our being that has the power to ignite our awakening, once we choose to notice and cultivate it.

Part III: A Curriculum for Waking Up: As we endeavored to convey in Part III, awakening doesn’t just happen. Instead, it is the result of a conscious choice to: i-transcend the mental strictures of dualism, ii-expand the limits of our imagination, iii-fully inhabit our innate wildness, iv-attune to our embodied intelligence, v-open to love, vi-befriend our shadow, and vii-dwell in the eternal present. That comes to seven choices, each, in their own way, serving as a catalyst for awakening.

Part IV: Awakening in Action: In Part IV, we focused on the question, "How do I want to live?" Here, again, the emphasis was on choice, insofar as it is our choices that determine our capacity for awakening, day-by-day.

Part V: Personal and Cultural Transformation: In this final part, we called on you to use your ever-expanding awareness to join with us and millions of others in choosing to create new stories—i.e., new ways of seeing and believing—that bring healing and wholeness to the world.

All of this becomes possible as we choose to cherish the soulful voice of deep knowing present within each of us, trusting this voice to guide us in birthing the more just, beautiful and awakened world that in our hearts we know is possible.

Don't Go Back to Sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

– Rumi

A Final Meditation for Staying Grounded in Uncertain Times

Before we leave you, we’d like to offer a meditation by Elizabeth Lesser, from her 2020 book, Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. We’ve altered a word or two to make it more inclusive, but on the whole, the meditation remains intact. In our experience, this meditation provides access to our own internal voice, helping us to stay open, compassionate and loving, while remaining grounded, strong and noble.

You can listen to Melissa read Lesser’s meditation here:

Grounded and loving in this way—doing no harm and taking no shit, as Elizabeth Lesser puts it—you can remain connected to your center, to your own internal voice, mindfully choosing to move through the world as a more enlivened and awakened soul.

It would be very good if we would wake up before we die.  

– Old Hindu saying

"By consciously making my own choices I am placing power back into my own hands."

- Katie Fields, Steppingstone #31 Guide

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