It is said that life is full of choices. It presents us with a myriad of options that are always open to us at any point in time. We just have to choose one. And once we make a choice, new opportunities immediately open themselves awaiting our next decision. We are given the freedom to choose a path, a direction, but in so doing, we must also accept responsibility for the consequences of that choice. And so it can be said that life is both endless opportunity, and yet carries the weight of full responsibility.
But can we say that every choice, every decision we make, is also made in full consciousness of the consequences? Of course not! It is probably more accurate to say that for most of us, we subconsciously react to life, rather than make fully conscious decisions every time we make a choice. We are driven to act in certain ways that are influenced, if not dictated by our personality, our character, which is full of likes and dislikes, attitudes, convictions, principles, morals, etc. All of these are intimately interwoven into our character. They impact on, and mould our behaviours. Our behaviours influence our choices, and our choices reflect our behaviours.
So, if we accept this scenario, then we should also acknowledge that for most of us the idea of free choice, that is, choices made consciously in full objectivity, are not necessarily exercised by us. It might be more accurate to say that such choices are probably a rarity in our lives. Now if this is the case, and our personality with all its nuances, is practically incapable of exercising free choice, then are we not victims of ourselves? Are we not trapped in an endless wheel of choices that are just reflexes of inground behaviours, none of which are made in true freedom? Yes! But does this ‘yes’ need to be a depressing finality with no solution, no way to escape the cycle?
Thankfully not, because there is a ‘spiritual’ solution, but one that is also founded on choice. To understand this statement, we need to better understand our situation, why we are the way we are. Our personality is built of many factors, all of which exert their influences on us through our thinking and feeling, and thus our actions in life. We know this intimately.
We have all experienced those moments when heightened emotions for instance, make us react, make us behave in ways that we normally would avoid. Think of anger for instance. We also share those experiences when our convictions for example, can make us obstinate, inflexible, and thus our actions are driven by our convictions of right and wrong, and objectivity is sadly absent. We can in fact, give examples to almost every life situation when we are confronted by the need to choose, yet these choices are deeply tainted by the nuances of our personality, and therefore highly influenced by our inner state of being, and not born from an objective freedom.
What should be remembered here though, is that no matter what internal or external conditions influence our choices, the responsibility for our deeds remains. Hence, we begin to enter the realms of human ‘spirituality’, as these consequences are linked to karma, and karma is the great teacher of humanity. And what lessons does karma teach us? The lesson of cause and effect! The lesson of ultimate responsibility!
What you sow, so shall you reap!
And how do these lessons manifest within us? Once our life experiences have run their course, for good or ill, we are left with our own reflections and insights into those situations. And this insight is a growing awareness into ourselves, into the very depths of who we are, into the very nature and activity of our being. Through the ramifications of our decisions, we gain insights into the consequences of our actions, into the value and inner state of the situations we have created through our choices.
And what happens then? Our insights begin to influence our choices. The endless cycle mentioned above is now touched by a new influence, the influence of self-awareness as a result of insight. Our choices begin to move away from the automatic impulses of the sub-conscious, to ones made more consciously in objective self-awareness.
So, in this scenario, the individual, through their life experiences, gains an inner, personal insight that begins to influence his choices. Instead of allowing oneself to automatically react to life without a second thought so to speak, rather, one begins to observe, question, and reflect on one’s choices and their consequences, thus giving a new impetus, a new influence, a new direction to all future choices made.
It is not enough for us to be told:
If you make this choice, then this will be the consequence.
No! We must grow into consciousness, into self-awareness, as only this can guide us so that through our newly won insights, we come to better understand the nature of consequence, and thus the quality of our choices. And through this process we also become free from ourselves, free from the past, free from the sub-conscious, free from all of the impulses active within us that have previously moulded the choices we have made.
These choices are then exercised within a greater degree of freedom; a freedom gained through a newly growing awareness and acceptance of responsibility and purpose. Thus, we place our feet upon a ‘spiritual’ path; a path hewn out of the bed-rock of life experiences, and paved by choices shaped by hard won insights. Through this process of a newly found freedom and autonomy, we are not just walking a new path, but we are growing into this path, into a new state of being.