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We make choices every day. Some are automatic, ingrained, easy. We shop at the same grocery store, buy the same roasted coffee, mindlessly wrap presents for our children’s teachers every year because that’s expected, the right thing to do.
Other choices require thought, fortitude, conviction. These choices determine where we go to school, our professions, and how we choose our relationships. Yes, we choose our relationships in all their glory and gunk. The magic is in allowing our choices to be active as opposed to passive or story-based, and that requires significant self-awareness.
Learning to tap into our inner dialogue and achieving self-awareness is the first step in shifting our orientation. We have to consciously notice when we are triggered, become our own observer, and study that soft spot. We can choose to react of course. We all have people who know exactly what buttons to push. When they do and we suddenly want to scream, cry, or throw things, we should take a moment, pause, and ask ourselves what they have triggered in us. We must choose to take notice and study ourselves. We have to learn to move from the vulnerable place of feeling the feeling and its external emotional response to the place of noticing it. What is this right here? Yes, I see you. You smell like fear, abandonment issues, unworthiness. Hi, friend.
My executive coach once told me the story of Siddhartha Gautama, who became Buddha, and the demon, Mara. Mara continually tried to pull Siddhartha from his path to enlightenment by acting as his serpent of sorts. Again and again he offered him distractions—lust, greed, anger, and doubt. Siddhartha remained firm and became enlightened. Mara persisted, but instead of driving him away or ignoring him, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge him. “I see you, Mara.” He then invited him for tea as an honored guest and offered him comfort and hospitality.
Invite your fear and pain for tea. Learn to see them. Granted, at times, it’s hard to figure out how you feel about something, just that it’s off, uncomfortable. You go into a static mind-set or what feels more like mind-rest and allow things to swirl and happen around you without moving to active orientation. You process and feel things you can’t quite name. You begin making passive choices with your inaction.
Lean into those moments. Notice the inaction, the passive stance. Start by recognizing there is a feeling swirling around your subconscious and ask yourself what it’s there to teach you. As you become consciously aware of your own hesitance, pain, fear, and inner workings, smile at it and say, “I see you, Mara. Come have tea.” After dining with your demon, you will find a more direct path to action. The act of noticing and accepting creates a path toward active-choice orientation.
Do the Work
Spend a few minutes considering the decisions you wish you would’ve made differently.
How did choice play into your decision-making? Were you active or passive?
Think of the best decisions you’ve made.
How were they different? What choices are you currently considering?
Spend a few minutes trying to find your Mara, your fear around important decisions.
What feelings are attached to the decision?
How can you make a move from passive to active?
What information would you need to take that leap?