I've been to re-reading what I wrote back in 1999. As I actually enjoy reading what I write ;-) , this has been an interesting experience. I'm able to see the evolution of my thinking around the topics we cover here, as well as seeing, ever again, our underlying theme. That theme can best be described as our penchant for self-responsibility.
Having looked back, I impress myself with my consistency of thinking on this topic. I recognize how easy it is to "get" the words that I write. I understand the innate wisdom of Into the Centre readers. But, for me, at the end of the day, it's not the getting of the information that causes us to move through those things that block us. The power of choice is totally contained, I would argue, in our willingness to actually live out what we understand.
I picked up my well-worn copy of Gary Zukav's The Seat of the Soul the other day, and tripped over the following:
"When you enter these dynamics consciously, you create for yourself the ability to choose consciously among the forces within you, to choose where and how you will focus your energy.
The choice not to choose is the choice to remain unconscious and, therefore, to wield power irresponsibly... Each decision requires that you choose which parts of yourself that you want to cultivate, and which parts you want to release." pg. 138
Notice how, "choicy" the language is here. Notice how little attention is given to figuring out "why we are the way we are," which, for me, is code language for escaping responsibility through blaming outside forces. This means that the idea that "this is just the way I am" holds true. The idea that "this is the way I am, and therefore I can't act differently, and you'll just have to put up with me" is irresponsible and also a load of crap.
Again and again, I return to that one line in Debashis' article from two weeks ago - "Do your work." The work of enlightenment has been put this way - there are no enlightened people, just enlightened actions. (After the Ecstasy, The Laundry) Enlightened is another way of saying "conscious enacting."
I'm aware of my deep interest in this topic, and more so of my choosing to walk this path for a couple of decades now.
So, what might this look like? Well, we begin with a sense of the many and varied parts of us that float around in our heads, speaking in voices many and varied. (Check out our booklet, The Watcher, available as a free download on our site.) Each voice is clamouring for something. Perhaps there is a voice seeking peace and contentment, and another voice that wants to be the centre of attention. As we step back a little, we see that these goals are mutually exclusive.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does a "rap" on the Pharisees. He discusses three aspects of Jewish worship - prayer, fasting and alms-giving (charity) (see Matthew 6:1-18). In each case, the Pharisees are accused of doing their thing for attention. They bring a crowd to see them give alms. They cover themselves in ashes when they fast. They pray aloud on street corners. In each case, the act is done for the benefit of the crowd and for the attention they receive. "Whoa, does he ever pray loud! He must be holy!" Jesus concluded, "they have received their reward." The reward was the adulation of the crowd.
Now, of course, the actual purpose of prayer, fasting and alms-giving is the deepening one's relationship with God, thus finding more depth of soul. Jesus indicated that only those willing to act "in secret" achieved these results. My favourite line comes in the "alms-giving section" - the left hand does not know what the right hand does.
This is how enlightened choice works. Whatever you seek you become. It is not enough to declare that you are wise. Wisdom is wisdom enacted. Or, it is impossible to be centred in yourself while at the same time defining yourself based upon the opinions of others. You can't work your butt into the ground at work and still have time for a rich family life. You can't be self-responsible while blaming your genetics or upbringing for your problems. You have to choose.
Which is not to say that the things about me that I choose to enact are the only parts of me yelling for attention. Often, the parts I choose to let go of are the loudest voices. A temptation, for me, can best be described as an internal voice that wants me to step off of my path. I choose, again and again, to refuse to enact what such voices suggest. Or, as I slip, to catch myself - to pull myself back to an enlightened choice.
Our goal, with Into the Centre, is to keep reminding you to pay attention to each choice that you make. Will I head in a direction I choose if I simply react to whatever is going on in my head? Or can I acknowledge the chatter, and let go of the voices that lead precisely nowhere? For, example, if I know a certain behaviour will be a source of contention for my partner, can I get over expecting her to do the "sorting out" ("she should get over reacting to my being an ignorant moron,") and choose to, instead, act responsibly? Can I let go of my need to judge, even in the midst of judgement?
I suspect each of us has the capacity to do precisely that, again and again. The self-responsible, disciplined choice is neither easy, nor popular, but it does actually lead somewhere I choose to go. I'm glad that so many of you, week after week, choose a similar path.