The choices we make define the quality of the life we live. These choices often defy what we know to be our own, innate wisdom. While we tend to attribute many of our trials and tribulations to things ‘beyond our control’, there is also, always a significant aspect of our own experience that is the direct and unequivocal result of our own choices.
Good choices. Bad choices. Choices of inaction. Choices made out of frustration. Unconscious choices that stem from our muscle memory of untapped, unexplored and misunderstood feelings and memories.
In the Ayruvedic tradition, these types of negative choices are known as “crimes against wisdom”, and are thought to be the source of many other imbalances we experience in our life.
In defaulting either to conscious, or unconscious options that are ultimately damaging to ourselves (booze, sex, bad relationships, passive aggressive behavior, etc), we are undermining our own happiness.
We know what feels good. We know what doesn’t. And yet, somehow we find ourselves unable to stop committing these crimes against ourselves. Addictions are manifested in this dark purgatory of the soul, and we find ourselves caught in a gerbil wheel of poor choices and paralysis which prevents us from being our ‘best selves’.
The crimes against wisdom help us hide from what’s really holding us back. They are the dried leaves atop the bear trap of our internal, and yet-to-be-dealt-with dysfunction. We override our inner voice as it protests our misbehaving, we drown the slivers of light in ourselves that are struggling to assert themselves, and we often blatantly ignore our own survival instinct that is crying a muffled cry in the darkness of our souls.
To hide. To cloak ourselves in the trappings of comfort. To numb our pain. To avoid digging into our real issues. To make ourselves small enough for our troubles to lose interest and head elsewhere. To pretend our issues are not our own, if even for a little while.
And to make matters worse, these choices pile up and expand. Drinking to excess tonight tends to lead to over drinking tomorrow night. Time spent in an abusive relationship tends to lead to even more time stuck in that negativity. Avoiding the hard decisions tends to train our bodies to steer clear of situations that require decisiveness (even though these are the very situations that could help us grow the most).
We override our inner voice. The one begging us to choose the light, choose health, choose clarity, sobriety, love and respect. We succumb to our cravings, to our loneliness, and yes, to our fear. We allow ourselves whether passively or actively, to fall victim to our own bad choices and inability to own our responsibility to our own happiness and fulfillment.
What then is the antidote to a crime against wisdom?
When we are caught up in the swirl of poor choices and dark impulses, the only way to break that vicious cycle is to pause. Yes. Pause. Give yourself the grace of a breath, a minute to think, the stillness of inaction that can allow you to reconsider where you really are, and why you are making the choices you are making.
Teaching ourselves to pause, and to respond to our challenges, but not react to them, is a gift and a tool that can only improve our overall happiness and well-being.
And it does not come naturally.
Being still, and making choices based on thoughtful response is flexing a muscle of discipline and discernment that most let fall dormant. We’ve spent years cultivating our own personal dysfunction. Developing a habit of mindful consideration will take time.
Stillness and pausing force us to sit in the uncomfortable gray that we so seek to numb ourselves from. Mindfulness asks that we consider where we truly are, so that we can act according to what is most needed, rather than what is most expeditious or pleasing.
Making bad choices is a way of controlling things that feel out of control. Yes, it is a distorted way to deal, but it is also a way to cope. Unlearning dysfunctional coping, and replacing it with mindful stillness will take time. Lack of control and fear of uncertainty allow us to justify our bad choices, as they are more comforting than the unknown.
Rewiring our brains to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty will open the door to the rewards of mindful choice. Accepting where you are at in any given moment, observing without judgement, and considering how you can be kind to yourself at that point in time, will allow for the grace of positive and healthy choice to begin to enter your life.
Consider how your next move will impact you, and if there is a choice that would be kinder, gentler, more compassionate. Before you embark on that bender, sleep with that stranger, act out of fear or revenge at work, rail against the people you love…give yourself the gift of a pause.
Consider how a different choice could get you one step closer to the person you truly want to be; instead of reaffirming everything about you that you think is wrong.
Consider what it would feel like to make a healthy choice. What would it feel like to honor your body by making a healthy choice? What would it feel like to honor yourself with the gift of grace, of sobriety, of healthy relationships, of peace instead of anger?
Your soul is whispering to you each and every time you commit a crime against your own wisdom. Sometimes it has to shout to get your attention.
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