Choice. It is a powerful word, one that places its commander at the helm of the ship. We often hear people say: “I do not have a choice.” “I have to do this.” “I have to do that.” These statements are dangerous because they plant the seeds for so much stress in our world.
I already can hear how you are responding: “But I have to do certain things. I have to work, and there is no way around it.” But, is that really true?
Read carefully: You do not have to do anything that you do not want to do.
Now, I am not saying that there will be no repercussions from your choices. I am saying that you have a choice. Always.
Maybe it is mainstream media’s flawless images of happy millennials meditating on cliffs or commercialism’s bastardization of yoga, but there are false notions out there about the path to less stress.
These notions include: You must be at peace with everything going on in the world – at all times. You will never get stressed out – ever. You can abandon all effort and autonomy and “just let the universe decide” – in all situations.
Triple wrong. The path of living with less stress requires three actions that are more authentic, realistic and empowering:
- Create awareness of how you feel in every moment.
- Based on what you observe, choose the right action for you at that moment.
- Do not judge others’ right actions in their moments.
Becoming aware of your present does not mean that you like, enjoy or appreciate what is happening in front of you. It means that you are seeing the moment for what it is and are noticing what is happening in and around you at the same time.
When we root ourselves in the present moment, we root ourselves in reality. We see the situation for what it is, now. Not for what it was last time and not for how we think it will be this time.
One of my teachers always says, “Drop your expectations to the floor.” She is demanding that we walk into each moment with a fresh view. How can you be present if you are carrying pain from the past or assumptions about the future?
Are you upset? Feel it in the moment. Figure out what is wrong. Are you unhappy with your job? Are current world affairs triggering fear in you? Feel it. Become aware of your emotions.
- Sit on a cushion or chair or lie down. Find the position that is right for you.
- Close your eyes and sense your physical body.
- Without controlling your breath, simply find the breath that is right for you. No need to do anything yogic or even to try to meditate here. Just find the breath that is right for you in this moment. You cannot mess this up because, well, it is the breath that is right for you.
- You will know that you have found the breath that is right for you when you begin to experience more ease in your mind and body.
- Stay here for as long or as short as you would like. Find the duration that is right for you.
- Take this practice with you throughout your day. With every new moment and every new feeling, find the breath and the relationship with the present that is right for you.
Once you are aware of the reality of the moment and how you feel toward it, then choose how you want to respond to it. If you do not like what is happening, then take action to shift your experience. Choose to be the master of your own reality.
Previously we defined the cause of stress as resistance to what is and the solution to stress as acceptance of what is. This implies choice. Deciding what is right for each of us, in each moment, is how the path of less stress challenges us to continuously choose.
What is right for you and what is right for me will always be different. Even though we are from the same source, we all have a different experience and understanding of our realities. We all have a different path and a different purpose to fulfill.
Part of choice is struggling to find out what our unique path is. For some of us, the right path is the corporate life. For others, it is the nonprofit world. For us here at The Big Yogi, it is wellness.
Whatever your calling is and whatever you are called to do in every moment to realize it, choice requires that you – not anyone else – decide for yourself.
Here are four choices that you can make in any situation to determine your relationship to it and, as a result, its ability to cause you stress.
Wholeheartedly embrace what is happening around you. If leaving your job or making another major change in your life is not an option at this moment, then acceptance is your savior. This does not mean that you have to like it! But it does mean that you accept it and stop fighting yourself and your choices. Even 1 percent of resistance is too much
- Accept and change:
Wholeheartedly embrace what is happening around you and then take steps to change your experience. Maybe you cannot leave your job, so accept that. But maybe you can change departments, can move closer to work to reduce your commute, or can take steps toward your exit.
Flee! Quit! Run! Choose to remove yourself from the situation. Again, I am not saying that there will not be consequences and that you will be able to pay your rent if you choose not to work. But I am saying that you have a choice. You always have a choice.
This final option is the one that we least recommend at TBY. It is your path to creating more stress, to worsening your experience, and probably to making others around you less happy too. But, hey, if you choose to resist, do it with all of your heart. Make sure even to complain and to gossip for good measure. Just be aware that you are choosing it.
Choosing what is right for you in every novel moment carves your path to freedom.
Choosing what is right for you also is the basis for nonjudgment of others’ choices. Choice invites us to accept rather than to resist others’ choices of what is right for them in their present moments.
This can get even more challenging as one begins to wake up and to see the world from a more aware and intentional place. It can be hard to watch others struggle and strive for things when they have not yet discovered what it means to be aware of the present and to choose what is right for them from this awareness.
The more presence and intention that you develop, the more humility and compassion you must develop. Just because you can see where someone is stuck and what they could do differently does not mean that you are supposed to tell them. Awareness is not a weapon.
Accepting others’ choices clears your path to less stress because it reduces the number of people you have to worry about to just one: you.
- Be humble with your developing depth of awareness and choice.
- Accept that – like you – everyone else is in their present moments, using the depth of awareness and choice currently available to them.
- Choose compassion in your interactions with your fellow students of life.
Becoming aware of reality, choosing what is right for you in each moment, and not judging others in the process take time. Most of us do not just wake up one day and say: “Yup, I have got it! I am aware in every moment, I am choosing every response with intention, and I am not judging anyone else ever.”
If it were so easy, there would be a lot more enlightened people running around and probably a lot less stress in the world. You will experience these states when you are ready – not a minute sooner.
Find the path that is right for you in every moment. Choose it every time. And do not judge others as they discover their paths.
As more of us start to wake up, yoga teachers, wellness coaches, and personal trainers will receive different work to do. There is no teacher without a student, so keep on figuring out the path that is right for you until there is nothing left to figure out. Strive until you thrive.
If you’re looking for a sign, this is it! Go on a Yoga and Meditation retreat and discover the power of choice!