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Choice – A Beautiful Gift

We live in a world where in every arena of life, we have numerous choices. A simple visit to the grocery store for something as basic as a toothbrush, a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes, the shelves are stocked with hundreds of brands, versions and varieties, challenging our decision-making acumen. At every step, we make decisions favoring one thing over another: Colgate over Crest, Adidas over Nike, iphone over Android etc. Some of those decisions or choices are based on our evaluation of many criteria to return maximum benefit or value we expect to derive from the chosen item.

On a more profound level, the choices we make define our life and set the foundation for our future. Choosing a career or vocation, a life partner, the right kind of company or friends, have much deeper impact on our life. But the same principle applies. What choices I make will not only set the right path or direction in my life, but will also propel me towards what my objective is, and make my life worth living.

Saints tell us that at our level, we have what could be defined as limited free will, a “conditioned” ability to make choices. How we make use of that limited ability to choose is up to us. Although the words “limited” or “conditioned” sound restrictive, any ability to be able to choose can open the doorway to liberation for us.

First of all, it is only given to man to change himself. A dog is born as a dog and dies as a dog. So is the case with all other life forms. Only humans have been given the privilege of becoming more than what he is born as and transform into the divine and take control, not only of his life but also of death. It is all incumbent on how well we make the choices that can lead us to realize that divinity, if that’s our objective.

Secondly, even if we end up making the wrong choices, life presents us the opportunity to learn from them. We have the ability to dust ourselves off and start afresh, rather than remaining trapped in the morass of self-pity and guilt. Opportunity to make a choice.

Many times, even after decades of following a spiritual path, we often think that we don’t feel any different than we did before. Is all this even helping me? Why don’t I feel any different? These moments of introspection can be extremely valuable. Everything in life is a reflection of choices we have made thus far. If we want different results, we must make different choices. Regrettably, we often put the blame on something external: stressful job, hateful boss, uncooperative partner, difficult relationship, worsening economy, etc, or collectively, our circumstances. The first step to come out of this self-dug hole is to be willing to accept the responsibility for all our actions. This acknowledgement is an important step in setting the tone right. And then we need to make every single decision; take every single step that leads us towards the transformation we seek. As satsangis, we long for that moment when we will experience and be united with the inner master, Shabd. We dream about self-realization, about moksha (or salvation). And every morning, life presents us with two choices: continue to sleep with our dreams, or wake up and make them a reality. It’s an opportunity to make a choice.

Whenever we make a choice, it is always in the present moment (even if it is about something in the future). In other words, it helps us to become more aware, more conscious of the present moment. As an example, when someone says or does something that doesn’t sit well with us (perhaps due to our conditioning), being able to choose to not react brings our mind into conscious awareness instantly. The more we choose actively (in this case, exercise the choice of not reacting), the more conscious we become of the present moment. More awareness of the present moment in turn enables us to make correct choices. It’s like working out: as we start lifting weights, our muscles become stronger, and stronger muscles in turn enable us to lift more weight. This improved quality of mind of being aware has the potential to pervade all facets of our life.

It is often said that Happiness is not a goal to be achieved sometime in the future, but a choice to make, here and now.

One way to express gratitude for this gift, of this ability to choose is by making the best use of it. If we have the right attitude, the whole universe conspires to support us.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Every morn is the world made new,
Ye who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you,
A hope for me and a hope for you.
James Allen, As a man thinketh