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Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Challenge of Choice

I wrote this a few years ago. It seemed appropriate to print it again today.


It is not just at New Year that we can wipe the slate of the old year clean and chose to start again. Although we can chose to make this the start point for our new choices or the time to jettison some old ones, we know that there is nothing intrinsically magical about the New Year Bells. The world does not come to an abrupt halt at midnight of the outgoing year and the laws of time are not suspended to allow us to erase the past in order to give us a clean sheet for the future. We can do this at any time. It is our choice.



We are gifted with creative imagination and with this we can chose in each and any moment to put time on pause, to visualise a glistening blank canvas waiting for us to paint whatever we wish upon it. We can chose to create our lives anew in every moment of each new day and choice is the key to transformational change.

The complexity of who we are is in part a product of our past experience but we are not our past experiences. Failure yesterday does not mean failure today just as it does not mean that I am a failure, just that in one discrete part of my life I did not achieve what I set out to do. Should yesterday have been shrouded in sorrow for me for whatever reason it does not mean that I cannot chose happiness for myself today. Every thought that we have, every choice we make, every experience we process, creates a new version of who we are.

Sometimes we freeze frame our perception of ourselves so that we chose to remain a picture of our past selves but even then the reality is that we have changed - we are now someone else holding on to a snapshot in time of who we were yesterday.

We chose to hold ourselves back in the past. We “wallow in misery” ; “we are lost in grief”; “we slide into depression”. Yes, it is hard to make alternative choices in the face of real emotional and physical challenge but that is what makes the human spirit such an enigma - we always have choice unless we have certain psychiatric conditions.

Sometimes it is not us who freeze frame ourselves but our closest loved ones and those whose opinion of us touches us most. They hold our image in the past and refuse to accept the evidence of all their senses, that we are not today who we were yesterday. Once again it is our choice whether to permit the reflection we see in their eyes to be who we perceive ourselves to be, to hold ourselves back, to be less than we know ourselves to be. We always have choice. We can be who we have become or we can subjugate our true expression to the transient needs of others.

This is especially the case for those who begin to tentatively step out of the chrysalis of change, shrugging off our old caterpillar shape to spread our wings as a butterfly. We still long for the security of the cabbage patch but there is no nectar of creativity to be found there to feed our dreams. We need to move on or something very precious will die within us. Sometimes our loved ones seek to hold us back out of fear of being left behind, or out of jealousy of our transformation and sometimes they do not see our newly developed wings and fear that being incapable of flight we will hurt ourselves. What we do with their perception of us is once again our choice. We can gently help them to shift their perspective to see who we truly are or we can conform to their old image of who we once were. There is always choice and with choice comes consequence. We can be who we are or we can be less.

When we wake up in the morning, we can curse the darkness or we can switch on a light. We can be bad tempered or we can smile. We can dwell on all that is wrong in the world or we can bless each and every gift we have been given, every wonderful person in our lives; we can rejoice that we have been given another day to paint glorious pictures on that blank canvas.

Even in the midst of grief, we have choices. We can bury ourselves with our dead or we can live our lives gloriously, fully, vibrantly in honour of the love that we have for them. I see so many people who channel their pain
into creating something that makes the world a better place, not to take the pain away but to transmute it into a gift of loving service. Several years ago, a young girl was horrifically murdered in my home town. Her parents were
devastated but they chose to honour her memory by setting up an organisation to help parents through the same situation.

Several years ago an 18 year old boy from my son’s school was studying in Israel during the gap year before taking up a place at medical school in London. Joni was killed in a suicide bombing and in the midst of their anger and grief his parents made a magnificent choice. They honoured Joni’s life by allowing his death to save the life of a young Palestinian girl who needed a kidney transplant. They also went on to create a prize in his memory for community service here in Scotland where he grew up. Choice is sometimes all that we have to bring light into the darkest places of our lives.

So my friends, what choices will you make today?

Will you let light and love into your lives?

Will you put aside the past and allow the richness of the
present?

Will you chose to smile at a stranger?

Will you chose to be the being of light you truly are?

Will you chose to exercise the gift of choice today?


“Create each day anew.” Morihei Ueshiba - Founder of the
Martial Art of Aikido from The Art of Peace


To every man there openeth
A way, and ways, and a way.
And the high soul climbs the high way,
And the low soul gropes the low.
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low,
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go.

John Oxenham

We are our choices. - Jean-Paul Sarte
(1905-1980), philosopher, writer, and critic





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