Personal Growth - The freedom of choice
by K Gitanjali
The end result of your life here on earth, will always be the sum total of the choices you make while you are here,” said a wise soul, driving home the importance of making the right choices in life.
Do we really give importance to the choices we make every day in our lives, or do we function on autopilot? Aren’t most of our choices motivated by our conditioning, our belief systems, and by what the people will think?
Times are changing now. We see youngsters making enlightened choices, and ‘following their hearts’. Society is becoming more open and appreciative of its youth experimenting, when it comes to career choices. The scene was quite different just a few years back. 26-year-old Ratan, who had a dream, bears testimony to it. His is a story that was oft-repeated (unfortunately sometimes even today), in many families. A child interested in music, he had a dream of going to the Musicians' Institute in USA to pursue his dream. His parents, however, gave him no choice. “Snap out of it and get real!” was their dictum and they kindly added, “We are doing it for your sake. You need to survive in the real world, and earn your bread and butter, you know. Your father is a doctor and you need to take over and manage his clinic.”
The poor boy was talked into thinking he was selfish to pursue his dream. Recently, I met his mother at a social gathering and she remarked, “How lucky it is that Ratan followed our advice. See how successful he is today.” Looking at the smart young man who seemed to have it all, I could not help feeling that behind the successful exterior, something was missing.
Do you have the right to influence your child’s choice, using any means, be it coercing, or persuasion, or manipulation, or emotional blackmail? When God himself has given us free will, who are we to tamper with others' lives? Are we doing the right thing, by imposing our dreams and choices on our children and other loved ones, and snuffing out their right to exercise their own choices?
When your life is a tapestry made up of other people’s choices, two things happen. You end up feeling a victim.
|Do you have the right to infl uence your child’s choice, using any means, be it coercing, or persuasion, or manipulation, or emotional blackmail?|
Choice with guidance
I have always admired the way in which my friend Kavitha brought up her daughter, Komal. I was surprised to see that the child was taught to weigh the pros and cons of any decision she took early in life. It could be as simple a thing as how many chocolates she could eat. “I told her that she could make her own decisions, but I also pointed out that each decision came with a consequence. As early as seven she realised that she had the free will to eat as many chocolates as she wanted, but she also was told that its consequence could be a host of health problems. We would always advise her as to which was the wiser choice. But the final decision was hers. I remember the day she gorged on cake one Sunday, in spite of repeated reminders of its consequence. The next day she was down with severe indigestion, and had to miss her friend’s birthday party! That experience taught her a lesson no amount of nagging could have.”
Availability of too many choices forces us to introspect She continued, “The real problem with choices however started when she became a teenager. It was then that I realised that allowing one you loved dearly to experiment with her choices was tough. It needs us to have great faith in a Higher Power to take care of them. The world today offers our children much more in every aspect of life than it used to in our times. From the number of channels on the television, to the number of career options, to the number of things they are exposed to through the media and internet, leaves even the most level-headed ones confused as to how best to use their time and energy. Komal bungled once or twice, as she refused to take our advice, and made foolhardy choices, especially in her selection of friends, and spending her time. However, every time she fell, we were there to help her get up, and dust herself back on to the cycle of life.”
The result? By the time she was 20, she had a wise head on her shoulders. By the trial and error method of making her own decisions, and being accountable for them, she bloomed into living life on her own terms, and learnt the art of making right decisions. Truly, there is no greater teacher than experience in learning the art of making right decisions, in developing the ability to identify when to take a risk that will pay off, and when to avoid foolhardy decisions.
Ironically, Komal was there at the same social gathering that Ratan was, and I could not help comparing the joy the young woman exuded to Ratan’s more sober exterior. I realised suddenly that while both she and Ratan had made it big in their life, the missing element in Ratan was that sparkle of life that was so obvious in Komal. That was because he was not living his own life. He was living a life someone else had designed. Komal had developed her will power and her planning abilities, but Ratan, who had buried his passion by allowing himself to be swayed and influenced by others, now needed to rely on others in making any important decision.
Be the guide only
“But surely we owe it to our children to show them the way,” I asked Komal’s mother over dinner. “There you have it,” she replied. “That is all you should confine yourself to doing – showing them the way. Remember Khalil Gibran’s famous lines, ‘Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you…”
Our children are not our possessions to influence. We can advise them, not live our lives through them. They are individual souls, and each comes with his/her own path chalked out. They come to earth wired to live out their soul’s blueprint. We kill their spirit and their sparkle when we impose our own egoistic man-made ambitious plans on them. A person who is wired to be an artist can never make a great engineer or a lawyer. Excellence can shine forth only when a person chooses to do what he loves. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna urges Arjuna very firmly to live an authentic life according to his svadharma. He warns us that performing duties to please others (para dharma) will alter the course of our lives for the worse.
Even the great masters are careful not to interfere with the free will of their disciples. You will see that a true master will just point the way. A master will never compel anyone to make a choice, for a master knows that ultimately all choices have to be made by the individual. He is aware of the amount of karma he will incur by dictating and tampering with another’s free will, even if the other is a close relative like a child or a spouse.
Make informed choices
If the soul has a plan for us, it stands to reason that the best choices we make will be those that are made in communion and alignment with our souls. That brings us back to the question of awareness. A person who is awake, alert, and aware of what he is choosing, chooses wisely. It is rather ironic that half the time, we are on autopilot, and we choose unconsciously, even though many of our choices can be life-altering. Any person who is following the beaten track and living out choices not his own, is blocking the plan his soul has charted.
“I took the road less travelled by – And that has made all the difference,” says poet Robert Frost in one of his best-loved poems. The lines stress the importance of choices, and remind us that regardless of the choice we make, our life will be enormously affected by it. Frost speaks about making a choice based on one’s interest and one’s passion. He symbolised it in his poem, The Road Not Taken, by showing himself standing at a fork in the road. He knew he could walk down but one path and he knew the decision lay solely with him. The sad part of life is that most people do not even realise that the decision of how to carry their lives forward rests solely on them. They choose not to choose but even that is a choice, a weaker choice that will hamper their journey towards their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
What helped Frost take the road less travelled and leave the safe shores of America for an unknown land (England) where he tried his hand at poetry (and succeeded!)? Was it merely the ability to take risks? On the other hand, was it that he was aware that he had been given free will and had the freedom to make a choice?
At the time when people unconsciously followed the herd, choosing not to choose, Frost epitomised the freedom of choice that is every human’s birthright. Yes, the power of making a choice has been given only to humans. Moreover, the intellect is the instrument with which he has been endowed, to aid him in exercising the mammoth responsibility.
Importance of a calm mind
K Geethanjali is a teacher,
writer, and healer, currently based
in Bangalore. She is the disciple
of Mahavatar Babaji. Yet how many of us really sit, and think our choices through? Aren’t we swayed by emotions while making a choice? The world is in the shape it is today, because of decisions taken in haste. “Decide in haste, repent at leisure,” our ancestors warned us, stressing the need of taking time out and making responsible choices.
A calm and collected mind thus seems to be ideal for making a crucial choice. Though one needs to consult near and dear ones at times, and move from emotion to intellect while making a choice, the highest choices remain those that are motivated by the soul. Managing our self thus means making right choices in tangent with the Higher Self.
Finally, the most important choice we can make is the way in which we choose to see life. If we choose to see ourselves as aliens, separate beings in a hostile world, that will be our destiny in the world of relativity. If, on the other hand, we choose to see the world as one huge unit, then naturally the actions that stem from such a choice will be of love and peace, for how can you hurt others if the others are part of it? Therefore, our choices made out of oneness will chart out a beautiful destiny.
As one gets into the flow of following the nudges of one’s Higher Self, one slips into the enviable state that J. Krishnamurthy calls choiceless awareness, where one just responds to the present moment spontaneously, without any preconceived ideas, where one’s actions are directed not even by choice but just awareness.
Till we reach the state where the chooser and the doer cease to exist, and there is only the soul witnessing the experiences it has created with life, we need to take small steps, aware of even the littlest choices we make. Choosing to shut out external noise once in a while and connecting to the stillness within, and thus choosing to connect to our Higher Self, goes a long way in helping us make all other choices.
When we choose to allow others to create their own painting on the canvas of life using their own colours of choice, we truly choose to give the greatest gift to self and others, freedom, the birthright of every soul.
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