Last week I looked at how it can be very useful and fulfilling to identify some of the Compelling Moments in Your Life and use them as objects of contemplation and meditation. This week I want to focus on the difficult or challenging decisions that we have made in our life and why it is important to integrate these into our meditation and awareness training.
When we make a difficult or challenging decision, generally we do so with an awareness that there will be consequences that we will have to deal with. However, having made the decision it is easy to then forget that we made the decision and start blaming other people or circumstances for our problems. Here are a couple of examples:
- If we make a decision to be a care provider for a family member who has a long-term illness, initially we may do so willingly as we are clear about why we chose to care for them (out of love). However, as the months and years go by, and we have to make one sacrifice after another for this person, it can be easy to forget that it was our choice to care for the person and instead we start blaming the person for the troubles and sacrifices that we are making in our life.
- You decide not to go for a job that pays substantially more than your present one, but you choose not to because you have ethical concerns about what it may ask of you. A friend or colleague of yours applies for a similar job, and soon you see him/her driving around in a nicer car than you, taking their family on exotic holidays and so on. Seeing this it is easy to forget the reasons you did not go for the job, and simply feel regretful or jealous of your peers newfound resources.
In both of the above cases the person has made a GOOD decision for the RIGHT reason. However, s/he will have to remain mindful of the choice s/he has made and renew it EVERY DAY in order to avoid feelings of bitterness, resentment, envy and so on.
Difficult choices are difficult because they have very real consequences that may not be easy to accept. Difficult choices are often made with higher or deeper motivations in mind, and so in order to avoid suffering as a result of making these choices, we need to REMEMBER WHY WE MADE THEM!
How I avoided feelings of envy and bitterness toward my friends and peers upon leaving my life as a Buddhist Monk
Somewhere in the middle of my University Fine-Art Degree in the early 90’s I made a definite choice to dedicate ten or so years of my life to the serious investigation of meditation and spirituality. After leaving University this choice took me deep into meditation practice and ended up with five years as a Buddhist monk, making absolutely no money, but acquiring a lot of spiritual knowledge and experience.
Ten years down the line in the Christmas of 2002 I found myself in Singapore having left my life as monk with about fifty bucks in my pocket, and cheap hotel accommodation for a week. As I moved back into secular life, I started to reconnect to my friends and peers. All of them had more money than me, many had a home and family, some had exiting and fulfilling careers. Outwardly it looked like I was WAY behind all these guys and I could feel feelings of bitterness at my situation, envy, thoughts of being a “worthless nobody” all coming up in my mind.
One of the found to be most helpful at that time is just to think back and realize that where I was now was 100% a result of my choices ten years before. I had made a choice at University to follow the “spiritual rabbit hole” as far as it would take me, and that I did. So, there was a price that I paid for this, which was the development of my secular life, monetary wealth, security and status (and let’s not talk about the amount of potential good sex that I gave up please!). I had chosen to give that up, there was no one else to blame. Was it worth it? When I thought about why I had made the choice, and the inner wealth that I had acquired as a consequence it was a no brainer OF COURSE IT WAS WORTH IT!
By remembering my difficult choice I was able to overcome my insecurity, bitterness, envy and all of the other unpleasant emotions that I was having, and this is why remembering your difficult, existential choices is important!
So, what are the difficult choices that you have had to make in your life, and that you now need to remember in order to avoid suffering and pain now?
If after reading this article you can note down two or three of your own difficult choices, and make the effort to remember why they were worth making, then this article will have served its purpose!
Thanks for reading,
Article © Toby Ouvry 2011. You are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org