Today I wanted to share another essay from Jan Frazier, she does not know this, but I believe she is my guru :-). She would laugh. Happy Monday! XOXOChoice in Surprising PlacesJan Frazier
March 4th, 2011 -->
Choice lies quietly in many unexpected places, like an animal in hibernation. You come very near it many times a day, but you never know it’s there. The potential for choice lives in dynamics and processes you might never think to notice, let alone go looking for it there (never mind actually exercising it). This is the kind of choice that hides in plain sight, and if only you realized it was there for the looking, there for the seizing, your life might dramatically change.
Have no doubt: the change would be for the better.
It isn’t because of awakening that option now exists. It’s that seeing from the awake perspective makes it possible to recognize the freedom that was there right along.
Many spiritual revelations are of this nature: places there turn out to be option (which is to say, freedom) where they had not been seen before. When someone wakes up, it is all clearly seen. It’s a true shock to the system, the discovery of all the places freedom has always been — but unrecognized. Understand: it isn’t because of awakening that option now exists. It’s that seeing from the awake perspective makes it possible to recognize the freedom that was there right along.
The choices are seen to flower everywhere, abundant as air — ubiquitous as suffering was before. You recall vividly how at the time, on the deep level of understanding running beneath daily life, it never felt as though choice had any part to play in much of the activity of your mind, or how life was experienced by you. It’s the knock upside the head that says: I needn’t have ever suffered. But you sure as heck couldn’t see that at the time.
Then again, maybe you never thought to look.
When the idea of choice in a human life is considered, it’s usually in the context of action, behavior, decision: the choice to live here or to live there; the choice to eat this or to eat that, to pursue this career or that one. We tend to think we are pretty much stuck with all the interior stuff, that it is given, simply part of who we are. It’s the deck we are dealt, the way life has unfolded. We tend to believe option comes into play only at the level of behavior. But observable action is the least significant realm where choice operates. The truly life-changing choices are realized inside, silently, often passively, almost always unconsciously, below the level of seeing. What is not seen cannot be done differently.
How often do we say or think I can’t help it. My mother made me this way. It’s genetics. It’s because I’m a Scorpio. It’s my karma. My conditioning. My age. My difficult childhood. On and on and on. How many ways we come up with to say — I am at the mercy of something larger than myself.
There’s more to it than what we ordinarily see.
The purpose of this present looking is to reach down into the dark of the unrecognized and to pull it up into the light.
Here are some generally unrecognized choices:
♦ React or not (inwardly as well as outwardly)
♦ Where to focus attention right now (the situation or your inner state? the present or some mental item?)
♦ Feel your real feelings or escape into a head full of defensive/resistant thoughts
♦ See life as a drain on the spiritual or see it as the arena where aliveness is experienced
♦ Let outer circumstances determine your inner state, or not
♦ Resist or accept
♦ Let the recent past cling (Velcro), or let it slide off (Teflon) in favor of experiencing this new moment
♦ Believe your thoughts or not
♦ Haul around your painful past or set it down
♦ Give attention to something (notice it, be with it) or think about it (evaluate, obsess)
♦ Identify with your conditioning, your beliefs, or just see them as conditioning and beliefs
♦ Judge your thoughts and behavior or simply see them
♦ Judge others or simply see them
♦ Use your mind for what it’s good for (learning, planning, deciding) or let it run you
♦ Believe in the absolute reality of your familiar self . . . or decline to
That last is the big one. That is the mega-choice. It’s the difference between being awake and not. It’s the choice to live as though you are pure ego, or to live as though you are pure awareness.
The items on the list are explored, in detail, throughout this book [book in progress]. But they bear looking at as a group. The invitation is to begin to notice how you experience the absence of fundamental kinds of choices in your own life — to see if you can find where you draw heavy boundary lines for yourself, where you place limits on possibility, and you assume those lines are fixed by some overwhelming force, not subject to relocation (or removal). Discover the limitations you believe to be inherent to the human (or your particular) condition.
It’s the assumptions you don’t know are operating that imprison you.
Just by setting in motion a gentle background inquiry into your assumptions about choice or its absence, your eyes can open to fresh seeing. Being willing to look at this can lead to a shifting of the lines around what is possible for you. The discovery of an unexamined assumption opens the door to the possibility that I could be wrong.
Maybe you’re not as trapped as you think you are.
We are all two selves. There is the familiar self we each seem to be, the one that is able to suffer. Then there is the other self. This one is pure, featureless, diffuse awareness. This self does not have gender or beliefs, nor has it been affected by any experience. This self is the same in each person. (It’s the same even in “bad” people, though the mind may not welcome this idea.)
This self does not mind a single thing. Imagine.
But it is alive. It is exquisitely attuned to the real. It does not experience itself as separate from anything. It does not age. It does not fear death.
This self is undifferentiated. It is spaciousness itself. When it notices the presence of itself, in moment-to-moment life, there is an experience of barely discernible sweetness, like watery maple sap right out of the tree. Not the concentrated sweetness of the boiled-down version, like mystical bliss or physical orgasm. It is subtle. This self is so all-pervasive, so yielding and tender, that it is able to contain the misery and variety of the whole world, all the while sensing its own presence everywhere.
The primary unseen choice that is constantly being made is to identify with something that is not that.
Seldom does anyone consciously choose to identify with the familiar self — the one subject to experience and belief. But it’s happening. Every single day, every moment of ordinary life, the identification is ongoing. Even just to recognize that it’s happening — to see the artificiality of it — can enable awareness of the other to leak through sometimes into a moment.
It might come in a moment of particular stillness. A moment when you’ve become lost in the feathers of a bird you are looking at. A moment on the edge of sleep, or one in which you’re riveted on a dancer on a stage. Or when you have a paintbrush in your hand, and all the world grows still, and there are no problems anywhere that you can find.
The awareness could come in a war zone too — in a situation where things are so terrible that you could die the next moment. Yes, it can be in such a place and time that this thing comes to you. People have spoken of knowing this exquisite self when they were in concentration camps, of sensing the living presence of a reality apart from the hideous one they were trapped in.
It is everywhere, always. Like maple sap, thin as water, it runs, spills, soaks all it touches. Including you, at your essence. This is what you are. Directly sensing this, you take the rest of what you are to be incidental. It becomes lightly held. Even as you age. Even as people you love die. Even as there are wars. Even as the polar ice caps are melting.
I’m trying to tell you something.
We choose every moment we live to identify with something limited and in constant flux — with our narrowly-defined selves. We can opt not to. It may not look as though we have option. That doesn’t mean we don’t.
We are, mostly, blind.
[From book in progress] by Jan Frazier.