Practicing the Power of Choice

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 4.52.41 PM

The year of 2015 is coming to a close, and 2016 stretches before us like a fresh slate. How will we choose to use the longer light, and the calm after all of the holiday festivities?  

Holidays are a great reminder to celebrate what we hold dear, to celebrate family, abundance, gratitude. Having auspicious days marked on a calendar and collectively celebrated by our culture can provide helpful support for remembering what we have and why we are ultimately here. The period post-holiday can sometimes loom long and gloomy if we don’t have some focus or inspiration to help keep us on track.

Our practice can help us remember that every day is an auspicious day, and every moment holds an opportunity to practice the precious and powerful magic we all possess – the magic of choice. The choice to be mindful. The choice to take actions that nurture the health of our bodies, our families, our communities. The choice to nourish the part of ourselves that acts from a place of love, rather than from a place of fear. The choice to practice compassion for ourselves and others. It has been said that the key to discipline is remembering what you really want, and choosing that at every opportunity.

Some consider choice to be the main power we have as human beings, the power of free will being what makes us different from other animals. This power of choice can feel hugely liberating, but it can also feel like quite a burden at times – what if we don’t know how to choose? What if we don’t make just the right choice? This may be why many people shy away from mindfulness practices. It can be overwhelming to recognize how much power we actually have from moment-to-moment, and it can feel much easier to just stay stuck in our old grooves, caught in the inertia of habitual patterns of behavior and thought. Recognizing how often we have the power to choose our actions and even our thoughts can be overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be.

The truth is that in many circumstances there is no “right” or “wrong” choice. We can only resolve to do the best we can based on the information we have in this moment, and trust ourselves to be able to respond well to the consequences of the choices we make. This may be the most important choice of all – choosing to respond well to the consequences of the choices we have already made, as well as choosing how we respond to the things that happen that seem to be beyond our control. We can start to see obstacles as opportunities, injuries as opportunities to learn about healing, misunderstandings as opportunities to practice communication, loss as an opportunity to appreciate what we still have. In this way we begin to participate more fully in creating the kinds of experiences we wish to have.

Whatever you resolve to focus on in this New Year, remember that every moment is a moment of choice. That choice may be as simple as this: notice the breath you are breathing right now, and proceed from here. Know that you can trust yourself to make good decisions, and to take responsibility for the ones that seem like they were not so good. Every single moment is a chance to practice. Every single moment is a chance to start anew!

By Leaflin Winecoff