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The Gift of Free Will

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Q: Thoughts and feelings are given to us, but where they originated can't be known. If anything changes, it's because we are changed. We don't change ourselves or make choices or have free will. The only thing we do is observe. We're not capable of doing anything else.

A: I do think you are correct that we don’t "think" most of our thoughts as much as we receive them like a radio receives the signal from the station. But it is also possible that whatever sends the signal of our thoughts also gives us the experience of individuality and free will in the same way. It comes from the same source, but perhaps that source loves the mystery and surprise it gets when it gives a part of itself free will to act in unpredictable ways.

So while that apparent choice and free will are ultimately a gift from something more mysterious, it still could be our relative experience that we have the free will to act and choose. It definitely would make for a more interesting illusion!

There is a fairy tale or story at the end of my free ebook, Beyond No Self, that offers one explanation of how the mystery could give its creations apparent free will and choice by creating copies or clones of itself to live these apparent lives as individuals. You can read the story here (scroll to the bottom of the page where the story is in italics).

Defense Mechanism or Truth?

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Someone wrote me the following on Facebook:

Thank you so much for your thoughts, I connect with what I read and I was hoping you could help me understand the feeling of numbness I've been having. I have had many disappointments this past year and I lost my job but I don't feel anything, I have been numb for sometime and I can't figure out whether it is because I have reached a level of consciousness where I am in control of my thoughts or is it a self defense mechanism which is temporary? I get sad thoughts sometime for not having a job or anything that is mine but this thought is washed away by another thought that speaks: "You did not cause this, you are doing what you can to change things, what is the point anyways, I am so tired of fighting" followed by numbness.

And here is my response:

This is a good question. And really only you can tell if the numbness is a defense mechanism. The truth is whatever opens your Heart and awareness and quiets your mind. Does your Heart feel open when you are numb? Does your mind quiet down? If so you then can just rest in your Heart.

If the opposite is happening (your awareness contracts and your mind gets busy), that is a sign that it is not a movement into greater truth but something that is being avoided. This is not a bad thing. I often say thank God for all of our defense mechanisms. None of us would have survived this far without them!

But if it is a way of avoiding, then there also is the possibility of being curious about that. What is it like when you are numb? What are the sensations? Are they bad sensations or just sensations? What happens if you just shine your awareness on the numb feeling itself without trying to get rid of it or change it in anyway? Inquiring in this way can gradually uncover what is happening more fully. Again there is nothing wrong with a defense mechanism, but since it is happening, there is the possibility of finding out as much as you can about it.

I would also invite you to become very curious about exactly when the numbness arises. Does it come with the thought, "You did not cause this, You are doing what you can to change things." or does it come more with the thought, "What is the point anyways?" And you can check your other thoughts also. And especially notice what is happening in your Heart  when you are not thinking about your life at all, and just experiencing the moment as it is.

Again the truth is what opens or relaxes or softens your sense of being, your Heart. Each and every moment is a new opportunity to discover more about the truth. Even a contracted numb feeling is telling you something about the truth of your experience. When your Heart contracts it is working perfectly to tell you that your present moment thought, feeling or desire is not very true or important.

You can read much more about how the Heart tells you how true things are in the free download of part two of Living from the Heart.

Catching a Glimpse of the Truth

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Please feel free to contact me with email questions or comments that I will address in this blog.

I received an email as follows:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Makes immense sense. I practicing self inquiry by delving into that emptiness. When there is a strong aversion to an object (a person) repeatedly, sometimes feelings dissolve into that space and at other times, this doesn't happen and leads to outbursts. Assuming one has a choice, is it better to physically withdraw from the 'object' or should one continue taking up the challenge to look from within everytime that feeling of aversion comes up even if it leads to expression of the feeling? Is there such a thing as a congenial environment for self inquiry?

And here is my response:

Thanks for writing and for your very good questions. As with most things in life, there is no formula for how to act when someone or something is triggering your reactions. Each situation is unique. And so it can be helpful to develop a capacity for a wide range of responses. Sometimes you can leave and sometimes you can stay and continue to look within. Occasionally expressing a feeling can open up the interaction to what really matters, and yet other times expressing a feeling can just cause hurt or confusion, so again there is no formula. And if there is a very strong reaction in you that may lead to an outburst, then there is also the possibility of leaving the situation and then continuing the inquiry while you are alone.

And since you asked about a congenial environment for inquiry, I will add that there is no wrong time for inquiry. If you can do it in the heat of the moment when your reaction is getting triggered, that is great. If you can't do it in the moment, but you can inquire later when you are alone, that is great also. Often at first it is easier to set aside time to explore deeply when you are alone and all is quiet, just as you might tend to practice alone when learning any new skill. Then as you become familiar with the process you can also inquire in a wide range of situations.

While life is so rich and varied that there is no formula for our actions, we can learn to listen more fully to our own inner guidance to sort things out. As I often say the Truth is whatever opens your heart and quiets your mind. It has a solidity and depth to it that is undeniable when it is experienced. And something that is less true has the opposite effect: it contracts your heart and makes your mind very busy, and there is a feeling of unreality or superficiality to the experience. So in the day to day living of your life you can sense these reactions to gain some perspective on how true your own reactions to things are, and also how true it felt or would feel to act a certain way in response to a trigger.

It is important in this inquiry to also be gentle and compassionate with ourselves. Because our experience in life is always dynamically changing in so many ways, trying to tell how true something is can be like trying to catch a glimpse of a flying bird in a pair of binoculars while standing on the pitching deck of a boat out at sea. Everything is moving and changing all of the time, including us! Yet even as we could catch a glimpse of the bird now and then, we also can catch a glimpse of various relevant truths as life unfolds around us. You can learn to trust these glimpses, and of course trust the blessed moments when everything does seem to slow down and settle on a deeper truth, sort of like when the waves die down and the bird lands on the bow of the boat for a while.

It is also possible to trust the moments when you do feel contracted and do not even have a glimpse of the truth. Your inner guidance is still working perfectly to show you that whatever you are experiencing at that moment is not very true.

Beyond the questions you might have about what is true or important in a relative sense are the bigger truths about who and what you really are. The true value of tracking your Heart's response to the ups and downs of daily life is not that you somehow manage to navigate your life without any problems or challenges, or without at times having no idea what is true or what to do. Again, life is too dynamic and complicated for that. The value of listening to your inner guidance is that way when you do experience a deeper truth, you recognize it as a bigger truth, possibly even the biggest truth of who you really are.

My teacher, Neelam, once said, "You never know when the beloved is going to come for a visit." And then she paused and said, "But it is a good idea to be home when she does!" Listening to your Heart may help a little in guiding your actions and responses to your daily life, but it will also mean that you are "home" when the biggest truths of your Being come for a visit.