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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Entries in decision-making (9)


On the Lookout

Excerpt from Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life by Irwin Kula:

What if we understood that all decisions, even the seeming sure things, are leaps into the unknown? What if we were galvanized, rather than paralyzed, by uncertainty? It could be that our very denial about how unsure we really are in fact causes the most anxiety of all. We mistake ambivalence for weakness, indecisiveness for failing. We try to convince ourselves that the future should be ours to see and that there’s actually a discernable and consistent cause and effect to our decisions and actions.  Depression, obsessiveness, even paranoia have at their roots a profound fear of the unknown and usually a wound from the past, a trauma lodged in our unconscious that we’re afraid will reoccur. These are extreme reactions to the dread that it could all work out for the worst, that if we’re not on the lookout, hypervigilant, or hiding behind the veil of disassociation, disaster awaits us. Extreme anxiety short-circuits life.

Yet if we’re really honest with ourselves when we look back on our lives, we can see that all our decisions, large and small, were made from a place of uncertainty and sometimes profound conflict...Our journey presents us with catastrophes, traumas, losses, gains, wonders, and miracles. And in the end we must act on faith, not that it will all work out as we want but that our best guess is good enough, that it will somehow lead us to a place of discovery, of new perspective, of a wider self.


The Dizziness of Freedom

"Gut churn is an ancient response to being hunted. Back when tigers chased our mammalian ancestors across the savannah, our body had to evolve ways to help us escape. One of its best tricks was, in times of crisis, to shut down everything that is non-essential to running...Kierkegaard talked about it this way: a man stands on the edge of a cliff and looks down at all the possibilities of his life. He reflects on all the things he could become. He knows he has to jump (i.e. make a choice). But he also knows that if he jumps, he’ll have to live within the boundaries of that one choice. So the man feels exhilaration but also an intense dread, what Kierkegaard called 'the dizziness of freedom.' So gut churn is double edged. It’s impending death but it’s also the thing we all want: profound freedom."

~ Jad Abumrad, from The Terrors & Occasional Virtues of Not Knowing What You’re Doing,, July 26, 2012


What Are You Ready to Give Up?

July 28, 2012

In the Family (a film that deserves a bigger audience) was on my mind during our weekend of moving.

It's about a stepfather who is trying to keep his promise to care for the son he's helped raise after the biological father dies unexpectedly without updating his will. The father's family had never approved of their relationship. The legal system has nothing to offer to address the core issue.

A wise attorney advises the main character to spend some time living with these three questions before deciding on his next course of action. They seem to apply to any time of challenge or transition. 

• What's important to change? 
• What don't you want to disturb? 
• What are you ready to give up?

See also:




The Mind Postponing Action in Indecision

Excerpt from "The Chattering Mind," by Tim ParksThe New York Review of Books, June 29, 2012:

“Who is the most memorable character in the novels of the twentieth century?”

It’s a typical radio ploy to fill some mental space on a Saturday morning. Dutifully, people phone in. Studio guests discuss their choices. The obvious: Leopold Bloom, Gatsby. The wry, Jeeves, Sir Peter Wimsey. To select Proust’s unnamed narrator in In Search of Lost Time indicates a certain sophistication. Somebody, not a child, proposes Harry Potter. Then Miss Marple, Svevo’s Zeno, James Bond, Gustav von Aschenbach, Richard Hannay. People are telling us about themselves of course. They want to talk about themselves. There’s no question of establishing if Frodo Baggins is really more influential than José Arcadio Buendía or Bellow’s Herzog. But Sherlock Holmes can be safely ruled out because first published in the nineteenth century and Lisbeth Salander because she doesn’t turn up until 2005.

I can’t be bothered to think of a name myself. I resist these games—the most this, the best that. Surely these characters are all actors in a grand cast; they all have their roles in the larger drama of the collective psyche. But now suddenly it occurs to me that by far the main protagonist of twentieth century literature must be the chattering mind, which usually means the mind that can’t make up its mind, the mind postponing action in indecision and, if we’re lucky, poetry...

...Seeing the pros and cons of every possible move, this modern man is paralysed, half-envying those less intelligent than himself who throw themselves instinctively into the fray: “[The man of action] is stupid, I won’t argue with you about that, but perhaps a normal man ought to be stupid.” And the voice is actually pleased with this formulation. It’s great to feel superior to those happier than oneself.

In the twentieth century this monstrously heightened consciousness meshes with the swelling background noise of modern life and we have the full-blown performing mind of modernist literature. It starts perhaps in that room where the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Soon Leopold Bloom is diffusing his anxiety about Molly’s betrayal in the shop signs and newspaper advertisements of Dublin. In Mrs Dalloway’s London people muddle thoughts of their private lives with airborne advertisements for toffee, striking clocks, sandwich men, omnibuses, chauffeur-driven celebrities.



To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

Excerpts from "The War Between Faith and Doubt," by Dennis Palumbo, Hollywood on the Couch [Psychology Today blog], May 10, 2012:

We naturally long to sequester our doubts and fears, to disavow pain and worry. Unfortunately, to vanquish doubt is to leave the domain of the human being. Conversely, to embrace both one’s doubt and faith, one’s fear and courage, is to relate to the totality of the human experience.

The paradox of struggling with doubt — as with all so-called “negative” feelings — is that only by inviting it in, exploring and illuminating its meanings, can we be enriched as creative artists. This is especially true for those writers and actors among you, whose work involves creating life-like characters. The plain fact is, the more willing you are to mine the landscape of your own doubts, the truer and more recognizably human your characters will be. (And the more impact your characters’ faith, if such is their destination, will have.)

Keeping the tension between Faith and Doubt alive within you, without either falling prey to blind optimism or succumbing to despair, is not easy. We veer so often in one direction or the other that, in their exaggerated forms, Faith and Doubt can look like two sides of the same coin. . .

In all aspects of life, an unquestioning faith is the same as unwavering doubt — both are belief systems employed to try to protect a person from the complicated, sometimes contradictory, always unpredictable ebb and flow of actual experience.

“Faith and doubt, both are needed...”

The truth is, if we each had winged imps named Faith and Doubt parked on our shoulders, competing for air-time, the ideal situation would be for their voices to stay at more or less equal volume. For our attention to shift from one to the other, and back again.

And, ultimately, for us to integrate what each has to say, and to struggle to create and thrive from that place within us where all feelings, including faith and doubt, reside.

Read the entire post...

See also: Feel Everything