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March 20, 2006

Choice: My Power

I have three great teachers at the moment. They are all teaching me something, and they are all instruments of unconditional love. The first of my teachers tells me that I am fundamentally flawed, that I have inherent character defects which are not curable. The second teacher tells me that my life is great, that I should stop introspecting, that I should stop looking into my past, and that I should move on. The third teacher tells me that I need more psychotherapy, that I need to get advice and feedback, and that I have a problem with anger.

All of these teachers have told me of great traumas which they have experienced in their lives, mainly as children, and none of them have had any significant amount of supervised introspection such as psychotherapy. However, I have no idea whether any of them would benefit from that.

Stephen Covey, the author of the best-selling book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People often quotes an anonymous source roughly as follows, "Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space is my power. It is my power to choose."

What I am learning from my teachers is that I have my own sense of what is right for me. And I am learning that acting on that sense is where my power lies. Contrary to what my first teacher tells me, I know that I am not fundamentally flawed; I know that my true essence is unconditional love and I choose to act from that truth. Contrary to what my second teacher tells me, I know that it is right for me to continue to introspect, to learn about who I am and about who I am not. And contrary to what my third teacher tells me, I know that I am at a stage in my remembering where I need to trust myself and rely on my own council and my own ability to heal myself; I do not need, or want, either psychotherapy or advice.

The Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr, goes like this: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

When I couple the message of this prayer with the power of my free choice based on my own feeling, I really get traction in my life. I cannot change other people and I cannot even know what is right for other people. All I can know is what is right for me. And when I use my free choice to act in a way that seems right to me on something that I actually have control over — principally my own thoughts, words, and actions — then I become empowered.

I have spent much of my life doing what other people have told me that I should do, or even worse, what I have imagined that other people wanted me to do. I would often do things that felt wrong to me; thereby denying my own self. It is a habit that is so deeply engrained in me that I often react without thinking and I do what feels totally wrong to me. And then later I feel bad about what I did. Sometimes I feel resentful and angry at the person who told me what they thought that I should do. In those situations, I am truly angry at myself, because I have ignored, denied, and mistrusted myself. These people have not asked me to deny myself, they merely tried to help me, advise me, guide me, teach me, or discipline me.

Their intentions were good. I believe that everyone's intentions are always good. I have experienced that the essence of everything is unconditional love, and because of this I believe that the root intention in everyone is unconditional love.

I learned these strategies within the circumstances of my childhood. They worked for me in that environment. But now they don't work for me. In fact, I am completely disempowered when I don't follow my self and its sense of right, and then life doesn't work out for me. For example, in the article called A Real Man I wrote about how, as a teenager, this habit of taking on everyone else's perception of who I am and what is right for me resulted in such a great internal conflict that I almost killed myself.

A few days ago, I was walking near the sea when I suddenly understood at a much deeper level than I had ever done before, that I have free choice; that I can act on what I feel is right for me, independent of the input from others. It felt like I was in a rocket ship and I was getting ready for blast-off. When I realized that I could choose what felt good to me, it was like I just switched on the main rocket boosters.

And now, as I am finally feeling, acknowledging, and acting on my sense of rightness, I am coming to realize that I cannot know what is right for anyone else. I cannot give them advice and I cannot judge them. I am unable to know what another person is thinking or feeling. All I can do is attempt to perceive what my five senses tell me. I can see how they move their body and I can hear the words they speak, but this is all I can perceive; and even this information is filtered by my mind until it becomes a part of me.

As my sense of not knowing about anything outside of me increases, I am becoming more interested in the world. Everything is becoming like a mystery. I want to ask open questions. How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Why are you doing that? How do you perceive me? I am becoming aware that when I give advice to someone, it is what is right for me, not them. That's why I have felt so strongly that it is right, because it is right for me. So I am giving less advice. I don't want to give any advice at all but I have a habit of doing that. I have a habit of giving my power away by suggesting that someone else do what is right for me.


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