Thursday, October 05, 2006

Indecision is Suffering

Every year in Florida, we have a hurricane season.  And in most years, there is at least one "close call".  A storm is sighted, and it's heading towards us.  And, three to five days out, we have to make decisions about how to prepare.  Will we close the store, and when?  Board it up, or not?  Put up the shutters?  Stock up on food?  For how many days?  Stay, or leave town?

And one of the most instructive lessons came from a hurricane season just a few years ago, not long before I started my blog.  As soon as I reached closure on any of these preparation questions, I would feel a palpable relief.  It might still be annoying or inconvenient or whatever to have to actually do what I decided, but it was nothing compared to what I experienced before deciding.

And the same was true of preparations that I began without really making a decision.  If the activity (like putting up hurricane shutters) was difficult or painful to begin with, doing it without really deciding made it much more so.  Because there was always that question in my mind of whether I should just blow it off, or go on putting myself through the pain.

So, until I learned how to really decide... and how to commit to what I had decided, hurricane season was quite an agony for me.  This year, however, it went pretty well.  For our one "close call", it only took me about two hours to remember that indecision is the source of suffering, and that it would be less painful to just put up the damn shutters instead of worrying about whether I "should" do it or could get away without doing it.

The Meaning of Effort

And when it comes right down to it, indecision is the very essence of suffering.  Because there is a big difference between pain, which can be endured gladly in the service of a cause or a goal, and suffering, which is the experience of having a "divided self".

When you are divided against yourself, time slows to a crawl, and your sense of effort is magnified.  Everything is harder and takes longer, or at least feels that way.  And as I explained during the "Banish Unwanted Feelings" workshop, whatever you resist, persists.

When you fight yourself, you always lose.  You can fight procrastination, you can fight addiction, you can fight anything about yourself, and even if you win, you still lose, because your quality of life during the process will suck.  For years, I beat myself up to get myself to do things, and I accomplished a lot, but I almost never felt good about it.  On the inside, I was divided, and everything seemed to take a lot of time and effort.

Because when it comes right down to it, "effort" is just a word we use to describe the degree of resistance or separation we have, in relation to what we are currently experiencing.  When an athlete throws himself into a game, body and soul, he doesn't describe the experience as "effort".  In a state of flow -- of non-resistance -- effort disappears.

And the way you get to that state, is by being unified in body and soul.  Not being one place in body, and another one in spirit.  Not being physically with your family, but mentally with your work.  Not being physically at work, and mentally wishing you were somewhere else.

How You Divide Yourself

When you are divided in this way, it's because you have not committed yourself to what you are doing or experiencing in the present moment.  Commitment means that you have excluded all other possibilities.  The word "decide" comes from a Latin root meaning "to cut", as in "to cut off all other possibilities".

So, if you have not removed these other possibilities, then you have not decided.  You have not committed.  And you will not be whole.  Not in the present moment.  Not in any moment.  Because life is composed entirely of "present moments".  If you won't decide now to cut out the thoughts of what you'd "rather be doing", when will you ever?

The crazy thing is that a lot of those "possibilities" we won't give up aren't even real.  Why torment yourself at work with thoughts about what you'd rather be doing?  You're not actually going to do those things while you're at work!

And some of these possibilities are actually quite abstract.  A lot of us will grumpily perform chores while believing that we "shouldn't have to" do them.  What the hell difference does that make?  When you say something "shouldn't" be, that just means it is, and you don't like it.  Believing in "should" or "shouldn't" just creates resistance and an inner conflict that produces suffering.

In fact, try this.  The next time you have to do something you "shouldn't have to do", tell yourself instead: "I'm doing this right now and I don't like it."  You may be surprised to find that your perception of the task changes signficantly.  You may find that 1) what you really don't like is that you "have to" do it, and that you don't really dislike the task itself all that much, or 2) you do dislike the task, but it's not a big deal once you just admit it and stop fantasizing that you "shouldn't have to".

United, You Stand

This is a big reason why, during the Banish Unwanted Feelings workshop, I emphasized the importance of admitting your likes, dislikes, and fears, even if you are ashamed of them or what you think they represent about you.  Your likes, dislikes, and fears are what they are, whether you like them or not.  Trying to suppress them or cloak them in "should" statements just creates internal conflict and removes them from your control.

Then, in last weekend's Creativity workshop ("day two" of  the Seven Days to Live Your Dreams program), I instructed participants in how to find, understand, and dissect the truth of their beliefs about what they can or can't have, and to uproot the conflicts between ideas like "do the project now to avoid problems later" and "do the project later to have fun now", thereby finding more creative "win-win" solutions for themselves.  Again, the purpose is for them to remove another class of inner conflicts, so that they can take action. Without being torn between the path they are taking, and another one they imagine might be "better"!

And now, in next weekend's Decisionmaking workshop ("day three" of Seven Days to Live Your Dreams), the Pathfinders will learn not only how to systematically eliminate the remaining roadblocks to deciding and commiting to a course of action, they will also learn how to make a commitment as a positive course of action in itself.  Because the flip side of the idea that "indecision is suffering", is that "commitment is joy".

Imagine an athlete, 100% committed to the jump or throw or kick or run.  Imagine a parent, 100% committed to their child in a moment of need.  Imagine an artist or writer or musician 100% committed to the piece they are creating at this moment...

There is No Such Thing As Responsibility

And what do you see, when you think of these things?  Do you see any burdens or "responsibilities"?  Or do you see involvement?  Engagement?  Joy?

It is the failure to commit that produces the sense of burden that we commonly call "responsibility", because we can only experience a "burden" if we are half here, and half somewhere else.  When there is only one undivided mind, there is simply no such thing as suffering.

And in the weeks to come, subsequent workshops will teach the stages that follow commitment: motivation, action, organization, and balance.  Because motivation without clarity as to what you are or aren't doing, just leads to more conflict.  And you can only take one action at a time -- not two, or twenty.  And you can't organize your plans and your possessions without deciding what to keep and what to remove from your life.  And it does no good to balance your time between your work and your life, if while you're working you're wishing you were living, and while you're living, you're worrying about your work.

So having an "undivided mind" is foundational to everything you need to have a great life.  And so these first three workshops (acceptance, creativity, and decisions) are the most crucial part of the "Seven Days" program.  Each one adds new "twists" to the basic idea of accepting your self, accepting reality, and accepting the present moment.  Each one further refines the same basic process of reflecting and releasing your beliefs and judgments, so you can let distractions pass away and return your mind to current goals and actions.  For example, here are some of the things that participants will learn in the "day three" Decisionmaking workshop:

  • how to choose goals that will be truly fulfilling, instead of being mere wishes or escape fantasies
  • how to maintain concentration in the face of almost any distraction
  • how to consciously give up those alternatives they are not currently choosing
  • why the conscious mind is a lousy decisionmaker, and why thinking too much about your decisions will usually result in worse decisions than if you used your intuition or "felt sense"
  • how to make decisions quickly... but without hurrying

Returning to The Undivided Mind

And luckily, there is still time for you to join us in these workshops.  If you haven't done so yet, buy a copy of You, Version 2.0, and you'll get a FREE recording of the first workshop: Instant Acceptance: How to Banish Unwanted Feelings Forever.  (If you've bought the book but haven't gotten the recording, email secondchance "at" dirtsimple.org and I'll send you a link.)

Once you've experienced "day one", you'll want to register for the remaining workshops, so you can get the recording of "day two", and be able to attend "day three" LIVE via teleconference (or just get the recording afterward, if you can't make it for the scheduled time).  Each conference is jam-packed with so much information, insight, and "how-to", that you'll have to listen more than once to get it all; some participants tell me that they spend the whole two hours of each workshop frantically covering their handout pages with notes, and they still can't keep up with all of the powerful, lifechanging ideas and techniques I'm presenting.

I still have a handful of lines available for the call, but you'll have to act quickly.  On October 14th the registration prices will be going up again, as we are now going into "late registration" and there won't be enough time for people to get up to speed on the past workshops before new ones begin, or to catch up on the coaching assignments I've been giving to people in the members-only forums on the Pathfinders site.

So don't delay.  Eliminate your indecision, and act now, by cutting off all other possibilities.  Instead of thinking, "but the time isn't convenient", think "I'll make it work" or "I'll listen to the recordings as soon as I can after each one."  Instead of thinking, "that stuff doesn't work for me", think "what's personal is universal; everybody has the same problems, so the same solutions should be applicable to me as to anyone else."  Instead of thinking, "I shouldn't have to take a workshop to learn how to live," think, "If what I'm doing isn't working, then anything else that I haven't tried, will have a better chance of succeeding."

That is, focus on what you want, and not what you don't want.  That is the fundamental basis of reaching an undivided mind, and the undivided mind is the only joyful mind.