“Why then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.” -WIlliam Shakepeare
Choosing wisely is key to freedom and happiness. As Shakespeare suggested, those who have more choices must have more skill in choosing. The way to choose wisely is to use the razor-sharp edge of Patanjali’s sword of discernment.
For my whole life, I have felt the weight of responsibility for having the privilege of so many choices. I have often contemplated and considered the responsibility that comes with the modern world’s access to the Earth’s natural resources, from fossil fuels to the body and mind I have been given.
Bumbling through the never-ending sequence of choices and crossroads of my life, I have often wished for a sharper tool to discern the path of peace and happiness from the dead-ends and dark alleys.
I distinctly remember the time I first realized and understood that the older I get the less choice I have on a gross scale (all the choices of youth, for example, are now gone). Meanwhile, as my theory goes, in this process there is hope in the possibility to increase one’s subtlety and skill in making more refined and better choices within the range of possibility that age and experience offer us.
I visualize choice in life as a pyramid, with birth being at ground level and death as the pinnacle. My son, for example, has ahead of the entire spectrum of his life’s choices. As we grow up , each time we choose something, we are not choosing others, and the field of possibility decreases. Meanwhile, we are called to recalibrate, kind of like zooming in on a map.
At the pinnacle (i.e. end) of life, one may either be totally stuck or totally free. The yogi learns to see the Divine in even the smallest atom and fleeting moment, and flip his pyramid over, to feel an ever-widening space to be free and happy even with less and less time, physical and mental capacities.
The topic of discernment is a big one in yoga. There is mention of the ability to discern the thoughts from the mind, the soul from the mind and body, the soul from the intelligence, etc. The older we get, the more we practice and learn, the smaller the gross field of choices we have, but the more ability we have to work within the space that is available to us. I can’t eat what I used to be able to eat, for example, but maybe now I can enjoy what I eat more.
My life has served me up a historically unprecedented range of choice in what to think, believe and learn, where to go, what to do, whom to connect with, etc. In fact, life has dealt me with so more choices than I would have chosen to have!
So here I am left choosing to simply be with the choices I have made, to choose contentment and clarity, and go deeper into the spaciousness of a simple life.