How To Make a Good Decision
The mind is a funny thing…
Have you ever noticed how the mind is constantly hanging out in the past or future, resisting what it doesn’t like and trying to hold onto what it does? It can be challenging to get a break from the relentless mental orientation of attraction/repulsion and past/future. This, in turn, can make it difficult, if not impossible, to make a good decision. If the mind is a battleground of competing voices it’s tricky to decipher the wise one.
This week I’ve been exploring how to settle the mind and make a good decision. Here is my advice to myself (you can use it too!):
Calm the Fu*k Down
A trick of the ego is to make everything seem urgent. Sure, I get it. Deadlines are looming. Decisions must be made soon. But soon is not this very second. So stop and take a deep breath. Get centered. Calm down! Intuition can only present itself through a quiet mind. We can never hear the voice of God when we’re preoccupied with our own thoughts. Try not thinking for a while. Meditate. Sit in the stillness. This can make the voice of the ego go crazy! The last thing it wants to do when a decision needs to be made is to be still. It wants to consider every angle of the problem, talk to people, research, and think, think, think. While there may come a time for each of those activities, the best decisions do not herald from books, people, or even experts; they come from the still, small voice within- the voice through which the Divine presence (Holy Spirit, Universal Source Energy, whatever aspect of the Divine that you hold dear) communicates. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). So step one is to settle the mind down.
Having calmed down, turn your attention to this moment. Feel the breath in your lungs, see the beauty around you, listen to the birds sing. Too often we mentally abide in the past or future. In fact, careful observation may reveal that you are rarely, if ever, free from thoughts of the past and future. Perhaps when eating a meal or observing something lovely in nature you may experience a few moments of presence. Conversely, when watching TV or engaging in other forms of entertainment you may receive a temporary distraction from the thoughts of past and future. (Is it any wonder that entertainers, those who distract us from the past and future, are the most fiscally valued members of our society?) Yet, a good decision cannot be made in the past or the future. It can only be made now, in the present. Step two is to be fully present in this moment.
View the Problem as a Gift from the Soul
We are in school, a school of the soul. The objective of this school is teach us how to live as spiritual beings in the world of form. Everyday there is a lesson. As we master one lesson, we move to the next level where a new curriculum is presented. The schoolmaster (Divine Spirit) doesn’t put any timelines on our learning. We have as long as we need. We can repeat lessons again and again until we master the content (haven’t you found this to be true?). The Universe is kind like that.
Challenges are actually lessons. As you review your challenge, ask yourself, “What is the Divine Spirit trying to teach me?” Most often, the lesson is to more fully express one of the soul attributes. These attributes have been defined similarly throughout the holy scriptures of the world. Often I look to the yamas and niyamas of yoga for practical advice on how to express the soul qualities. The soul qualities themselves are nicely encapsulated in the following nine “fruits of the spirit” found in the book of Galatians:
Love: Regardless of relationship or situation, to love means to release selfish ambitions and respond tangibly to the needs of others. Joy: God is ever new joy. By communing with God, an abundance of joy fills the heart. As Paramahansa Yogananda said, “The best way to be unendingly happy is to be conscious of the Divine.”Peace: Feel the ocean of peace beneath the waves of activity on the surface of life. Observe the gaps between thoughts and activities and feel therein a great peace underlying all experiences.Long suffering: Long suffering means to patiently endure the lessons of life.Gentleness: This is best summarized in the first yoga prescript of ahimsa (nonviolence). Do not bring harm to any sentient being in thought, word, or deed.Goodness: Practice the yamas and niyamas. Follow in the footsteps of the great masters.Faith: Faith is acknowledgement that there is a higher principle in the Universe than myself. I choose to call this principle God and trust that it has my back.Meekness: Meekness is the absence of ego instigated action. It is only possible when the ego has been trained to serve the soul.Temperance: Temperance is self control. It is the same concept as the yoga principle of tapas (note the root word for both) which means to have self discipline.
Only “Solve” the Problem after You Have Mastered the Lesson
The last step in good decision making is to act on the level of form. Most people start here and wonder why their lives are in such disarray. You have to turn that model around in order to get better results. First understand the lesson. Embody the spiritual gift. ONLY THEN should you look to the world of form. Many times, the problem will have dissolved. It was never a “real” problem anyway. It was a soul lesson. When you make decisions in the world of form after embodying the spiritual lesson, those decisions will be guided by an intuitive, knowing presence.
And there you have it, the key to making good decisions. Now, take a deep breath and settle down.