Navigating life's choices, finding direction and intentionality. Learning to know ourselves through our choices, and thus knowing where we want to go by the direction of our choices.
The Union Path Podcast - A practical spiritual podcast about truth, awareness, and walking the path of unity.
The Union Path Podcast
The Directionality of Choices
[0:00:20] John Coleman: Finding our way in life is really a lifetime project. Finding a sense of direction, finding a sense of both clarity and intentionality in the choices that we make is a skill. It's a lifelong skill that often takes a lifetime to develop because there's always more we can learn about ourselves. There's always more we can know about ourselves. There's always nuance we can add to the things we pursue or things we want. And over our lifetime, these pursuits and these wants can very well change as we grow and mature. Often our pursuits and our desires grow and mature right along with them. I believe the truth is setting a direction and following it can never be perfected. I believe if we're looking for perfect, we're pursuing the wrong ideal. Because this idea of perfect, this idea of absolute right or absolute wrong isn't really the way life unfolds. There is no perfect. Perfect is a concept, especially when applied to future events at the very least sets up an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation. But the whole idea of perfection, especially when it's combined with control is actually a paradox, is actually impossible. Because what makes something perfect anyway? Perfect according to whom?
[0:02:08] John Coleman: According to someone else, some tradition, some other idea. But not only are there a myriad of other people to potentially listen to, but people themselves are growing and evolving too are changing their minds, changing their perspectives. And so this idea of seeking perfect conformity to someone else's path or someone else's ideas for us it's a very moveable object. That's something that's always changing. If we look at perfection from our own standards, our own ideas, our own expectations, those are constantly in flux as well. No matter how rigid or fixed we think we are, we're always changing somewhat even despite our best efforts. As much as we try to lock down our ideas, our behaviors, our thinking the ways we move through life, change is inevitable. Change is always happening. It's always happening externally and it's always happening internally as well. Change is an inherent part of life. Without change, there would never be any opportunity, there would never really be any hope, there would never really be anything to strive for if everything was known, if there was one perfect way of doing things, one perfect way of being one perfect life that we're supposed to be living. And our job was to find that one perfect path that seems to just set us up for failure but also seems to really stunt our growth in development. Because the real skill of life isn't conforming to some sort of perfect ideal. The skill of life is flowing with it. The skill of life is accepting what we would call imperfection and responding accordingly, living with and through what is rather than only being focused on what isn't getting a lot more in tune and in touch with right now.
[0:04:34] John Coleman: Rather than living in some idealized future or even past, a life well lived is cooperative. And we find a base level of cooperation with life when we let go of these ideas of perfection when we let go of these ideas that things can only be good if they're only one particular way. And instead learn to flow with life, learn to move with what's happening rather than fighting against it. Throughout several of these episodes I really talk a lot about feeling stuck. I really talk a lot about creating change. This is the human condition. It's a natural part of building awareness is we not only become aware of all sorts of wonderful and amazing things that we'd never noticed but we also become aware of some not so great and amazing things maybe not so great and amazing things about ourselves maybe not so great and amazing things about our lives. And through these awarenesses it's natural to want to create change. That's our participation in this dance of life. Life is always changing around us and we thrive the best when we change right along with it. When we find the synergy of our own change as it's combined with the change that's happening all around us. But if we've accepted all this, if we let go of our ideas of perfection we let go of our ideas of in order to be good, things have to be one particular way at one particular time, in one particular place. We open ourselves up to all sorts of possibility. But what then? It's kind of a funny irony that can happen when we really accept the incredible breadth and depth of our own freedom.
[0:06:39] John Coleman: There's almost a bit of a tyranny in that we can find it's a lot easier to make choices when we automatically limit our choices to a very few. When we're following some other example, when we're following some other well worn path of tradition or expectation or just repetition of what we've always done when we intentionally break out of these patterns it can actually be fairly disorienting. We can look at our lives as a blank canvas and that can be fairly disorienting. We've removed the bumpers in our life that confine our potential choices down to a very few and we expand our choices seemingly infinitely when we really internalize and accept our own freedom. It's kind of a funny thing that happens that can actually be really hard it can be really hard to know what to do when it seems like there are infinite possible choices. If we've let go of a lot of the ways we've made choices in the path, we've let go of our needs to hem to a particular way of doing things, or only pursuing a few very specific outcomes, or even we've changed the reasons why we're doing things or the importance of outcomes once we get there, that can get really confusing. When we change the economies that we operate with we don't so much value what we used to and instead start to value something new then all of the memorized patterns and behaviors have to all be reconsidered. When our reasons change, when our motivations change, then the way we act, the way we think has to change right along with it. And our minds are incredible habit building machines, human beings, that's probably what we do best. These habits have a bit of gravity to them. They're kind of like ruts and a road that keep us fixed to a certain path. And when we decide to change this, when we decide to choose something different, choose to be different, that could be a difficult place to start from. Because at the very least, when we're acting out of habit or out of tradition or out of expectation, it takes a lot of uncertainty out of it. If we know in order to live a happy life we need to do X, Y or Z, well then our choices are X, Y or Z. There's a bit of soothing to that.
[0:09:41] John Coleman: There's a bit of calming to that. Facing unlimited possibilities can be a little intimidating, perhaps it can be a little frightening because it seems like there's part of our minds, it's part of our inherent humanness that values predictability, that values having a good idea of what we're going to encounter before we embark on our journey. This is really useful. This is the product of learning because why else would we want to learn if we didn't apply it? And we fumbled through life pretty miserably if we weren't applying what we'd learned along the way, if we looked at every situation as brandnew and just seemingly ran random experiments just to see what happened, our lives would naturally be pretty chaotic. And we also probably wouldn't make the progress that we'd want to make because we wouldn't be building off of anything. And that's why it's so difficult to question and challenge these fundamental structures, these foundations of thinking and acting and being that we've built up over our lives. It's why it's so difficult in some respect to start over, to kind of go back to the drawing board. And if we've reconsidered what's important to us, if we've reconsidered what are we really trying to do in this life? What are we really trying to get out of these experiences? What are we really trying to give through these experiences? What do we want? The dialogue of our interaction with life to actually look like and feel like and be? These questions really take us down to our fundamental structures, really require an incredible amount of stripping away and excavating until we find the truth, until we find who we really are, until we find what actually matters to us. And once we feel like we've made some progress with that then naturally that holds up the decisions we've made, the decision we're currently making, the lives we're currently living and forces us to really compare.
[0:12:10] John Coleman: How does my life match what I know about myself? How does the direction my life has taken and the direction I'm continuing to take fit what I now know? And it's when we find a conflict there, when we find an incongruence there that motivates us to kind of go back to the beginning, to reconsider. Where are we going next? What are we doing next, this life of ours? Where is this journey really going? We look back on our lives. Where has this journey been? And how much of that has been in service for who and what I really am? Of all the things I've outlined that I'm pursuing, how much are those outcomes? How much are those achievements? How much are those experiences actually valued from the state of who and what I really am? How many of my pursuits actually matter? How many of my achievements actually matter? What do I really want deep on the inside?
[0:13:25] John Coleman: What really matters to me? These are difficult questions really getting to the root of who we are and what we want. It's not usually a simple process, it's not usually a pain free or struggle free process either. But at some point for everyone, we reach a point where we just have to know. We have to know the truth. We have to live a life based on what's really real, not what we think is real, not what reality we've overlaid our experience, not what illusions or deceptions we've convinced ourselves of or we've been convinced of by others. What's really real? I go inside myself. What's at the base of everything? What actually drives me? These feelings that are such a big part of my life, that are the core reasons why I actually do anything, actually pursue anything, is to feel a certain way. Where these feelings actually come from. What's at the root of it? What is the heart of it? Although the spiritual path isn't often an easy one, it's the only one for those of us who need to know, who need to live a life based on reality and truth and wholeness and fullness.
[0:15:02] John Coleman: There really is no other choice. And often we arrive at these choices or this choice in particular because we've exhausted all of our others. We can't keep fooling ourselves. We can't keep trying and failing. We can't keep falling down. We can't keep letting ourselves down or letting others down. We reach a terminal point. We reach a fork in the road with a choice to dig deeper, with a choice to look for more. The choice to connect with truth with ourselves doesn't really feel so optional anymore. It's almost like when this choice lands on us, in a lot of ways, it's more it choosing us than us choosing it. And oftentimes these choices are made from not the greatest circumstances. These choices are made after some sort of battle with the darkness, some time spent in some kind of metaphorical prison, some elongated times of struggle. And despair and pain. These opportunities for the truth present themselves as a lifeline, truly present themselves as a savior. But that relief often isn't immediate really endeavor after the truth.
[0:16:43] John Coleman: Sometimes there's some more suffering that needs to be encountered first. Sometimes there are things from the past that need to be brought up and reexamined and reevaluated. There can often be a bit of a clearing and cleansing process that has to happen. And although these processes might not be terribly comfortable, they're very necessary. It's very necessary if we're pursuing the truth to really we need to get our mind right. We need to really accept and engage with the truth fully. It's not something we can go into halfway. It's not something we can just peek at the margins at. We're going to go for the truth. We need to go the whole way. We need to take the full step. Half measures aren't particularly helpful. We need to do it and we need to do it all the way. But I think what leads us into this decision, into this pursuit isn't so much that we have no other option, isn't so much that we're choosing this via a process of elimination. I believe we choose this route, this path, this path of truth because some part of us, some deep knowing, part of us knows this is the way out, knows that even though it might be challenging, it might be grueling, there might be setbacks, it's worth it.
[0:18:21] John Coleman: This is what we've actually been looking for. That our dissatisfaction and our struggle and our pain isn't so much the particulars of what we've done on a longer term. It's really more about our divorce from the truth. It's really more about us separating ourselves from the truth and the reality of life, living some other fabricated existence, living in some other way that's not really us serving some sorts of ends that aren't really that meaningful to us. We've put on a costume, we put on a uniform, we put on a mode of being that in some ways at least is false. And it's when this falsity has failed us at the opportunity from the truth that the opportunity for the truth comes in. But again, once we get down to this more bedrock layer of ourselves, once we realize that not only do we need to make different choices, but we need to make different choices from a completely different standpoint. A completely different perspective, a completely different frame of mind that can be really difficult because so much of life is based on momentum. It's based on repetition, it's based on building one piece on top of the other. And if we find that we've built these structures of ourselves but want to make fundamental changes, we can't really do so at the top layer. It's not so much a renovation that's necessary, it's more of a rebuild. It's also not a linear process either. This isn't like if it took us 2030, 40 years to become the person that now we want to change. It's going to take another 20, 30, 40 years. We can actually be different instantaneously.
[0:20:32] John Coleman: But the challenge and change is all the accumulated habits and ideas and perspectives and behaviors that we assemble along the way. These things take time to change. We also have amassed a life situation and circumstance and context that could take a while to change as well. It's because we change our minds about something, doesn't make external world instantly change too, doesn't instantly modify or erase or enhance all of our relationships. Everything is built up over time. Everything is built piece by piece. But this is where this analogy of structures and building and construction can let us down. Is that what matters the most in creating change in our life and going in a new direction, seeking different outcomes, doing things a different way, being a different person? Now, it starts with our choices and I'll start with the choices that are accessible to us right now. These choices may be fairly small, but even looking out in our lives it may require different skills, different perspectives, different habits around how we make choices. That it is probably necessary to not only make different choices, but to also make choices themselves in a different way. One of the ways I think we can key into this is looking at the choices of our lives and getting a sense of directionality. Looking in what direction are these choices going? And is that where I actually want to go from the small to the large, the choices in our life have a direction, are leading to something. And of course we can think that we can make choices that don't really go where we want to go as some sort of means to an end and not suffer any ramifications for it.
[0:22:51] John Coleman: But I don't think that's true. On some level, some part of us knows whether the direction we're choosing is us or not, is right for us or not, is healthy for us or not, is leading to the positive growth that we actually want or not. Our ability to seemingly deceive ourselves is pretty astounding. But at some level some part of us, maybe way deep down, maybe some part of us that has been ignored and silenced for a long time always knows the truth. And when that conflict exists, it will always be felt. It may even be sub perceptual, but it's there. You're walking along with a tiny rock in your shoe. Even if you can feel it, maybe you can ignore it, but it's still there, grinding against our progress. Deny it as we may, it still exists. It's still there. And so if we look at our lives and we look at this desire to pursue the truth, this really means being open and willing to look at everything, look at ourselves, learn who we really are, look at our lives. Look at what we've really done, look at our appetites and our pursuits, what we've really gone after. Look at what really matters to us, is really important to us. And then juxtapose that with the decisions that we're making right now today, the decisions that we actually have access to and ask ourselves, do these decisions flow in the direction that I want to go? To use another analogy, if we're embarking on our sailboat, are the winds that I'm using actually blowing towards my destination?
[0:25:06] John Coleman: Or am I going through life fighting it? Or am I going through life being blown somewhere I don't actually want to go? It may have perfectly good reasons, but those reasons don't really hold up. When I look at my actual experience, what life actually feels like to me, I've really looked at the things I pursued and decided for whatever reason that it's not actually worth it. Change is necessary. There's something more for me. There's something more for me and I need to find it. This is a really important, albeit difficult turning point. This is where we can look at our lives through the lens of the choices that we make and really ask ourselves, are these choices moving in the direction of where I want to go? And this seems really simple, but may cause us to really confront some difficult truths. We may find that something we've been pursuing and continue to participate in isn't actually going where we want to go and thus will never really be able to deliver us to where we want to be. That's hard. And when we make that realization, it doesn't mean that all of these aspirations and ideas need to immediately be jettisoned. But we do really have to ask ourselves if things we're pursuing can't actually take us to where we want to go, am I willing to let them go? And in that void of letting go, do I have the courage to find and pursue what actually can?
[0:27:07] John Coleman: Do I have the courage and the wherewithal to create real change? Do I have the determination and their resilience to actually live out the change that I want to? These are important questions and these are important not from any kind of judgmental perspective. That everyone's process is everyone's process, everyone's timing? Is everyone's timing the right way to do things? Is the right way for us. The right time to do things is the right time for us. We just need to be honest. We need to be aware, we need to be open of what those things are, of what that timing is. And when we know, act with that information, move forward in that direction, in that timing, when we know, we know. When we know well, that's often the perfect time to act. We are the navigators of our own lives. We get to choose the direction that we go. Life gives us unlimited wayfinding tools. Feedback on our direction is everywhere.
[0:28:28] John Coleman: If we're open to it, if we're aware of it, if we can be honest about it, if we can find the courage to really face it and really know it. But this knowing is what helps us navigate this knowing is what helps us know our path. Because only we can really know for sure. And we know our path by living our path. It's the kind of thing that really can't be predicted, really can't be known ahead of time. It's more of a present moment awareness and more of a present moment knowing that we're on our path or off. And both feelings are incredibly useful feedback. But this is how we find our way, this is how we navigate that every choice in our life has a direction to it. And once we really know where we want to go, it's our responsibility to actually go, to actually allow, to actually let the wind of our choices propel us towards where we want to actually go. Let the expression of our choices be what propels us to our destination. We align our choices with who we really are, by knowing who we really are, what's actually important to us, and where we actually want to go. We find full expression of our full selves by aligning our choices fully with who and what we actually are. And we do this by knowing ourselves, by deeply knowing ourselves. And this selfknowledge this selfawareness is what allows us to know what's right for us, allows us to know what's actually ours rather than trying to adopt and assume something that's actually someone else's. Our life is a life that's actually authentic and real and true for us.
[0:30:58] John Coleman: We can use our choices blowing in the direction of what we really want, originating out of who we really are, taking us to where we really want to go, to live the lives we actually want. Because these are the lives that are actually ours.