Friday, May 29, 2009

Making decisions

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."
-- Rumi

So this theme has been recurring in my life about the decision-making process. It's an impossible process really; every issue has multiple sides and there's always so much unknown. In the end, there's nothing for it but to turn inward and see what is in the heart, to commit to a choice and the consequences of that choice, no matter what those may be.

I'm someone who could agonize over something as unimportant as a menu for hours if I thought people would put up with it. So often, when asked by my dining companions what I'm going to order I'll say, "I'll see what comes out of my mouth." It's not unusual that what I ask for in that moment is not at all the dish I thought I had decided on.

It's odd that a menu can cause me so much anguish, but at work on a daily basis I make quick, sometimes ruthless decisions without hardly a thought. That's not to say I take workplace decisions lightly, but I think that in that context so many of the contributing factors are simply ingrained; I have a wealth of experience that gives me a pretty good idea who these decisions are going to turn out. Add to that the fact that it is my job, my responsibility, to make these calls. People are relying on me. A similar force to that which makes me finally choose a dish from the menu when the server comes to the table, the need to follow procedure and hold up my end of the deal.

In this article from Seeker Magazine, Susan Kramer talks about the idea that yoga practice can help us become aware of tension in our bodies as we make a decision. Paying attention to the sensations in the torso can help you to become aware of when considering a course of action brings increased stress and when an alternative creates a sense of relaxation. In other words, the physical body may communicate to us when we are making a decision that goes against our instincts. It's good to have tools!

I think there is more to this than just tension in the body, but maybe I'm wrong. For me, the hardest decisions are those that could hurt other people and those which have a lot of unknown elements, as well as those where the results don't really matter (such as ordering a meal). That's probably pretty typical. Sometimes I can get paralyzed in these situations, completely bogged down in a state of inaction. All options generate tension. But yoga offers us a solution: get quiet, connect with the breath, turn inward... and then act. (Yes, Erich, I hear you. "Googling the Internet of Infinite Mind" again.)

I've said here before that I believe what happens on the mat is just practice for what happens off the mat, and this is another example. If you have a home practice and you create your own sequences, there's only one way to decide what pose to flow into next, how long to hold it, and what adjustments to make. You guessed it. Get quiet, connect with the breath, turn inward... and move. From the core, from the heart, from the energy within. I think any creative process is like this: music, writing, art. You might know a lot about the mechanics of yoga, music, writing or painting - but when it comes down to the art of it, decisions are not made with the head but rather with the heart, or maybe by a higher power. Sometimes it's as though the poems or music or asanas write themselves.

If you are not used to listening to your instincts, it can be difficult to trust yourself to make decisions from the heart. If your logical mind is arguing one way and your heart another, it takes a great deal of faith to go with your instincts. This reminds me of something I was told when I was about 15 (by a boy I had a crush on incidentally - you'll see why.) He said, "If you flip a coin and then do the opposite of what it tells you, you'll know that's what you really wanted to do all along."

Flip a coin. And then do what you really wanted to do all along. You know what that is.

No comments: