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From Compulsions to Conscious Choices

August 2009
From Compulsions to Conscious Choices

Everybody is making choices, but the choices made in unawareness are compulsions.

Let us say you get angry right now. It is your choice, actually, to be angry. Somewhere, you believe that is the way to handle the situation, but the choice is made in such unawareness that it is a compulsion; it’s happening compulsively on a different level. So you are living by choice, but choices are made without awareness—unconscious choices.

Now the whole thing is to shift into making conscious choices. Even a simple act, like when you wake up in the morning, the unconscious choice is that you don’t want to wake up. When the sun rises, you want to pull the sheet up a little higher over your face. Do you see this? This is the unconscious choice. Your physical body wants to remain in the bed for some more time, and some more time, and some more time—for so many reasons, it doesn’t want to get up.

There are so many aspects of life, so many limitations in your experience of life, that in many ways, unconsciously, you’re not really looking forward to the day. Unconsciously, you try to pull the sheet higher up over your face because this light is not something you are looking forward to, because with light comes today’s stock prices; with light comes today’s problems; with light comes the whole world into your life. So you’re trying unconsciously to screen yourself from that.

But let’s say tomorrow you have planned to go on a picnic. Do you see, before the sun rises, you will wake up on that day? Consciously you have decided the previous day; you are excited. You are looking forward to tomorrow. It is a joyful experience. You will see, you will wake up before the sun comes up.

Even after you wake up, the unconscious choice is that you want to drink a cup of coffee; the body feels comfortable with that, but now you can make a conscious choice, “No, I will have a cold water bath and do my yoga asanas.”

Why ascetic paths were set is simply because of this: you start doing things that are naturally not comfortable for you. Once you start doing such activity that is uncomfortable for you, you do it, but you don’t like it. If you have to do something that you do not like, you can only do it consciously; there is no other way to do it. Yes? Things that you like, you can do compulsively, but things that you don’t like, you can only do consciously. That is why the ascetic path. You start doing everything consciously. There is no other way to be.

Now, slowly, you are practising how to be conscious in various situations in your life. When you are hungry, the natural urge is to grab food and eat. Now you make a conscious choice: “I am very hungry, but I am not eating.” To stay away from food, there is no other choice except being conscious about it, but to go and eat, you don’t need consciousness; you can simply go and grab it when you are hungry. These simple things are set up in life so that you start doing things more consciously.

For example, we have only two meals in our day-to-day life, or sometimes even one meal. By the time this meal comes, naturally you are very hungry, but you don’t immediately eat. You wait for everybody to sit down. You wait for something to go onto everybody’s plate, then you utter an invocation, and then you slowly eat. This needs consciousness. Just to give that break when you are hungry – just to wait for those three or four minutes – it takes an enormous amount of awareness for a person.

So like this, you’re cultivating awareness into different aspects of life. Maybe initially your awareness is only for half-an-hour a day, but gradually you are bringing awareness into various aspects of life like this. The idea of cultivating awareness is so that it slowly seeps into your life. In one way that is a reality, you are cultivating awareness.

One thing it does is, it enhances the quality of your life, but that’s not everything. The main aspect is that if you can maintain awareness in various kinds of situations in life, only then will you ever become capable of being aware at that moment when you have to part with the body. Otherwise, that never arises in your life.

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