Discernment is a Bitch


photo: Adrian Swancar

My friend Nicole and I were talking recently about an Osho quote:

“Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand ~ relax. If you relax it comes, if you relax it is there. If you relax, you start vibrating with it.”

Wise words. But, there are also wise words regarding the opposite:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

Figuring out whether to be active or passive in a situation where all options are viable, and pressing, is really frikin’ stressful. This happens especially when we feel at a crossroads in making a profound life decision. Ego and faith are having an arm-wrestling match, and all we can do is watch!

The conclusion: Discernment is a bitch. I mean this in a tongue-in-cheek way, but, I mean it.

Spirit and the Universe (I think of them as separately connected things — like a body and its hand) aren’t stupid. They’ve been running things way before we showed up and will continue to until they get bored. But we have to let Spirit and the Universe –or just ourself!– work. So, we have to get out of the way in order to know what to do.

Observe: The main thing to remember when faced with the need to make a decision oh-my-god-right-now-right-now-right-now is to take a second and ask yourself if that pressure is internal or external. If external, can it wait one minute? Five minutes? Ah, even longer? Perfect. If the pressure is internal, even better, because in both cases that pressure is anxiety trying to run the show.

Try to take a step back, breathe, and quickly write out the options you have. This helps to release the charge and the urgency and the oh-my-god-ness out of the issue. Then, do something else that has nothing to do with your decision, and come back to it. Remember, it can wait a minute, five minutes, or even longer*.

When you come back to your notes and ideas, you’ll likely find that that little interruption in urgency helps you see things a bit clearer. You may be more willing to assess the situation a little fairer than you might have done a minute ago. This is letting Spirit and the Universe, just yourself, or “the pie” work. In this scene from Men In Black 3, Agent K recommends eating pie to figure out how to find the man they’re looking for. The idea is to take their minds off the problem, and let the distraction (in this case, a pie) do the work for them. Agent J, partly embodying the role of anxiety, sees no damn rhyme or reason to this approach. [Clip starts from 11 seconds in; the embed code is being cranky.]

*Careful not to tread into the area of procrastination.

You’re not putting off making the decision. You’re putting off making the decision under duress from a perceived threat, constant rumination, or basing the decision on what happened “the last time” the issue came up. The goal is to make your decision from a clearer place.

Hopefully, you’ll come to your decision in a way where you understand why you’re making it, and how the outcome can be a positive one no matter what.

Now, I’m talking about decisions where the outcomes aren’t exactly life or death, but they feel that way, and are still pretty important: You could be offered a job you don’t want, with toxic people you can’t stand, but you need that paycheck. You could be really interested in someone who keeps ghosting you. You could be in the process of trying to create something because you’re expected to or you’re supposed to, but you’re drawing blanks up against a deadline.

Looking closely, there are underlying issues in each of these examples that — I think — are being obscured by the anxiety. You can learn to tweeze that out over a time. This is something I’m just getting the hang of myself thanks to meditation.

A toxic work environment is an awful and common thing, but when it’s the better of two evils, are you willing to learn new ways to interact and keep yourself safe until you can get into a better environment? That’s conscious action. In the second example, constantly going after someone or something that rejects you or otherwise makes you feel like shit, might point to a belief you’re holding that rejection is your only option. How do you accept yourself? If you don’t, what would it look like if you did? What if you didn’t need that immature dating ghost? That’s conscious passivity — you’re envisioning a new reality for yourself.

In the last example, what is motivating you to create? Is it inspiration? Or the end result itself? Could you work with the process and the love for it in mind, and think about the end result when you’re done? After all, one of the most common things people say when they reach their goal is “I worked so hard, I’m so happy.” To me, this means the value is in the work, not the end result. If you fail at reaching the goal, the typical lament is “But I worked so hard! This is terrible!” Again, the value is in the work, that isn’t changed by the result. So do it with love!

Whatever you’re up against, just breathe. Take the charge out. Do something else for a minute or longer. Let Spirit, Universe, yourself, and “pie”, work together. Then, discernment should start to feel like a little less of a bitch.

In case you’re wondering, the pie does work for Agent J and Agent K in the end of that scene. Men in Black 3 is a sweet little film (and a good anxiety interrupter).

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