Sometimes a Decision is about the Journey not the Outcome

October 5, 2010

I am leaving for California on Thursday to visit friends and take some time at the ocean and in the redwoods. One of my friends contacted me to tell me the Dalai Lama would be in San Francisco and asked if I would have any interest in going with her. I replied affirmatively and shortly got an e-mail saying that most events were sold out but she had bought two tickets for a public event that was taking place the morning of my departure. At first I noticed a hesitation because that meant changing my plans somewhat but I decided that after she had actually purchased tickets the least I could do was be flexible.

However as the day progressed I observed some significant anxiety emerge. It seemed to complicate my life; I would have to drive from San Jose to Stanford on my own; it would delay my departure by at least four hours; I would then have to drive through the heart of the city, across the Golden Gates Bridge and I still had a thousand miles to get back home. At first a voice emerged that said, “get over it, you are an adult aren’t you, what’s the big deal?” Then came the realization that I was stuck in the middle of the battleground of thoughts, feelings and fears that I talk about in my Decision-making presentation. It seemed a good time to apply some of my own tools to work to develop some clarity about what to do.

My plans had to be leave my friend’s place in San Jose bright and early Thursday morning and drive to Prairie Creek State Park that day and camp – a journey of over 550 km. So the Dalai Lama tickets threw a spoke in that. My commitment is to live a soul directed life guided by synchronicity and serendipity however just what was my soul’s desire? To see the Dalai Lama with a friend seemed like soul food but then why the anxiety and trepidation about changing my plans.  I sat down and wrote out my confusion, looking at the pros and cons and the conflicting thoughts, feelings and fears  and then asked for soul direction. I knew that if this were indeed my soul’s desire then all would be well.

My first inclination when faced with uncertainty like this is to draw a rune seeking clarity. I drew Defense, normally a sure fire “NO”. I read the commentary and it seemed profoundly relevant, “aversion to conduct that creates stress – patience is the counsel. The ability to foresee consequences before you act is the mark of the profound person. Avert anticipated difficulties through right action.” I decided to follow the path of patience and sleep on it. The following morning I journaled and drew a second rune -Gateway, about non-action and not being ready to go through the gate. Once again patience seemed to be the recommendation. Later that day I did my DecisionClarity presentation at Inspire Health and realized that this was a perfect opportunity to spend a further 24-hours seeking guidance.

Sharing my dilemma with a friend of mine helped me; he suggested that it would be challenging to stay fully present with the angst of having to leave for a seven hour drive afterwards and he suggested that the Dalai Lama was unlikely to expand my awareness although it may be pleasant to be in his proximity. In addition I realized that I had passed over a number of opportunities to see him in Vancouver and as a regular visitor here it was likely there would be others. The desire to go seemed more about a sense of obligation to my friend rather than any compelling need to see the Dalai Lama. I decided to sleep on it for one more night then make my final decision. My practice to conclude the DecisionClarity process is to create a contemplative space then hold the question in my mind before releasing it and taking five deep breaths. I had an overwhelming sense that I should not go accompanied by a wave of relief. It was as though a weight had been lifted. Shortly afterwards after I shared my decision with my friend she e-mailed to say the ticket had been snapped up. It felt very affirming and I know there will be other less stressful opportunities to see the Dalai Lama.

Post Script: I realized later there was not a good decision or a bad one; one would have required the practice of staying fully present to an experience when I was bombarded by distractions; the other perhaps was better for my peace of mind. The decision was much more about he journey than the outcome.

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Making Friends With Your Decisions

October 5, 2010

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. (Wickipedia) We are not beings that live well with dissonance. In fact we need to find a way of dealing with it when it shows up because cognitive dissonance can destroy our peace of mind and sometimes affect our bodies as well. Once I was given the opportunity to write a Healing Journey story of a breast cancer survivor. After surgery she was faced by the prospect of having chemotherapy and it horrified her. She explained to me that the logical argument in favour had convinced her that she must go ahead yet her body was crying out, “don’t poison me.” She proceeded in this state of cognitive dissonance to have the treatment with disastrous outcomes. First her clinical experience was a nightmare; everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong and then she had to deal with side effects that seemed unbearable.

She consulted one of my colleagues at the Centre for Integrated Healing for support. “I can’t stand it,” she told him, “you have to help me.” After listening to her dilemma, he realized that she needed to make friends with her decision and explored ways that she could correct the dissonance that was having such a negative effect. The answer that emerged came from the fact that she was reading Harry Potter to her ten-year old daughter. Somehow the reality of the dark world that Harry was exploring helped her develop a context for her chemotherapy that seemed to help her deal with it. She would see it as a “dark potion” conjured up in a magical world that could only harm the bad cells and not touch the good.

Of course the test came when her next bout of chemotherapy occurred and amazingly everything shifted. Not only did her clinical experience improve but the side effects diminished dramatically. The mind has enormous power to control both positive and negative outcomes and finding tools to resolve dissonance and make friends with your decision are very important. A process of conscious decision-making like the DecisionClarity model can help achieve this result. At the end of the process there is a sense of clarity and wellbeing that emanates from a journey through your inner landscape; this can help you make friends with your decision. I worked with someone who was trying to decide whether to leave her successful career and the answer was “not yet but the sign will be when a package is offered you.” I helped her associate her decision with the positive clarity she was feeling at the time. About three months later she called me and said a package had been offered to her. “How did you feel?” I asked. “At first there was a sense of anxiety and fear but it completely diminished when I recalled the way I felt about my decision.” She had made friends with it three months earlier and it had no power to upset her. Any dissonance was long gone