Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Making Conscious Choices

I just got back from voting. It always makes me feel good in a mushy, patriotic-y sort of way. I was in the first wave of eighteen year-olds to be given the privilege of voting in 1972, and I'm still proud to say I voted for George McGovern. Which may explain the strong streak of cynicism that gets mixed in with my nice mushy feeling. I heard Lily Tomlin say that she was concerned about her own cynical nature: "I worry that not matter how cynical I get, it's never enough to keep up."

As I left the South Pasadena Library wearing my "I Voted" sticker proudly on my chest, I thought about the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they have to dip their finger in purple ink to show they have cast their ballot. Except, unlike the situation in those places, I am fairly confident that nobody in South Pas is going to kill me for voting.

We often take a long time of reflection and contemplation before making our choice at the polls. We carefully study the ballot propositions and the candidate's positions. Then we make sure that we punch the correct hole next to the correct number, making sure we leave no chad hanging after the debacle of 2000 (there's that cynicism again).

We tend not to bring this same level of care and attention into the choices we make in daily life, however. Most of the time, the "choice" is simply to go with the auto-reflex reaction of the mind. As Deepak Chopra wrote, "Like it or not, we are all infinite choice makers." At any point we can put everything on PAUSE and take a reflective moment before making our choice. All it takes is a momentary awareness of the situation, and then feeling a breath or two coming and going. This pause can create a bit of space between the situation and the response toward that situation. Responding mindfully, rather than reacting automatically, can make the difference between an effective choice of action, and a disaster.

Too bad we don't get little stickers every time we make skillful choices that say "I Took A Reflective Pause."


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