By Mary Summerbell
I’m in a quandary about a choice in my life. I have an opportunity to travel with my spiritual group to do healing work, which I’ve done before and am strongly drawn to do again. But the trip begins just four days after my awaited grandchild’s due date. People in the group who really want me to go are willing to hold a place for me, giving me optimum opportunity to join them. If the baby comes early, or as expected, I can be there for the birth before I go on the road with my friends. That’s what I want to happen. But if the baby comes later, then, ultimately, I’ll have to choose between being at the birth or being on the bus going away.
If that’s what it comes to, I’m really torn about making that choice. I feel caught between two things – both of which I value most highly. How do I decide, being pulled both ways? How does anyone decide such things? Because I’m not unique in this. Life is full of choices, some of them very tough, and we all make lots of them every day. Making wise choices is a key skill in our mastery of navigating through life. But how do we learn to do this? The principle of Right Choice offers spiritual guidelines that can help us in our decision-making process. It’s about being Soul-directed, about Spirit guiding us towards what’s best, or right, for us.
But “right” is a tricky word. It’s what I call a “loaded” word. By that I mean that it has so many definitions, (filling a fourth of a page in my paperback dictionary and three-fourths of a page in my unabridged one), that it’s meaning, in any use of it, can be confusing or easily misconstrued. So, to clarify, “right” for us, now, in the context of this article, means, basically, “balanced.” Correct, appropriate, fitting, healthy, suitable and proper also apply, but with no sense of “wrong” in any choices made. Ours is a Goldilocks kind of “right” – not too hot, not too cold, but “just right.” Right can mean “particularly suitable.” I like that – the idea of something that fits me, suits me, as a unique individual in a specific situation. Right also means “set apart for a particular purpose.” I like that, too – that something “just right” for me can suit my soul’s purpose, and also a higher, greater purpose.
We make “right” choices based on what Soul is guiding us to do. But how do we know what that is? When we feel pulled so strongly in different directions, how can we tell when personality, or ego, is pulling on us and when it is Soul? What are the signs?
Personality is clever. It can be emotional – appealing to us with feel-good satisfaction, rewards of riches, praise or public recognition. It can be the pride of wanting to be “right.” (Remember? I told you – it’s tricky.) Personality wants to please people; it likes to be liked. It plays favorites. Ironically, it also likes to win – to be the winner. It favors itself, above all. But mostly personality comes from logic, from the head. It ever weighs and measures cost-benefit, investment-return factors. It revels in rules, regulations and laws. It’s the big, shaming “should” that screams in our heads, telling us what family and society expect of us, sternly and repeatedly reminding us of the consequences of going our own way.
Soul comes from the heart. It is open. Calm. Steady. Serene. Soul is yielding yet strangely unwavering. Constant and consistent, yet spontaneous. Soul is not an ideal or theory; it is practical compassion – for everyone, in every moment, in every situation. It’s not about proving anything to anybody. It’s not about appreciation, or even acknowledgement. It’s not about morality, judgement, punishment or righteousness. Soul is about living by guiding principles, adjusting and adapting with graceful flexibility as we go through daily life. But the most telling sign of soul is its orientation towards the greatest good. It is unselfish – always moves with what’s best overall than for any particular individual or group.
These distinctions help a lot when it’s fairly clear, in some obvious way, which of our options is more beneficial to a greater good. But what if it’s not so clear? Or if we’re picking from multiple positive options? Or if we’re so deeply wanting something good for us that our vision of a greater good is clouded? When in doubt, asking yourself, “Which creates more ‘better’? Which has most potential for a greater good? What’s the value of this to a greater good?” Question and examine motivation – “Why do I want to do to this?” Another consideration in all this is that we can’t ever really know the ultimate outcome or benefits of anything we do. Only Soul sees the whole. Something that seems less important, or insignificant, to us may have great value to Spirit.
I believe that the healing work our group does can, literally, directly affect hundreds, thousands of people. Indirectly benefit hundreds of thousands. Eventually, by ripple effect, affecting the whole planet and all its people. This may not be true, but it’s what I believe. How, then, could my presence at the birth of one child possibly take priority over being part of that kind of potential positive impact? I don’t know. What I know is that every time I think of not being there, I feel like crying. I have cried, and still cry, sometimes, about it. I feel split, right down the middle of my value system. Adding to my anguish is knowing that my daughter doesn’t understand why I would even consider not being there for her and her child. She doesn’t see what I value in my healing adventures. What she knows is that I was an at-home mother, my family my purpose, for twenty-eight years. She doesn’t “get” the change in me.
Now I have expansive purpose, with all humanity my family. Yet still is the tug of personal attachment strong. After weeks of inner debate, strongly hoping that the days of the trip would not conflict with the baby’s arrival, the date was set. And I was upset. After all that chewing on it, when my spiritual adviser asked me, “Why do you want to be at the birth?” I was flustered. Going inside myself for an answer, I felt something primal – my genes raging, my DNA screaming to be with that baby. In utter frustration, I emphatically answered, “I’m not going to miss the birth of my grandchild to go on this trip.”
He said that trying to decide something, based on what you’ll miss out on if you do it, is not the right attitude. I felt like no matter what I decided it would be “wrong” somehow. That I’d miss out on something important, either way. I felt pressure from my family on one side and pressure from the group on the other, and me, in the middle, longing to be with both. He said that he didn’t like to see me suffering so, and that Spirit doesn’t want us to suffer. Soul is joyful. I asked how to get there. He said that when you are unsettled about something, unresolved about a choice you must make – feeling uncomfortable, tense, conflicted – you just have to stay with it, and grind on it until you no longer feel that way. Ultimately, you have to trust your own sense of what’s right, and go with that, whatever others say and do. When you make a right choice you know it because you feel lighter – uplifted. You feel calm, relaxed, at peace.
I’m not there yet.
I’m at “no” for the trip now; though I might still be able to go. Meanwhile, more complications are making it less and less likely. But I’m open. I’ll be open until the very last minute. Anything can happen. If it is Soul’s will for me to be on that bus, then I will be. I hope that circumstances go my way, and I get both opportunities. If not, then however things turn out, I’ll serve as best I can where I am. My goal is to be open to all of Soul’s possibilities, to align myself with Soul intentions; I want to be all right with all my options. Honestly, right now, I’m still not O.K. with missing the baby’s birth, but I no longer think its “wrong” to feel that way. It’s where I’m at, and it’s all right. I need to listen to that something in me feeling so very strongly that I must be there, even if I don’t know the reasons why. Remember, Right Choice is not about logic. Right choice is about what’s exactly, uniquely right for me. And sometimes only Soul knows what that is. Right Choice – what it comes to, in the end, is our Self -our Soul self – our Whole self, guiding us in its own mysterious ways.