Control vs Choice

A lot of spiritual teachings talk about the letting go of control. This is a very important aspect of spirituality, but one that gets really hazy, sometimes even to the point of dis-empowering people. I think perhaps the missing ingredient is the difference between control and choice.

When you are unconscious, there is no choice: things happen via the autonomic nervous system. You react with your programming, or with the nervous system’s impulse to keep you alive. You go through the motions, running on autopilot.

When you are conscious, however, you have a choice. This is not the same as having control. When you are conscious, no matter how much so, you still don’t have control of your external environment…but you recognise that you do have a choice. You can choose to witness the nervous system’s functions and the brain’s conditioned responses, and to observe your unique patterning.

When you are conscious, you can respond–rather than react–to life’s unexpected twists and turns.

When horrible things happen, people often ask me, “How does one ever get over that?” I have thought that myself, especially when it involves animals or children. My answer is that we have the ability to seek and discover our own insight into what happens to us on this planet. Our brains are big enough and smart enough that we can find wisdom even in the darkest of life’s moments. But in order to do that, there needs to be choice.

If the nervous system is reacting strongly, the best parts of the brain are hijacked, so in those moments there is no choice. This is where spiritual training comes in. We can train the brain and nervous system to respond to life, rather than react to life. We can return choice to our lives and make the call in each situation- “How do I want to be with this?” and “Do I want to be a victim of life’s uncertainty? Or can I find a way to use this event to grow and evolve, to adapt and to expand.”

So next time you hear the old axiom that you have no control over what happens to you, remember that you do–and always will–have a choice. You can choose to get your own insight into what happens to you, and you can choose how to perceive your life story. And, perhaps most importantly, you can choose to use your circumstances to evolve as a person…not only for yourself, but for our world.




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