Most if not all spiritual systems recognize a split between what we call ego and some form of higher consciousness. Sometimes this distinction is referred to as our false self and true self. Spiritual practice is about transforming the false self into a truer, more loving expression of who we really are and can be. But how does this happen?
Real transformation begins by recognizing there is always a choice. In fact, the choice point where the mind splits is precisely where spiritual growth occurs. This choice point is like a fork in the road. One way follows the promptings of ego. The other way listens to Spirit or love. We all have a decision maker who decides which way to go.
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS
This decision making process works in conjunction with conscience - our internal guidance system that discerns the rightness or wrongness of our thoughts and behaviors. Essentially, it tells us when our thoughts, words, motivation and behaviors aren’t in line with love. It’s the little prompts of conscience that create the choice point. Then it’s up to us to decide which way to go.
Unfortunately and far too often, though, ego swoops in to justify our decisions for lovelessness before we even notice what’s going on. That’s why a holy pause is so helpful, taking a moment to really engage our decision maker and recognize that we have a choice. How are we going to play it this time? Do we follow the ego or listen to our heart? There’s always a rule of free will at play.
Admittedly, choosing the way of love can be scary, especially if we’re not used to making ourselves open and vulnerable. Fear easily camouflages itself as sensible caution and convinces us we need to play it safe.
That’s why the decision maker has to wrestle with fear - a lot. It’s a big deal to let go and surrender to the unknown. Love is often ridiculed, labeled as naive. Ego tries to convince us we need to secure our shores. The world, it tells us, isn’t ready yet. There’s too much at stake, loved ones to protect.
Love has no argument when it comes to caring for others, yet real love makes no distinction between us and them. Nor does it withhold out of fear or lack.
The real challenge of being human is recognizing there’s always a choice point. We don’t act entirely on instinct. We have a decision maker that is always choosing between right and wrong, good and evil, ego or love.
In fact, we not only have a decision maker, we are that decision maker. We always have a choice of which voice we listen to - the voice of ego or the voice of God. Depending on which voice we listen to, we will manifest as either a false self or a true (as in true to our heart) self.
Either way, underneath it all, there’s always a decision maker exercising free will. Only in choosing love do we become an instrument of the Divine Will.
Suggestion for Practice
Today, see how many times you recognize the choice point in yourself. Notice it in the simplest of situations. I can get grouchy about the dirty dishes or I can respond differently. I can glare at the person who just cut me off or I can respond differently. I can argue with my child about doing their homework or I can respond differently.
If you choose to respond differently, call on Spirit for guidance or simply ask yourself, “What would love do?” It takes time and patience to listen deeply to a different voice. That’s why it’s called practice. The decision maker has to both resist the urge to fall into its usual egoic patterns and discern a better way. That’s a lot!
Bringing mindfulness into the situation helps. It allows us to be present with our genuine experience without falling into judgment, even when ego wins. After all, none of us are perfect even as we all have the perfect power of love within us.
Change begins as we recognize we are the decision maker, the one who chooses. Our task is simply to recognize the choice point, the place where change begins. The promptings of conscience help us in this regard.
We may not always be happy with the decisions we make, but the more aware we are of our choice point, the more empowered we will feel. We really don’t have to think and act the same old way. The choice to start anew always begins today.
Kimberly Holman is a contemplative writer and mystic with an M.A. in Religious Studies from Naropa University. She is a student of A Course in Miracles, as well as a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Instructor. She is passionate about helping people recognize the already perfected state of being within themselves.