Every moment I have a choice in how I can act, what I can think, what I can do. My choices don’t appear in a vacuum, however, they are informed by my present state: my mood, my body, my desires, my being. Yet, the choices I make inevitably change my being.
I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to choreograph my life. My current teacher, P, uses that word. He was a dancer. My energy in this temporal realm of life is limited, and how I choose to expend it, what I choose to create, both within myself, and out in the world is precious. Yet, sometimes, I make decisions that don’t enhance my overall well-being as much as other choices. This has to do with the present. When I make the choice, I am influenced by my body, emotions, and state of mind. Specifically, late at night, sometimes I get physically tired, sore, exhausted, or emotionally drained from dwelling on overwhelm or sadness. From that present state, I often make choices that are sub-optimal for my future well-being such as staying online too long, eating more than my body needs, staying too active for the time of day, etc. The state influences the choice. The choice then influences the state. This is a simplified version of the core cycle of Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy.
What I saw this morning in my meditation was that the state <–> choice dialectic is heavily ingrained and influenced by what I’m going to call Cognitive Resonance States. A Cognitive Resonant State is a state that has a certain stickiness. It wants to resonate at a certain vibration, and if you perturb it, it wants to return to that vibration. You have to go to a great deal of trouble to break out of that vibration, and then you’ll start sliding towards a different cognitive resonant state. In math and physics, these states are referred to attractors, and the set of states that lead to them is the basin of attraction.
A typical tired state has a tendency to attract behaviors that perpetuate the tired state. Hence, when I’m tired, I choose less-than-optimal choices that perpetuate the tired states. This cognitive resonant state is an ingrained pattern of behaviors, feelings, thoughts that resonate together and reinforce each other.
In a spiritually connected cognitive resonant state, I no longer feel tired, I feel supported, loved, and held, and that state “affords” healthier behavior patterns that support me better such as meditation, eating healthier, choosing to rest, self-nurturing. These in turn create a more spiritually connected state.
For me, the critical distinction was to see the patterns in resonance. To understand that the choice doesn’t stand alone by itself, that it is part of a whole, and that whole has a certain resonance. All choices don’t need to be perfect, but taken as a whole, the choices I make create a resonance, and that resonance tends to perpetuate itself.
This is one of the beautiful gifts of mindfulness and witnessing. When I can witness the competition within myself of these two states, then I can better understand the impact of my choice and make choices that I feel serve my highest good. Without the mindful ability to witness myself as I am making these choices, then I am simply stuck in the “beingness” of the cognitive resonant state, and tend towards the resonant that is closest to my current state. With mindfulness, I can choose to jump out of the current state into a different state.
When I witness myself as physically tired, and witness the tendency of that to perpetuate the tired cognitive resonante state, I can choose actions from another cognitive resonant state, actions that I know will self-perpetuate and create that state.
This is the blessing of choice. The blessing of free will. Yes, we are always supported, and all that happens contains gifts and blessings that evolve and grow who we are along our path. Yet, our choices create immediate and definitive impact within ourselves and all that we influence around us.