As we progress on the spiritual path, we become increasingly aware of our free will, meaning, our own role and responsibility in creating our lives. We start to become aware that we are choosing every action, every word and every thought. Of course, we are always choosing our reality, but for the most part this happens unconsciously. Free will is simply to choose consciously.
There is a surprising flip side to recognizing and embodying free will, and that is, we must be willing to accept our own powerlessness. This may sound counter intuitive, but let me explain.
Most of us live our lives trying to control our environment. We try to control other people’s reactions to us and how they perceive us in order to get a desired outcome, and most of all, we control ourselves. We do this by:
- mimicking other’s behavior in order to be accepted.
- showing only our most positive and successful sides in order to be liked.
- rewarding people with connection and praise when they act in ways that make us feel safe and significant.
- punishing people with withdrawal or disapproval when their actions bring up feelings of unsafety or unworthiness in us.
- resisting change in others and ourselves (holding onto things)
- avoiding vulnerability to avoid being at the mercy of others.
- categorizing and boxing people in our minds.
However, there is a painful truth undermining our most ferocious efforts to assert control and it is this: The idea that we can control others, is ultimately an illusion.
To recognize free will in another person, is to say “My partner can choose to leave me”, “My mother can choose to not change”, “My father can choose to not take in my reality”, “My friend can choose to continue smoking despite having cancer”, “My sister can choose to stay with the abusive partner”, “Humanity can choose to not awaken”. We can guide and motivate people, and inspire them to change, but we cannot force them to do what we want.
We need to accept our own powerlessness in order to accept that free will exists.
We are powerless to other people’s free will. In fact, if we want to maintain control, we depend on them NOT having access to their free will. We depend on them believing that they cannot change their reality so that we can manipulate the outcome of situations and how they relate to us. Only robots can be controlled, and we remain robots only as long as we don’t have access to our free will.
Paradoxically, as long as we try to control others, we are actually stuck in powerlessness because we are insisting on controlling something that is ultimately out of our control. And while we are focused on controlling the uncontrollable, we are not able to see the areas in our lives where we actually do have control.
Healing the pain underneath
The reason why most of us work so hard to avoid facing our powerlessness, is because it was simply too painful when we were children. As children we were powerless to the decisions of others. We were powerless to choose how and with whom to spend our time as we were forced to go to school, and many of us endured painful relationships years on end.
As children we learned that we do not have power over our realities, and there was nothing we could do about it, so we came up with coping strategies. We saw that those who seemed to have the most influence over reality used control techniques such as reward-punishment, manipulation or force, so we adopted their strategies.
The good news is that for most of you reading this, you childhood is over, and you have a much higher capacity now to influence your reality in many areas of your life. You also are likely to have much more access to your conscious awareness, or the aware self.
The path to awareness is full of shadows
The path to actualizing our own free will goes thru a painful process of giving up, of letting go. It’s a reality check where we get to see the truth of the matter: That we might never be loved by our parents the way we would have needed. That we cannot make our ex take us back. That we cannot make someone want to fulfill our needs. That we cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.
This process of letting go of our illusions brings up a lot of grief. It’s a letting go of the illusion of power and control, and letting others have their own journey. It’s a way to give back the responsibility to others for their lives. Then we no longer need to avoid our own pain or protect others from theirs. Pain is a source of growth, and as long as we avoid feeling it, we are hindering our own growth and that of others.
When we let go of the false power to control others, we gain clarity of that which we can control. Suddenly, as we let the invisible reins fall away, countless opportunities begin to emerge all around us. These are opportunities to act, to speak and to think in empowering ways. We start to recognize that the only place where we ever had full control, is within ourselves. This is a powerful realization that leads us to live and embody the saying “change starts within”.
The real source of power
We cannot always get the desired outcome in life, but we can always choose how to direct our focus and energy. We have the power to become aware of our thoughts and actions to the degree that we can embody our free will in everything we do. One cannot underestimate the power of shifting our focus from outside to the inside. By choosing to embark on an inner journey, we become apprentices of free will.
The more we become aware of our inner realms, the more we are able to create our external reality form inside out. This is not to change others or to force the universe to respond to our demands. This is us shifting our perspective within, and repairing our relationship to ourselves on multiple levels. Through awareness and love, the reflection that we see in the external, changes.
Our power to create our reality has always lied within us. It was never about other people to begin with. We have everything we need to create the lives that we desire. All we need to do is to let go of false control, and expectations on others. We need to grieve the things we never had, and the ways others were not able to meet our needs. We need to grieve the disillusionment of life. As we allow ourselves to grieve and we shift our focus within, we begin to re-own the true power that has always been ours.
What is left after all of this, is to take back our responsibility for our own lives. It is to acknowledge that everything in our reality is our creation and a reflection of our inner worlds.
There is a reason why many people prefer to remain sheep, sleep walking through life, allowing others to dictate what happens to them. The reason is that accepting our true responsibility as creators is scary, and also painful. It is painful to see the harm that our words and actions have done onto others and ourselves. It’s an excruciatingly heart braking process of picking up the pieces left behind from our own internal war.
It comes with the realization that no one will save us and no one will tend to our wounds or reconcile the wrong doings. No one will pick up and mend the fragments of our soul for us. It’s a journey and a commitment of a life time reserved solely for ourselves, to love ourselves back to wholeness.
So dear friend, breath deeply through the grief and braise yourself. You are on a quest to freedom and self-actualization.