Choice rarely comes into it, at first. It begins more with a sense of suffocation, panic or depression: ”If things don’t change, I will die.”
Of course it is frightening. It was for me, anyway. But once I began to accept that those sensations are actually the voice of my soul forcing itself to be heard, everything began to move forward. The soul uses illness or disappointment, or takes the opportunity presented by loss or grief to open routes to a freer way of being. Bravery and choice only come into it later, when we need to start making visible the changes that are happening inside us.
One of the most difficult things for people to accept is their self-worth. So much time is spent in attempting to buy the love and acceptance of others by playing by the rules, regardless of whether they go contrary to our natural inclinations and dreams or not. When we speak of fear holding people back, it is the fear of loneliness, of being left outside the circle of love. That fear makes us argue against what is the best in us: our ability to move, change, learn and grow. The same fear of abandonment also makes others try and hold us down.
Personality and personal history dictate at what point we will really break out onto the new road of self-discovery and a more holistic life. For some, those first, initial sensations of suffocation and confusion are so strong that they break out of the womb of their present existence only half-formed, and then must accumulate their learnings as they develop their vital organs – the lungs to breathe with, the heart to love with. For a happy few, the break comes when fears and feelings have hardened into a firm resolve and there is no longer any real choice to be made: the road ahead is open and it simply cannot be turned away from. Many others stifle the call, and attach themselves to the values and safety mechanisms dearest to them. They convince themselves that they are ”doing the right thing". Others assure them that that is so.
Liberation does not thrive in an environment which is based on static values, very gradual and measured change, or unquestioned rules and relationships. We are, indeed, loved and accepted as part of our families and societies because of the role we have taken on for ourselves or which we were assigned. When we swerve from that role, or morph out of it, panic ensues: we are no longer seen as trustworthy and other people’s worlds are shaken as well.
Powerful arguments are thrown at anyone who is attempting the difficult task of growing into himself: ”You promised. How can you do this to us? Think of the good of the children/the company/your parents. What about the plans we made/the growth projections for this year/Dan’s college fees?” An awakening is often mistaken for a lapse, a regression. Growing out of an accepted role hardly means that we shall chuck everything and leave for Patagonia – at least not permanently. It is a groping towards a new, more honest way of being in the world. And it often leads to attempts at bettering the world, driven by a deep and badly expressed sense that there is something in the present order of things that is awry and must be rectified. It also leads to deeper, more sincere relationships with loved ones. When we are more present in ourselves, we are also more lovingly present with others.
If you do venture out onto that new road of discovery of the self and the world, it will frighten you, wound you, and amply reward you. Ultimately it will bring you what you previously sought from other sources: a sense of self-worth and fulfilment, and a deeper sense of being alive. The inner eye develops, and with time you see better the filaments connecting all of us, and the endless layers of existence expanding all around us. It doesn’t require esoteric sects or even a daily spiritual practice, but it does require an openness and a stillness of mind. You will find others that are on the same journey, and who can share their advice and tales of travel. Once you have settled into the rhythm of the journey, you won’t even remember how it began. Enjoy the ride.