Guidance on Difficult Choices
Getting Guidance for Making Difficult Choices
—An Ancient Human Problem
© Copyright 1990, 2005, by Timothy Conway, Ph.D.
Dealing with the decision-making process, i.e., making choices, and wondering whether one has good guidance or whether one is being duped by one’s selfish conditioning is tricky for everyone, including longtime spiritual aspirants. It’s an age-old dilemma for human beings that we have this sense of free will and choice (apparently unlike most other creatures on earth), yet often we don’t quite know how to use free will in certain “unfamiliar,” “unknown” and/or confusing situations. We seem to be paralyzed by the choice facing us; there is a sense of being at an impasse, or having an obstacle in one’s way, hindering our moving along in a straightforward direction in our life.
It has been said in some of the mystical traditions that the sense of choice really only comes up when we are unclear. Consider the fact that normally we flow along, readily responding to all sorts of life-situations without any heavy sense of obstacles, and without needing to get “guidance” on making the numerous, actually countless, choices each day. The sense of choice only arises when we’re not clear about which course to take—and we begin to vacillate between “options.” A perfectly enlightened sage is always (or at least most of the time) getting clear guidance as to which course to take to benefit sentient beings in the most profound way possible for the situation. Thus, as it has been paradoxically stated, the true sage, the true “free being,” is actually a “slave” of Divine Will, always responding to situations in ways that best express the Divine Plan or Providence for that particular situation.
But I surmise that even the sages are sometimes thrown a curveball in terms of being served with situations that require a decision and the evidence is not clear as to which course to take--e.g., course A, B, or C.
So, here are a few pointers on possible ways to get clear guidance on making decisions:
1) Ask God (Spirit, Tao, Brahman/Atman, the one God-Self of us all) for guidance and “revelation,” even some kind of “omen” or “sign” if needed, to proceed in a certain direction (i.e., making choice A, B, C or whatever). Be willing to wait several days or weeks (or, in some cases, months or even years for this guidance to manifest).
2) Meditate in stillness and quiet for periods of time and see what arises from your depths by way of an answer to your impasse.
3) Similarly, you can sleep on it with “sleep incubation” techniques--write down the given choices on a piece of paper before you go to sleep, and see if something comes forth within your dreams or from the “in between” states of consciousness (the dream-like hypnagogic falling asleep state and hypnopompic near-waking state). An answer may come symbolically within your dream or one of your dream characters may state the guidance quite clearly.
4) Ask yourself a Q and then, before the ego-mind can weigh in with “personal” associations and judgments, see what flashes forth at a “speed faster than normal thought” as to which action you should take. Sometimes this “rapid check” or “instant intuition” can bring forth a form of guidance much deeper and clearer than the slower process of cogitation by the rational mind.
5) Speaking of the rational mind, there’s nothing wrong with letting it do what it knows how to do best--distinguish, analyze, compare and evaluate. Sit down, take out a pad of paper and pen (or your computer’s word-processor) and then list the pros and cons of each possible choice. A clear answer may jump out as quite obvious by the time you’re finished. The very process of writing everything out may also allow deeper truth and guidance to emerge from the “super-conscious” mind.
6) I've never tried this, but obviously countless millions of people have found solace in using an oracle, such as the I Ching (Book of Changes). More simply, you can ask for Divine Guidance and then flip a coin--with heads meaning one choice, tails meaning the other choice. Or flip it 10 times and see if a clear pattern emerges. You might say, “Well, how the coin flips is simply due to chance.” Perhaps. But given that this universe does not appear to have arisen solely by chance (e.g., how is it that those almighty "laws of physics" are so perfectly fine-tuned by astonishing improbabilities to allow a cosmos to arise?), one can also trust that there is a deeper Principle behind everything that happens, and you can ask this Divine Guiding Intelligence to show you an answer via the coin-tossing process. Alternatively, many people have created a slightly more sophisticated oracle by getting out 3 or 4 pieces of paper. They write “yes” on one, “no” on another, “wait” on a third piece of paper, and, if they like, “wrong question” on the fourth piece of paper. Then they turn them face down, scramble them up, and pick one of the 3 or 4 pieces of paper to get guidance this way.
7) Obviously, many persons also like to consult a psychic “sensitive” and/or an astrologer or a palmist (Indian jyotish astrology, followed by Western astrology, seem to be the most accurate astrology systems. And, curiously, palmistry and astrology seem to complement each other as different methods for getting to the same “karmic” information on the soul’s mission, destiny, strengths and vulnerabilities).
It may be Divine Will that none of these strategies bring forth any kind of clear guidance. It seems to me, from a study of the material on and by our greatest spiritual leaders, that sometimes even great sages / saints can be “bedeviled” by certain confusing situations for which there does not seem to be one (single) good choice.
It appears that sometimes the Divine Self that You Are likes to bewilder the human mind, as a way of opening us to the even deeper Intelligence of “Divine Unknowing.”
So sometimes just floating along in literal “unknowing bewilderment” is part of our Divinely-destined karma for that period of time. Perhaps an answer to the particular conundrum will finally come. And perhaps it won’t (at least anytime soon in this life)!
Finally, whatever choice does somehow get made and enacted, trust that whatever happens—either as a “good” or “bad” result--was meant to happen, otherwise something else would be happening. It could be that some of the choices that turn out “not so good” may be the very means by which the universe helps you work out some “bad old karma.”
In any case, given the miracle of even being here with such a stunningly ordered cosmos in the first place, we can have faith that all unfolds by Divine Grace according to the perfect Script of this Divine Comedy, wherein moments and even long periods of terrible tragedy seem to be prevailing, but everything turns out wonderfully “in the end,” as all beings will eventually awaken to the One Divine Reality of Infinite Spirit, their real Identity and True Nature.
I hope this perspective helps. May your life flow smoothly, without too many “impasses.”
In any case, whatever happens, externally or internally, is all one single manifestation of the Divine Nature as pure, intensely adventurous play!