The Question of Free Will

Ever say or do anything the whole time thinking, “why am I saying (or doing) this?” We have all experienced those moments when we question our words or actions. We are told we have free will, the ability to choose what we say or do. Well, then, how do we explain those times when we just couldn’t keep ourselves from speaking or acting in a certain way?

I’ve always questioned the idea of free will. Sure, I thought I was the one making all the decisions, but I realized that some of those decisions were just a product of certain behavior patterns, dictated by psychological, biological, sociological and perhaps even theological conditioning. For example, think of someone close to you. Now imagine a choice that they will have to make. It could something as simple as what they will choose to eat in a restaurant or what color shirt they will buy. You don’t have to be the amazing Kreskin to know what they will choose. If my mother were given a choice between a blue sweater and a green one, she would choose the green. I know this because green was her favorite color.  If you know your significant other hates broccoli, it’s not a leap to know he/she won’t order it in a restaurant. But to the ego, it was its free will to choose the corn over the broccoli. Even if we do recognize that our conditioning may dictate (or dare I say predetermine) our actions, we are still hesitant to ask the question,  “Just how free is our free will anyway?”

Spiritual and religious traditions stress the notion that everything that happens is a result of the will of God.  But there seems to be a caveat to this idea. When things go well, our egos take the credit – “I did that” or “didn’t I make a good choice?” When things don’t go so well, we say, “It wasn’t meant to be,” suggesting that a Higher Power is in control. So in other words, we pat ourselves on the back in good times and blame God in bad ones. Christians will say, “It’s in God’s hands,” or “Let go, let God” – another hint that we reach a point where we are forced to loosen our illusory grip on what we perceive as reality. The key word here is ‘forced.’ It seems that it is only when we think we can’t ‘do’ anything about a situation do we relinquish our imagined control.

As students of non-duality, we are taught that we cannot be the doer of anything. We are also taught that the only control we have is where we put our attention.  As St. Teresa of Avila said so eloquently in her poem, As I Found The Source, “…Nothing on their own have your arms ever done, the movements of your feet are caused by the waves He stirred…”

This is not an easy concept to get, because we are so entrenched in duality, in separateness.  And really it’s supposed to be that way. That is how our egos are wired. But, even if you not on a non-dualistic path, you can still catch glimpses of non-duality. Meditation, prayer, being out in nature, are all tools you can use to experience Oneness.

So maybe you didn’t really choose to have that pizza, but you can choose the focus of your awareness. You can make it one of love and compassion or you can make it one of fear, which gives rise to all the hatred, competitiveness and greed we see in the world. You have the free will to choose.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Question of Free Will

  1. great post. I found this from typing “do we control anything” into a search engine. im not an advaita student, but feel like I have a lot to say on this, but probably nothing to say. I feel like I am a consciousness, and all of these things; thoughts, feelings, pass through and I cant do anything about them but have a nonjudgemental awareness. im skeptical if I even have control over external things, or if theyre just karmas and habits, that I can only be aware of. or if im just consciousness here to witness these things, I don’t know.. because if I did have control, my life and everyone elses who I know would be a lot different, with no suffering and only good thoughts and feelings all of the time..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s