Free Will….Part Two: Go With The Flow

Laguz - Rune meaning "Flow"

In my first posting of the question of free will, I talk about how, as students of non-duality, we are taught that we cannot be the doer of anything. Some points previously made:

  • Spiritual and religious traditions stress the notion that everything that happens is a result of the will of God.
  • It seems that it is only when we think we can’t ‘do’ anything about a situation do we relinquish our imagined control.
  • We do have the free will to choose where to put our awareness (attention).

This suggests that events in our lives (or the world) happen exactly the way they’re supposed to happen. Which, taken a step further, suggests that the future is set. That said, let’s indulge our ego’s need to analyze and dig a little deeper into the idea that everything happens just as it’s supposed to. If people on some level didn’t already believe this, nobody would be interested in consulting psychics. People go to them in order to know what is going to happen – doesn’t that suggest that they think the future just might be set? So what does free will have to do with anything? How can we separate free will and predetermination? That’s like saying, “I choose what I’m having for dinner, but the trip to Europe that the psychic saw is predestined.”

When we pay attention to the present moment and accept that moment and not let our awareness dwell on the past or worry about the future, we go with the flow. I know, I know – easier said than done. I have found that everyone has his or her own threshold of pain. Eventually we get tired of beating our heads against a wall by trying to control everything in our lives, and once we sit back exhausted, we throw up our hands and say, “Whatever….” That’s when we surrender to ‘what is’ and go with the flow. But honestly – it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Years ago, during a particularly difficult time in my life, I was obsessed with the need to make things happen a certain way. And of course, nothing (and I mean nothing) was happening the way I wanted it to during that period. I was tense, nervous and miserable most of the time. Finally, a friend told me, “You’re not flowing. You need to learn how to flow.” I resisted, not having a clue on how to do that. It happened that I recently had purchased a set of Runes. For those unfamiliar with the Runes, they are a set of stones carved with letters of Scandinavian origin and intended to be used, not so much for divination, but as guidance for the Spiritual Warrior. I can’t remember why, but I checked all of the Runes in the set and noticed that one was missing. The missing Rune was the one meaning “Flow.”

Not quite a watershed moment but a useful and interesting one for me, since my  awareness in that moment did expand beyond the horizon of my mundane life, serving to remind me of the bigger picture. Perhaps if we can do that, not just in challenging situations but everyday ones, remember that we are a part of an interconnected Whole and not apart from that Whole, going with the flow will become an easier and even natural way to live.

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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.