Choice.

July 31, 2018 § Leave a comment

Zen Master Dogen said, “There are those who continue realizing beyond realization and those who are deluded within delusion.” We may wonder if these categories do not overlap.

The other day I noticed that my awareness had a particular feeling tone to it that had escaped my previous attention. Upon becoming aware of it I realized that it had been there for some time, which meant that I had already been aware of it before I became aware of it. As Franklin Merrell-Wolff might have said, we can be aware and we can be aware of being aware.

So this particular feeling toned state was already occupying my state of awareness before I became fully aware of it. What made this realization different from other times this had happened was that with this realization came another. That I had chosen to identify with the particular feeling and, in so doing, was perpetuating it!

I had previously read about the question of choice in relation to enlightenment without really knowing what it meant. In her book, “When Fear Falls Away,” Jan Frazier referred to the fact that she always had a choice in what to feel but didn’t realize it until after her enlightenment. Eckhart Tolle wrote in, “A New Earth,” that if you could realize that you are creating your own suffering then an infinite number of possibilities, more intelligent possibilities, would open up.

Both authors were talking about choice and how we limit our choices but I didn’t understand how this happened. It was only after my small above stated experience that I realized for the first time how I was limiting my choice. It was through false identification, which may be loosely defined as confusing the observer with that being observed.

In identifying with a particular state I am unknowingly giving my mind a directive to maintain that state for as long as possible, thus limiting my choice. If, for example, I define myself using a time when I felt awkward, then I may feel awkward in all future social situations. My mind will work to make that identity ‘real’ to me by pointing out how people are reacting to my awkwardness. Whether they are or not is not the question. The mind will maintain my chosen identity and its consequences even if it has to distort reality in the process.

Having an ego identity that can be maintained over time does give one a sense of security (albeit a false sense of security) but it is also limits choice. Instead of allowing yourself to feel all the things you can feel in life, you are left to feeling just a few, or the one. Instead of being open to life we spend our time trying to maintain our picture of the world and our own values. We become, as Dogen said, “deluded within delusion.”

When we see, actually see, that we are choosing who we want to be in each and every moment then we open ourselves up to all the things we might be in any given moment. Again in Zen Master Dogen’s words, we become one of “those who continue realizing beyond realization.” That is why it is important to awaken to the reality of the present moment, rather than fabricate one within our own minds.

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