Dharma and Making Decisions, by Oren J. Sofer:
About Oren J. Sofer:
Developing a clear understanding of the teachings and learning to fully inhabit the body have been core parts of my Dharma practice. These areas, as well a strong emphasis on the heart, inform and shape my teaching. The few years I spent training as an Anagarika in the Thai Forest monasteries broadened my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings and instilled a profound respect for the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha. All along the way, I’ve been particularly interested in how other modalities like Nonviolent Communication and Somatics can support our growth in awakening.
So, good evening again. So, this is the part of our time together where I’ll try to say something that’s useful to you and offer some thoughts, perspective, and reflections from my own experience and understanding of the Buddhist teachings as they have entered my own life and heart, and mind.
And I’d like to offer some reflections tonight on and aspects of our lives as humans and our spiritual practice that is pretty essential, which is making decisions and choices.
And so, this will, just be sort of a series of reflections and depending on how the time goes, we’ll see if we have time in the end to do a kind of, more of a guided exercise with this.
Interestingly enough, I chose this topic about a week ago before making a pretty big decision today in an unexpected way. I was on a walk with a good friend this afternoon, just sharing a little bit about my life. What’s happening to me about my life and what’s happening for me right now? Personally and professionally, and some of the projects that I have happening this fall. And there are some certain level of stress that I have been feeling around them and a kind of a binding feeling, excited about some of them, and not excited about others, and having an idea that I should be more excited. Or that, you know, like, I should, I want to do these things, but it’s not there. Right? And you know, through the course of the conversion, realizing that one of the projects that I had to decide earlier this summer to do, against my intuition. I had some certain intuitive feeling like, you know, it’s probably better to hold off on that one, but it didn’t follow for whatever reason. And ever since then, since that intuition kept coming back, saying like, “Oh, I should have just put it down. I wish I…” And so, finally, today, I made a decision to just say, you know what, I’m not going to do that.
And so I have this wonderful class coming up this fall. An 8-week communication class. That’s one of the core things that I do that my friend Verona has been helping me to do, outreach for, I’m going to postpone. I’m not going to teach it until January or February of next year, which frees up a lot of time for me to work on some of the other longer term projects that I really have more energy and excitement for this fall.
So, I wanted to just start with that and talk a little bit about that process. And some of the things that I’ve learned over the years of my own practice and just being alive. And we all learn when we bring interest to our life process. So, decisions. It’s a reality of being alive, of being human. It’s that we face with choices, from very simple choices of every day to choices that have more of an ethical dimension, how we spend our time to, choices about life directions. Sometimes, we’re faced with very large choices, you know, to change career directions. To end the relationships, to start the relationship, to break an agreement, you know, that we’ve made, but that we feel like we can’t actually follow through on and how do we do that, and how we make that decision. If we feel that that’s what needed in the moment.
The benefit of having a practice is that we can bring all of the tools of our meditation practice and our spiritual practice to bear on decisions. The spirit of inquiry, the sense of investigation, curiosity, and care. And when we actively engage with making decisions and choices as a part of our practice, it brings a lot of benefits from this kind of care in the process. We often will gain more internal quality by actually paying attention to the decisions and choices we make in our lives. We can learn a lot about ourselves and start to see some of the habit patterns that maybe we’re less conscious, that can sometimes drive our decisions when we actually begin to investigate. How do I decide? What are my patterns? What are my fears? When we make choices in line with our ethical values, it brings more peace. We live with a more peaceful mind. We have a sense of integrity, which is a real source of strength. And a tremendous resource for ourselves, our relationships, for our community, we can also feel a sense through that a bit more grounded. More grounded about in our values, because we know what we’re about when we make decisions that our in-line with our ethics. And in general, bringing attention to the process of making choices. It helps us to steer our life. Making choices is how we steer. It’s having a campus. It’s knowing which way we’re going. So the more we bring awareness and investigation and care to the process of making decisions, the more we’re back in the driver sit. And we’re actually able to direct where we’re putting our energy, where we’re putting our attention and intention.
So, one of the things that I think we realize with spiritual practice when we have a period of more intensive practice and this is something that often times when there is a pretty, ___ practice, or a long retreat, it becomes revealed more clearly that we’re actually making choices all the time. All the time. If there’s awareness. Right? One of the pre-requisites for choice is mindfulness, awareness. If we’re not aware, then we don’t have any choice, actually, we’re running on habit, we’re running on automatic pilot. But when there’s awareness present, everything is a choice. How you sit is a choice. How you walk into a room is a choice. How you take your shoes off is a choice. One, there’s awareness.
The whole ark of the Buddhist teachings is based on this.
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