Making Decisions—How to Know “Right Action”

hand on chess pieceOften people come to me with the problem of not knowing how to make the right decision about something important in their life. I generally ask them what they have come up with so far and how they’ve gone about trying to make the decision.

Inevitably they tell me about a back-and-forth process they’ve been through in their mind in trying to come up with the right decision—and all the pros and cons they can think of about going in one direction or the other. And since the pros and cons usually kind of balance each other out, they can’t make up their mind as to what might be right.

Using the Wrong Tool to Make Decisions

As soon as I hear about the back-and-forth process and the pros and cons, I’m aware of what the problem is: they’ve been using the wrong tool in trying to come up with the best decision: the mind.

For little matters in life—like what to eat for breakfast, when to set a dentist appointment, or where to stop to buy gas—the mind is an excellent tool. It stores tons of information from past experiences and things we’ve read or heard about all those kinds of things so we can decide about things like it later on in life.

But when it comes to more important decisions in life, it can be clueless as to what the best decision might be. All it knows to do is list pros and cons and give data about what it thinks it knows about situations based on its past experiences. For really important decisions that may change the course of our lives, the mind can be woefully inadequate.

So what do we do? Where do we go to find such answers? Usually people just turn to other people they know to hear their opinions. This can be helpful at times—but other people’s opinions can simply add to the confusion that’s already in your own mind.

Some people might advise, “You just need to follow your heart.” This always sounds good. It feels warm and fuzzy. There’s an emotional feel-good quality about that answer.

But as you’ve probably discovered if you’ve ever tried to “follow your heart”, this may not always be the best guidance, after all. Your heart will tell you what you want to do, but this is not always what is best for you to do. Emotions do certainly tell us something important about ourselves at times, and sometimes the best decision is one that satisfies our emotional desires. But often, these desires arise from the baser emotions, such as fear or greed or anger, and end up not directing us in the direction that ends up being best in the end.

Then there is always the guidance we hear about following our intuition. This can be helpful for those who can easily discern the voice of their intuition from the voice of their mind and their emotional desires. But how about those who can’t make this discernment?  Or those who don’t “hear” anything at all when they go inside to hear their intuition?

Most of us need a little more than vague instructions of where to go to get our answers. “Go inside” just doesn’t give enough direction. Where do we go? And how?

The Body Knows

The body is a marvelous tool for giving us direction on certain matters. It can, as many of us know, give us answers about what’s going on inside of itself and what it needs. Anyone who has engaged in muscle-testing can testify to this. But surprisingly, it can also give us information we need on other matters in our life—especially in conjunction with our imaginative faculty.

Let’s say you’re trying to decide whether it would be better for you to go to San Francisco to see a friend this weekend—or stay at home to catch up on your work. Your mind would probably give you the pros and cons of both decisions, and you’d find yourself bouncing back and forth. And your heart would undoubtedly decide on going to San Francisco, because it sounds like it would be more fun. But you’d still wonder if this was really the best decision, because you know that your work is important to do also. So you’re stuck.

Passive Imagination vs Active Imagination

However, you can put the question to your body and see what it says. Here’s how:  First of all imagine yourself this coming weekend in San Francisco, seeing your friend. What’s important in this imagining is this: DON’T use your active imagination in doing this. This is where you would remember the fun things you’ve done in the past and then imagine these things happening again. Or you think of things you want to do and imagine them. That’s using your mind to manipulate your imagination in a particular way.

What you need to do is use your passive imagination. This is where you would just kind of float in your imagination up into next weekend and simply see yourself there in San Francisco with your friend. Period. Don’t put any thoughts or desires into this—just see yourself there and be open to see what spontaneously begins coming to you.  It can be surprising. What you see might not be the scenario that you’ve been day-dreaming about. Your friend might turn out to be in a sour mood, the weather might suck, you might see yourself coming down with a cold.

Whatever it is that comes to you, pay attention to it. Then focus on what is happening in your gut. Is it contracted and tight—or easy and relaxed? The gut responds to what it knows.

Then, the next step is to do the same thing with the second decision: staying home and catching up with your work. To your mind or heart, this decision might not seem very good or pleasant; but if you move ahead in time with your passive imagination and see yourself staying at home, working, you again might be surprised. You might realize that staying home feels exactly right for you for this coming weekend. You’re feeling energized and clear. You’re realizing that your energy has been low, the work has been nagging at you, and it feels really good to get it done. By the end of the weekend, you’re feeling great.  

Again, feel into your gut when you’re feeling into this possibility. What is it telling you? Of course, the opposite experience could also happen: you may realize that going to San Francisco is the better decision. Either way, you experience a felt experience in your gut that feels like a solid knowing—not just a mental kind of knowing in your mind. You know you can trust it.

Seeking Right Action in Your Spiritual Heart

So, for those kinds of decisions that feel a little difficult—but probably aren’t life-changing—the body, along with passive imagination, is a good tool for helping you make decisions. But what about the really big decisions in life—the ones we know could alter our course in life, or maybe permanently change an important relationship? The body can probably tell us some things about parts of the situation, but it’s probably not the best tool to use for making a big decision.

For these, we need to seek right action. And for this, we need to go into our Spiritual Heart. I make a big distinction between the emotional heart and the Spiritual Heart. Strange as it may seem, the emotional heart is something that is actually connected to our right brain. We feel it in our chest where we imagine our heart to be, but science tells us that that aspect of ourselves really originates in the brain. And in any case, it just informs us about our emotions. So that’s not where we want to go for really important decisions.

The Spiritual Heart can be experienced somewhere near the emotional heart—but it’s actually a much bigger and deeper area of your being. Look for it in the “middle” of you, wherever you sense that to be. Start with feeling into the middle of your chest, but then searching deeper into the middle of your being. It’s an energetic feeling—a type of vibrating sensation, or like you’re moving into a deeper dimension somehow.

Sages and spiritual teachers tell us all sorts of things about the Spiritual Heart. But the important thing here is to see it as a doorway into your Higher Self, your soul, your higher wisdom, God—whatever you might call it. It is where you as a human being connect to that higher Source of wisdom and Truth within you.

You undoubtedly know this place in yourself. It’s what just seems to break open and expand with love and joy at certain times in life when you feel greatly moved– or when you suddenly experience a spiritual opening or understanding. There’s often the sensation of being able to see vast vistas of Truth for a few moments and know who you really are, beyond this human existence. There’s sometimes a profound sense of freedom felt in these moments and the knowing of Oneness with all that is.

There is no way to purposely produce these experiences for ourselves (although we may try!). But the reason I bring this up is to point to the place inside you to go to, when you have an important decision to make. It’s this center of your being, this portal into your higher knowing. And you can go there by initially feeling into the “middle” of your chest.

So let’s say you have an important decision to make concerning a significant relationship in your life: perhaps you’re bouncing back and forth in your mind about leaving your partner, swinging between the reasons for leaving and the reasons for staying. Your heart is feeling torn, experiencing grief, anger, hurt and fear. You’re stuck, immobilized, afraid you might make the wrong decision.

How to Make a Big Decision

What you need to do is take some time to sit with yourself quietly and go within. Ask for guidance from all invisible sources that might be available to you. Set an intention that you’re going to receive the answer to your question. Picture yourself finally having the answer and feeling all parts of yourself comfortable and aligned with that decision.

Then release your question for now—stop thinking about it.

If you can successfully meditate and reach a deep place of calm within you, do this. If meditating is too hard for you at this point, then simply put all your focus on your breathing. Breathe into your belly, feeling the air push and out of it, fully. Feel your body begin to deeply relax with this.

At some point, begin focusing on the general area of your Spiritual Heart. Feel into it. Feel yourself falling into it. Deeper and deeper. If you can’t feel yourself moving more deeply into this part of yourself, it’s okay. Just keep focusing on that area.

Asking “What is Right Action?”

When you feel ready, gently turn your focus back to the question you’re asking: “Would it be right action to leave my partner at this time?” (or however you’d state it). Ask the question in as neutral a way as possible. Ask it wanting to know what would be the highest good for you, and for all concerned–what would be right action. And then wait quietly and patiently. Do your best, despite any fears you may have, to sincerely want to know what right action is. Keep breathing. And see what happens.

Not everyone hears the answer from this place inside themselves. Some people see something. Others feel something. Many people just suddenly have a knowing of what the answer is. Wait patiently till something happens—and be open to receive it. An answer may come—but if you reject it, it may recede again. Be honest with yourself about your sincerity in truly wanting to know right action.

Trust the Answer

The thing is to trust what you get. At first, your mind or emotions may not like what you’re getting. You’ll feel a sense of resistance within you. Remember, you don’t have to make any decision at this point about taking action on this answer you’re getting. You’re just asking the question. This will calm any fears you may have about the answer.

But do sit still with the answer you’ve received and let it be for a while, without reacting to it one way or another. What will happen may surprise you: you will see how your mind and emotions begin to respond to the Truth you’ve become aware of. They begin aligning themselves with it.

It can be an amazing experience—watching how your emotions and your mind suddenly recognize the majesty of the Truth as it enters your being and begin to interact with it. It can be especially amazing if the answer is contrary to what you would have thought it would be. But you naturally begin trusting it, because there’s a pleasant sensation of vibrating in your being as you reflect on it. There’s a clear and resonant “bong” of a bell that is sounding within, an increasing feeling of an openness, an expansiveness you experience.

 You will also likely begin experiencing a profound sense of relief throughout your being, as your mind finally surrenders and you can no longer deny what is true for you. Your emotions begin moving from fear and grief to a sense of calm. You may realize that this decision is going to mean a lot of upset in other people, and perhaps a lot of work in changing your whole life in accordance with it—but this is not important now, because you can’t imagine yourself not following what is right for you.

Magic Happens

At this point, the real magic can start happening. Once making the decision to follow right action, everything in your life starts lining up with it. Doors open, outer blocks and resistances disappear. Supportive people show up to help you make the necessary changes in your life. The universe cooperates, everything flows. All this is simply validation that you are moving in the direction of right action.

In the end, you come to realize that you want all your decisions to come from your Spiritual Heart, you want everything you do to be right action. It becomes a way of life, a way of going through your day, constantly touching into that depth of your being to see if you’re on track, in alignment with right action. You no longer have to sit down, go within and do the whole process of tuning in and getting your answers. It becomes a quick and natural process, stemming from your desire and intention to be in tune with your Spiritual Heart.

Living life this way, you truly become a divine instrument not only in your own life—but in the life of all those around you. Life becomes simple and straightforward. Struggling with decisions, both big and small, is something of the past. You are allowing your Spiritual Heart to lead.

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