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Choosing in a Predetermined World

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Please feel free to contact me with email questions or comments that I will address in this blog.

Someone emailed me with the following question:

The greatest love, peace and joy I've experienced in life came from believing every day life had been predetermined before I was born. In other words I had no power to change anything. I was simply watching life unfold moment by moment. Life was wonderful...This was years ago....Now that I'm in control I'm very lost.....What does your heart say about this.....

And here is my response:

I would suggest that both perspectives are true, but the perspective of everything being predetermined is the bigger truth. Although I tend to think of it not as predetermined, but rather determined by the infinite intelligence of Being, which appears predetermined from our limited perspective.

And in that limited perspective of our everyday life, it appears true that we are in control or at least choosing what we do. Within the realm of our daily life, it is even important to choose and learn, grow and evolve the very best we can. We must act as if our choices matter, because at this level they do matter.

Yet at the same time, this much larger intelligence is unfolding life perfectly according to a divine plan that we can sense or intuit, but can't really comprehend. Again, the bigger truth is this divine intelligence that breathes our body, grows the trees, arranges the stars and galaxies and brings us to the exact experiences we are meant to be having right now.

So both are true. We must make choices and yet it is all just happening according to the plan. Or you could say that our choices are also part of the divine plan.

There is another dimension to all of this, and that is the potential to simply choose what is already so. When we do this, the two dimensions meet. We surrender our power to choose to the bigger truth of the limitless intelligence of Being. In a sense, all spiritual practices are a form of choosing what already is, whether it is a form of meditation such as just following the breath, inquiring into who you really are, or awareness practices that bring attention to the present moment experience. In every case, there is an invitation to surrender the effort to change what is and simply sense or inquire into what is already so.

This place where choice meets the deeper truth is a very ripe or fertile ground for an infusion of insight and understanding into our awareness. It is not that the spiritual practice makes anything happen, but it does put you in the most likely place for something profound to happen, including something as simple as noticing how beautiful and mysterious the moment to moment unfolding of life really is.

You may also find the article entitled What to Do When There Is No Doer on this website helpful as it addresses this question also.

Seeking Happiness

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Someone on Facebook sent me the following quote and followed with a question:

"I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…"--Dalai Lama

This is what i've been pondering on...."we all are seeking something better in life. " Do we seek because of a void or is it our nature to long for more, but then again that would be ego driven. Im probably over thinking...

And here is my response:

We do seek, first for something better, and then for a better or more spiritual truth because we are trying to fill the void or emptiness within. But both are doomed to failure because everything that we put in the emptiness and every experience we have is dissolved back into emptiness. Trying to fill the emptiness is like trying to fill a bucket with lots of holes. It never fills up no matter how much water we put in!

Eventually after massive amounts of failure, we get so tired of seeking and trying to find happiness that we finally just let ourselves experience the emptiness itself. What is that like? Is it a bad sensation? What is already present in the emptiness? What are the qualities of the emptiness itself? One of the many surprises you may discover is that joy or happiness actually flows out of the emptiness. Happiness (and peace, love, satisfaction, value, etc.) comes from the same source as the seeking!

We may not notice this for a long time because whenever we do get something we want, for a moment we stop seeking. And in that relative stillness, it is easier for us to notice the happiness or peace that is present in the emptiness. But we think that getting what we wanted made us happy since one follows the other, which reinforces our tendency to seek. And this reinforcement of the seeking means that the joy doesn't last or it is never enough. However, if you still are seeking or wanting something, including happiness, then usually the best thing you can do is keep seeking. The worst that can happen is that you will wear yourself out even sooner!

But it is also possible that you are already exhausted enough from seeking to just rest and let yourself be empty. And some joy, peace, or love may be noticed in that emptiness, or it may trigger another round of trying to fill the emptiness which will just wear you out some more. You can pay attention to the happiness when it does appear: where is it really coming from? Does getting something or knowing something really make you happy, or does it just allow you to rest for a moment? Does happiness or peace ever show up even when you don't get what you want, or when you are just still for a moment, or you just finally let yourself be empty? Eventually, you may discover you can trust the emptiness more than you can trust seeking.


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(The following is an excerpt from the book, Living from the Heart by Nirmala. Part 2 of the book is available as a free ebook download here)

book cover living heart

Desires push and pull you in so many directions. It is as if you were magnetized to what you desire: When you see something you want, or even if you think about something you want, you are irresistibly drawn to move towards it. On top of this, you have lots of contradictory desires, which leave you with internal conflicts: "I want to eat more and I want to lose weight." "I want a relationship and I want to be independent." "I want to buy a vacation house and I want to simplify my life." However, desire is also normal and natural. It's what fuels many of your actions and accomplishments.

What really matters is not what desires you have, but where you experience them from. When you experience a desire from the head, you are on the surface of it and feeling the full force of wanting, as it draws you towards the object of your desire. When you drop into the Heart and experience the same desire from deeper within, you are taken to the source of the desire, where the force of the magnetic pull is less powerful. The desire is still present, but you are resting in the quiet source of your impulse to act.

The difference is like being in the rushing water of a giant spillway versus resting in the lake that is the source of the spillway. If you stay in the head, with its magnified focus on the object of desire, that is like being in the rushing water that is destined to flow over the spillway. From there, it's extremely difficult to resist the flow of desire, and most of the time, we don't. However, when you drop into your Heart and belly, it's like being in the center of the lake, where the water is still and calm. The spillway of your desire is still present, but there is more choice about whether or not to act on it.

Exercise: Think of something you really want-a possession or an experience you desire. As you think about it, notice what that is like. Can you feel the magnetic pull of that object of desire? As you continue to focus on it with your mind, it may seem more and more important and irresistible. Now move down into the Heart and/or belly and experience your desire from there. You don't need to change your desire; just experience the same pull from deep within your Being. How important is the desire when you feel it from the Heart and belly? Is it easier to resist the pull, to just rest here in the spaciousness of your Being?


As you rest deeply in your Heart, it is more possible to see the full range of your desires and impulses. You have many desires. Since you do have so many, including contradictory and unhealthy ones, it can be helpful to rest in the Heart, where you can more easily see which ones are true and valuable. Even very strong contradictory desires are not a problem when you are resting in the center of your Being, where they don't have so much leverage.