By Myra Lewin
We’ve been working with a family here at Hale Pule for several years. They come to visit about once a year, and I work with their mother around ways to support their health at home. As the children have grown up, they have been taught to notice the positive and negative consequences that come as a result of their choices. This year at summer camp, they were offered oatmeal for breakfast topped with ice cream (a way to bribe them to eat the oatmeal). The children have experienced enough stomachaches and eczema from eating poorly and made the decision to turn down the ice cream. At 7 and 10 years old, they are exercising viveka, or discernment. In other words, they know how to think for themselves.
We all come into our lives with the ability to know what is right for our bodies and minds and act accordingly, but this becomes clouded when we place someone else’s judgement above our own. Each time we give away our power, we turn away from the soft voice of our higher self and become deafened to its divine guidance. This is the reason so many people feel lost these days -- they have little understanding of who they truly are and what they want to do. The path to freedom is laid by listening to yourself and acting in line with your highest interest and recognizing there are consequences from every action.
How to listen to your divine wisdom
Listening to your higher self is at the root of all healing. Books, schools and teachers can show you the direction to your god within, but they cannot teach you to honor the guidance of this soft voice. You must be willing to step up to that responsibility.
When you take this step up, you’ll find your truth. This kind of truth is the ability to see right from wrong, light from darkness, clarity from exaggeration. And it can only come when you are connected to who you really are.
Think back to a time in your life when you made a difficult decision, but one that brought peace to your heart. Even if it was hard to act, I’ll bet that the outcome was positive in the end. You may not have known it then, but you were experiencing yourself as eternal spirit. All physical urges and material desires fell away and you saw what would be in the highest good. This is the connection that makes it possible to have complete clarity about any choice placed before you.
Daily practices to build viveka
Thinking for yourself is a learned behavior, which means you always have the choice to start practicing. No matter how much time you have spent living according to someone else’s wishes, it is never too late to turn around and find the freedom that comes from listening to your inner wisdom.
When you live according to what is right for you, you’ll free yourself from doing things just because everyone else is doing them, even what is done in the name of health or spiritual development. You may begin to notice the imbalancing effects of too many dark, leafy green vegetables and choose not to eat that trendy kale salad. Or you may stop comparing your progress in Yoga asana to others and learn to practice the poses from their true essence (read this month’s asana tutorial on upavistha konasana for more on that).
To cultivate the ability to think for yourself, start looking for answers inside you, and stop looking outside. Turn off the television and minimize your consumption of news. Go inward each morning with meditation and make quiet time each evening before bed. Pause before you take someone’s suggestions (even my own!) and reflect first on whether or not it is your truth.
Next, look away from the urges of your mind. These are the impulses that often come in response to an emotion that you are not allowing yourself to feel. When you say “no” to a scoop of ice cream or an extra bite of food you don’t need, your mind grows stronger and becomes less demanding. Feelings flow through you naturally, the way they were intended to move. Then, the interference between you and your higher self falls away.
Once you have built a relationship with your true self, you are free to live in ways that reflect who you are. Don’t limit yourself by worrying if you’ll hurt someone’s feelings if you don’t want to take part in an activity that doesn’t feel good. If your friends will reject you because you are choosing something different, you probably need some different friends.
This life is yours. Your direct experience is your very best teacher. Honor what you learn from it and let that inner voice guide you to say “yes” to the things that will move you along your path and ignore the distractions.