I woke this morning, too early, because biology said so; I had to pee. I wanted very much to go back to sleep, even though I knew the alarm would go off in less than an hour. It mattered less that I might not sleep more, than it did to honor my desire to do so. I snuggled up in the warmth of the blankets, and let myself drift off, favoring meditation if sleep didn’t come. Sleep didn’t come. Anxiety did, though. Like a blast through my relaxed near-dream consciousness, like a bucket of ice water on a challenge I didn’t volunteer for, like a pit in a pitted cherry in a particular good bite of pie, my anxiety surged very suddenly, and without obvious cause. Amusingly, I ‘heard’ a distant imagined voice, calm and professional, my own, in the background “please do not panic…” and smiled as I comfortably shifted my body to a more open position, and focused on my breathing. The anxiety quickly dissipated, lacking anything to feed on, and I continued to meditate until the alarm went off, and then for a couple of moments afterward; reacting to the alarm often starts my day badly, for some reason, perhaps some association with the word ‘alarm’, itself, and I often take a couple of minutes to breath and relax before I rise.

Like any muscle, my will becomes stronger (and healthier) the more I exercise it. Practicing good emotional and physical self-care pays off over time, although initially I wasn’t really  certain that such small changes would ‘matter’. Isn’t that the thing though? If I had insisted for myself that small changes, better practices, and that really committing to the practices that feel good to me were of no value – or no lasting value – or that I ‘won’t be able to make that work’, I most assuredly would have achieved what I was certain of – they wouldn’t have been of much value. Don’t get me wrong on this one, I am not decrying the value of empirical evidence, or sneezing on the standards of proof in science. I am suggesting that it is rather obvious, regardless what can be proven effective, that we have the power to render the most effective treatment worthless by undercutting our will, or by defining our successes as failure, or simply by choosing to identify the outcome as ‘not working’. This is not a matter of ‘faith’ – because the things I am practicing are not ‘faith-based’ practices. Like any practices, if I don’t actually practice them, they will not be effective – it is my choice to apply myself, to enact my will, to see change manifest because I choose it. There are verbs involved…but there is also acceptance, and awareness involved.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge... or just a tree? You choose.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge… or just a tree? You choose.

Why am I on about this today? For a friend, actually. It seems he has lost his will, and is surviving life on his ‘won’t’ instead. It sucks to see him suffer – worse still, it sucks to see him not only choose suffering, but to invest heavily in the continuation of suffering as though the suffering itself has great value, or is the desired outcome. Hell, maybe it is. He does get to choose. I feel both sympathy and compassion for his struggle; I have my own such moments. Maybe we all do, now and then. We each make our choices. There are verbs involved. Our results vary. We are each having our own experience. The map is not the world. The journey is the destination.

My friend has been exposed to all these ideas, himself. He has a lot of people who support and encourage him (although he often doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it). He very specifically enacts his ‘won’t’ at many decision-making points, and defines many moments as failures, accepting that there is no possible good outcome available to him. He often makes a point of limiting his perceived options, and holds onto life-goals that appear specifically chosen to be as far out of reach as possible, while firmly refusing himself any opportunity to see more of life’s potential. It makes my heart ache to see him suffer…and it confuses me to see that it is willful, and so carefully crafted. I am powerless to help – because these are his choices to make, and he makes them. Another lesson on attachment, perhaps, and a reminder that some of my own self-inflicted suffering is a matter of choosing (poorly) to find myself responsible for someone else’s self-inflicted suffering by assigning myself some portion of the task of alleviating that suffering. It doesn’t work that way with self-inflicted suffering; only the self can choose to let that one go.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That's how choice works.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That’s how choice works.

Today is a good day for good self-care, and for loving the being of light that inhabits this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to consider more than the obvious options, and choices that didn’t make the first list. Today is a good day to be open to success, and to accept failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Today is a good day to love, and to put myself at the top of my own agenda. Today is a good day to change the world within.