By Marta Rabiej, Reiki Practitioner
Publishers Note: This article was published in Opal Magazine in March 2017.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”~ Helen Keller
How often do you struggle with making decisions in your life? Is it really something that comes to you easily, and you can enjoy the choice you made? Or are you having a difficult time deciding on anything, and you still question or doubt yourself later?
Decision making is a crucial part of our lives. We are bombarded with choices all the time. From simple preferences about where to get our coffee in the morning on the way to work, to important, life-altering decisions on where to live and how to spend the rest of our lives. There are several things that influence our decision-making process, and sometimes we would be surprised how little it has to do with a problem-solving activity. Instead, it all reflects back on our subconscious beliefs and the conditioning we received as children.
For example, if our immediate environment we grew up in was loving and supportive, we will be confident, and decision making will always be easy. We won’t have any regrets once we choose something. It will be obvious and it won’t take us long to come to a conclusion what would be the best outcome for us, and what we decide to pursue. However, if we were growing up in the environment where lack and fear were a norm, we will have a hell of a time making any decisions, and most likely it is going to cost us an arm and a leg to come to a conclusion, after many sleepless nights of tossing and turning. Later, we will still doubt our choice and have a battle going on in our mind, when we will still be pondering if that was the best possible option. On the other hand, if we grew up in the environment of total lack of support and neglect, where love was not available to us, we will always have difficulty choosing anything. Not only because there is more than one option, but also we will have a belief that no matter what we chose, we won’t be satisfied enough. There always be that lingering thought that the other option could be better.
So, the question is – how can we handle decision making without going through the hustle? What would it take to be free from dilemmas, doubts, fears, and dissatisfaction? Well, the ideal thing would be to clear the layers of those fears, hurts, and pain that are imprinted in our energy center that governs our self-esteem, which is our Solar Plexus Chakra. It is a seat of our personal power, ambition, center of our will, strong emotions, and action. Its natural element is fire, and it deals with power. Balanced or out of balance, Solar Plexus Chakra can make a difference in our life. From feelings of lack of power or obsessive-compulsive behaviours, to being in control of our destiny and happiness, it has the power to make us feel either in total control of our life, or being powerless with low self-esteem. It can make us feel confident or totally dependant on what others think. It is a center where anger, fear, and guilt reside, with the ability to make us feel like a victim of circumstances, bringing along stomach pains and anxiety.
One of the most important ways is the ability to live from our heart center, and allowing it to guide us in decision making. The heart is more than just a pump that sustains our vital signs. It is the source of love, wisdom, intuition, and positive emotions. Our connection to the Divine Consciousness and a place that knows every answer to every question about our life – past, present, and future. The renowned French philosopher, Blaise Pascal stated, “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”
There is a constant two-way communication between the brain and the heart that only recently became the focus of a research, resulting in very interesting facts. One of the primary researchers in this field, Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Director of Research at The Institute of HeartMath, located in Boulder Creek, California, Fellow of the American Institute of Stress, who holds membership with the International Neurocardiology Network (among many others), explains that the heart and cardiovascular system are sending far more signals to the brain than the brain is sending to the heart. These signals have a regulatory influence on many aspects of the autonomic nervous system, including most glands and organs. They also have profound effect on the higher brain centers such as the thalamus, hypothalamus, and amygdala, and they play a direct and important role in determining our perceptions, thought processes, and emotional experiences. Recent work in this relatively new field of neurocardiology has firmly established that the heart is a sensory organ and an information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system that’s sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a heart brain. (http://noeticsi.com/thinking-from-the-heart-heart-brain-science/)
It sounds all complicated and scientific, and if you are not into this sort of thing, this research won’t have much value to you, but it is very important. Why? Because it proves that the heart is a very well equipped instrument, able to guide us on the road to live our lives in alignment with our higher purpose, in joy, into peace, balance, and happiness. For years, we focused entirely on the brain and its role in our existence, only to find out that we still cannot answer many questions that we have about our thinking processes. But there is one aspect of our mind that indicates we do not live from our heart, and that’s our Ego. To get into an “easy mode” of decision making we should know what role Ego plays in our lives, and what are the signs that it is overinflated.
Several psychoanalysts devoted their entire lives to studying human personality structure. Our wants, needs, desires, impulses that drive us, and our decision-making process. An Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, explained that Ego is trying to satisfy our identity based on the comparison of reality with what is beneficial for us, where Ego looks after our basic needs of survival. But putting all of those theories aside, we can learn how to recognize signs that we live and are governed by our Ego.
First sign that we live from Ego is the fact that we are always focused entirely on our own needs, where everything is always about “me, me, me”. Ego is all about serving itself, and putting me on the pedestal. In this case, we won’t have any compassion for others, and we won’t be concerned about anybody else’s needs other than those of me. We will lack empathy and be noticed by others as selfish. The best way to change it is to get into a habit of doing random acts of kindness and allowing our attention to focus on others on regular basis. That brings us in touch with our own feelings and makes us aware of how we affect others.
Another way to tell that our Ego drives our life is when we are always defensive and always have to be right. Ego is all about protecting itself and it fears vulnerability. It never wants to be exposed, because that would mean we don’t really know anything, or we don’t know what we are doing, so we build fences around ourselves, our beliefs, our motives. Ego doesn’t like to be wrong or insecure, so we get caught in an illusion that it protects us from a threat, even if there is none. The best remedy for that is to let go and surrender. Eliminate stress and realize that it’s okay to learn from others, from our own mistakes and failures, as long as we have self-compassion and treat all of our experiences as the learning curve and a stepping stone to something better.
It has no breaks and it knows no limits. It requires to always be fed and never has enough. It’s not easy to break a habit of eating our emotions, but it is possible to do so. First step is by admitting to ourselves that we have an issue, and examining what it is that we are refusing to deal with openly. Awareness is the key to success. Bringing those feelings to the surface is half of the victory. Addressing them is another part that can help us heal. To get food addiction under control we can do intermittent fasting, and start with eliminating junk food in favor of green and fresh foods, freshly squeezed juices, or fruits. There is a lot of info on the web about it. I liked the article of Allison Young’s blog, containing research results. You can read more and find it here: http://www.prevention.com/food/i-tried-intermittent-fasting-for-a-week.
When we are comparing ourselves to others, chances are that our Ego is in charge. We have the notion that we need to strive to be better than others, and that makes us very unhappy for many reasons. One of them is the fact that we do not focus our attention and energy on our own abilities and gifts, but instead get into judging and criticising. When we are not achieving the same results as those we are comparing ourselves with, we actually end up criticising ourselves, feeling bad about our perceived failure. When in fact we should realize that each of us is on our own unique path, learning different things, that we have different beliefs, circumstances, and goals. We can say that comparison leads to judgement, judgement leads to suffering, and that is the beginning of a miserable life. We would definitely serve ourselves better if we put our heart into finding our own niche that we are amazing at, and focus on living our passion while celebrating our own victories, however small.
If our life is all about collecting material possessions that actually never bring us any happiness, that’s also an indication that our Ego is at play. We are focused on getting more and more things, hoarding, and cluttering our living spaces with items we don’t even use. Making a habit of putting conditions on our happiness, when we plan to get another thing or another gadget, postpones our contentment and gratitude for what we already have. This compulsive focus on material takes away from our spiritual life. The best way to change it is to realize that we are only trying to fill the hole in our soul, which cannot be patched by anything that money can buy. However, we can start with a simple way of taking stock of our blessings, by writing five things a day that we are grateful for. If we do it right before we go to sleep, we end our day on a positive note and put our mind at ease, by focusing on our blessings instead of problems. It’s a wonderful way of getting into a habit of bringing more of what we want, and allowing our mind to get some restful sleep, which is a first step to reclaiming good health and a positive outlook on life.
Are you genuinely happy for others about their good fortune or success? Can you rejoice in other people’s happiness? If you live in envy, that’s the sign that your Ego needs an overhaul. Ego is all about getting attention, it does not like to be left behind or see others succeed more than it does. It is about being ahead of everyone else, not realizing that there is no race. We all have different values and should focus on what makes us happy, understanding that there is plenty of abundance, and everyone can be great or have an amazing life. It’s a good idea to ask ourselves once in a while if the attention we seek comes from our authentic-self or from the need for other’s approval and validation. Ego loves recognition and seeks it from outside sources, often compromising integrity or using manipulation, by pretending to be someone else than we actually are. There is nothing wrong in striving to be better or wanting better things for ourselves, but that shouldn’t stop us from admiring other people’s successes or being happy for their good fortune. It’s a true art to be genuine and share someone’s joy in their prosperity. Give it a shot and know that it is also available to you. To allow it to come into your life, you only need to match the vibration of joy, happiness, or gratitude. It needs to be spontaneous and true, and envy is far from being a match to any of those feelings. You should always have respect for yourself that comes from you, and your authentic self. It’s good to take time to listen to other people and not to be totally absorbed about yourself.
Learn how to recognize when your actions come from your Ego, and do not allow it to control your life. Ask yourself what your values are, and what really matters to you. Every time you have to make a decision check how you feel about your options. That’s the best guide you can ask for, but you need to trust your heart and follow what it tells you. The more you use its advice, the easier, happier, and inspired your life will be. Stop competing, be smarter. Think outside your brain.
A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.~ James E. Faust