Where do you believe you have no choices?
Charmed out of life we see,
No life on earth can be
Hid from our dreaming…
– The Siren’s Song1
Dreaming… dreams… so many connotations. There are the “big dreams” we have for our lives, and the dreams we have when we sleep… but there is another form of dream of which we are seldom aware: the dream of the Siren Song. The Sirens, from Greek and Roman mythology, lived on an island and sang enchanting songs to journeying sailors at sea. Their voices could lull even the strongest men into a waking dream so that, before they knew it, the men’s ships were crashing upon the rocks. Once separated from their ships, the men would climb ashore, trapped in the dream and knowing no other choice, they would starve to death at the whim of the Sirens.
What dream are you trapped in believing about your life?
Way back around 600 BC, Lao Tsu wrote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…”2
I contend that before you are capable of beginning your journey, you must first recognize that you have feet
: if you are awake, you have the ability to choose. If you are still caught in that dream… Well, we know what happened to those guys.
Every experience you have reflects the choices you have made that have brought you to where you are right now.
How do you choose where to go on the journey of your life?
The trick is that you have to be awake to recognize that you have choices. So how can you tell if you are awake to life, or continuously hitting the snooze button? Think about those sailors. Your first clue is in whether or not you believe you have choices. If you believe you have none, you are likely asleep.
Some of you will choose not to believe me and will stop reading right… now.
And some of you will continue, because you choose to hear me out, knowing deep down that I’m right.
In your waking dream, you may choose to believe that you have no choices, thereby choosing not to choose. That is your choice. Sometimes the options we have to choose amongst seem like no options at all, but even then, you still live in choice, consciously or unconsciously. Unconscious choices, like dreams, may be harder to recognize, but they are still that: choices.
Understand me here, some of the choices we are faced with feel damned near impossible to make. At every crossroads, however seemingly impossible the choice may be, you always have options. Always.
You choose to be awake, in every moment of your life.
But how do you wake up to your life? Honestly, I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s as difficult and as simple as this: you choose
to be awake, in every moment of your life.
We are here to choose. We have been granted the gift of self-awareness (remember your feet?) and therefore the opportunity to choose. We are here to learn from those choices, for isn’t that the outcome of every experience? It’s the choices we make that provide the material for our learning. Is this a spiritual tome? That is your choice to believe. Is this a practical one? Again, you know the answer. What matters most here is that you recognize that you can be “in conscious choice.”
What does it mean, “to be in conscious choice?”
Over the past several days, I’ve found myself writing this sentence several times and my answers are never quite adequate. I also tend to come back to the same response: What does it mean, “not to be in conscious choice?” with similar results.
One thing I’ve been able to find so far is: anytime there is an “I couldn’t do “X” because of “Y” there has been a choice point involved. Think of the “because” as the fulcrum of the choice.
Are you the passenger or are you the driver?
What are the practical implications of living in choice? The short answer is a question: are you the passenger or are you the driver, and who gets to decide where you are going? When you begin to take the wheel of your life in your hands and decide where you are going, you become empowered… and you also become responsible for the choices you did or did not make. And therein lies the conundrum: in order for me to live in choice and to become empowered to make choices, I must first accept that there is no one else to blame.
To be in choice = empowerment = responsibility.
Let’s look at some of this thinking:
“If I am “in choice” and I am empowered in my life, then I am responsible for the outcome of my choices.
If I am responsible for the outcome of my choices, then I am ultimately the cause of my own unhappiness.”
(Your inner Saboteur ready to slap me yet? Mine sure is.)
I think that when most people start to consider this concept of living in choice, that last point stops them and they can’t see past it. But because we are in choice right now, how else could we move this forward?
“If I am the cause of my own unhappiness, then I am also the source of my own happiness.”
If I am the source of my own happiness, then I can make choices every day that will bring me to that place.”
This is the path of authenticity. It takes tremendous courage to continue along this path as the dream of the Siren’s Song is ever calling out to us.
Every one of us has been lulled at one time or another by the song of the Sirens and it remains a constant choice we make each day to overcome. Will I allow myself to be lulled by that song that tells me that “I am not responsible, I don’t have to do anything to change my life, there are no choices to make because I am stuck in this mess and there is no way out: I am a victim of circumstance.”
It’s a spellbinding song and it has most of us in its grip. The reason it’s so hard to shake has much to do with our fear of making the wrong move, of getting hurt, of messing it up. And I contend that therein lays our most powerful learning. Think of a baby taking it’s first steps: “splat”, “WAAA…! Wait a minute? I was walking! I’m gonna get back up and do it again!” If the baby never tried or simply just lay there, what do you suppose would happen?
Making powerful choices requires an initial leap of faith as we look around us and we see so many people asleep in the arms of the Siren.
This is why I love the film “The Matrix”, though it does have one fatal flaw. In the film, the vast majority of humanity is literally “plugged in to the dream” as it is supplied by the machines. The people don’t know what they don’t know. Neo has no idea of the challenging life he is choosing when he enters into the “real world”.
Here’s the fatal flaw of the film; the Wachowski Brothers have inverted the message. While the world of the machines is filled with the illusion of nice stories designed to keep us asleep, the “real world” of choice is bleak and filled with horror, pain, hardship and fear. “Who in their right mind would choose to live there? (is the subtle suggestion) Far better to live where there is pleasure, however fleeting… go back to sleep, gentle viewer, this world of choice is just too painful and belongs only to the realm of fantasy.” (How ironic that a film that could’ve awoken us simultaneously encouraged us to go back to sleep?)
Remember my essay entitled, “So, what’s your Story?” Therein we discussed the Stories we choose to believe about our lives and why we live the way we do. When you heed the Siren’s song and you allow yourself to become trapped within a Story, you cut off all other options.
The message of the Siren (much like that of the “machines”) keeps us in bondage, but there is far more to being in choice than pain, and fear. When we push ourselves to shake off that dream, and step boldly into a life of choice, while there will be challenges, the beautiful options we consciously design for ourselves represent possibilities as wide, or as limited, as our own imaginations!
Always infinite possibilities… always your choice.
Painting: The Siren by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
1The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason: page 84. Copyright © 2007, 2010 by Zachary Mason.