Mindful Choice Blindly following or rejecting authority is not freedom
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We often act without careful reasoning. We follow political groups, religious leaders, and self-improvement gurus giving them power to direct our lives. Some, conversely, reject all authority, thoughtlessly following the chaotic impulses of emotions and addictions. Whether we blindly or ignorantly reject, we lose the liberty of a directed life. We lose the freedom of choice.
Society, social groups and partners function easier (at least in the moment) when we listlessly submit. But avoiding conflict by sacrificing self creates shallowness. When we hopelessly driven for acceptance, our self-expressions invite challenges, displaying differences. Individuality naturally creates some conflict. But connecting in an ever-expanding sea of grey serves limited ends. A healthier path requires, we examine facts, consider external wisdom, and balance personal experience with appropriate interaction responses. We don’t miserly demand others bend to our wills but also don’t gelatinously mold to each new situation. Thoughtful responses are not universally accepted. Critical thought challenges the dogma of strictly structured organizations. And creating threats to strongly held beliefs often invokes violence; history has shown this. Many groups encourage investigation to discredit others but condemn the probing once it becomes internally directed, questioning generally accepts beliefs. Too much inquiry is considered radical and disruptive. The expectation is to critically analyze opposing doctrine while blindly accepting the groups own radical dogma.
Political and religious organizations form in opposition to generally accepted principals. They berate the blind followers of the past, encouraging new openness to commonly ignored facts; but when members of the rebellion question their own intellectual or political leader, they become unwelcomed threats to be expelled. Neither the commonly accepted beliefs nor the opposing beliefs readily accept freedom of thought.
We need courage to skeptically evaluate facts and sometimes act outside of socially accepted paths.
Loss of freedom also occurs in the intimate realms of personal behaviors, habitual responses bypass mindful considerations. Outside influences trigger emotions and we thoughtlessly react to the emotions, often damaging long-term intentions. We react first; then justify. A more directed choice would involve a pause, considering our goals and then mulling over possible choices, finally followed by acting with the best possible response. This is, of course, ideal and life is more fluid—and complex. We can purposely pause in the moment of spiked emotions to create a separation. True freedom emerges from the fog of experience when we mindfully ponder different courses of action, recognize the involved feelings, and then evaluate whether the impulsive reaction leads to a desired future.
Mindful thought isn’t perfect. No matter how careful, we never expose all our underlying biases. We are habitual creatures. Habits serve evolutionary purposes, unconscious reactions free mental space. Many behaviors are unconsciously performed. Healthy routines direct behaviors, efficiently organizing time and accomplishing necessary tasks with little self-discipline required. We habitually act and when those structured acts are healthy, we accomplish important tasks, leaving mental energy for new explorations and beneficial flexibility. Days go smooth with constructive structure. But initially, healthy structure requires thoughtful implementation not haphazard adoptions.
"Freedom carelessly squandered for the laziness of mind is costly. By losing the wisdom of thought, we aimlessly wander; victims to the unpredictableness of complexity."
Freedom carelessly squandered for the laziness of mind is costly. By losing the wisdom of thought, we aimlessly wander; victims to the unpredictableness of complexity. Our responses occasionally must adjust to the changing environments. Maximizing the freedom of choice requires attention—attention to contributing elements. Some habits of thought and behavior will remain hidden. Personal revelations exposing some of our hidden mechanisms might require extracting and replacing other habits of mind and action first. Some biases ominously obscure the darker corners of our being, leaving us blind to many goods and evils lurking beyond the consciousness. But uncertainty of self frightens us. We lose the security of control.
Mindfulness, overtime, exposes the simplistic blinding beliefs, inviting acceptance of complexity, with the myriad of unknowns. Often our beliefs become breeding grounds for harmful biases, unfairly attributing causes to outside forces, and distracting attention from the true irritants in our lives.
Some patterns of thought persist over generations because they contain value based on realistic connections between cause and effect. Other beliefs were formed in ignorance and are harmful. Misguided traditions passed from family to family, generation to generation. True freedom fearlessly endeavors to separate the healthy from the harmful, carefully sorting causes and motivations, to understand how to create a peaceful, loving and successful flourishing life and society; not blindly following or obstinately rejecting.