Freedom of Choice

I’m typing this from the porch of my bungalow in Munduk, Bali. Munduk is a sleepy mountain town with a cool, misty ambience set among lush hillsides covered jungle, rice, coffee, cloves, vanilla and almost every kind of fruit imaginable. I can hear several waterfalls raging through the gorge below me. So why exactly was I jumping at the bit to plan my next destination? As I poured through Lonely Planet, looking into the island of Java, reading about Bromo as well as other destinations in Bali, I suddenly had to stop and remind myself of something my Zen teacher says – “No other location”. A flip of words on the overused “Be here now”. 

In one week I will be headed back to Bangkok to start a long march through Burma, China and Mongolia. What is so wrong with sitting tight, enjoying the mountains and then a few more days on the beach? The serious alternative I was researching meant driving a moped that stalls every 15 minutes hundreds of kilometers in order to find greener grass and ultimately turn around and have to truck back to the center of Bali to catch a flight. Thank you dear blog for helping me see the ridiculousness of this and agreeing to enjoy central and northern Bali for a few days at a slower pace. Once again, I have to understand that this is not vacation, I am not out to see as much as possible, and there are points during this journey that I will treat as work days, blogging, emailing, job searching, etc. Often it is these times when you surprisingly get to know a place by getting your face out of the guidebook and into the community.

In my post about One Hundred Years of Solitude I bring up the freedom of choice, and its often paralyzing effect. I believe this at the root of many issues for people in the West, the endless freedom of options. I mentioned the characters in the book and their acceptance of fate – the last two months I’ve seen a lot of this. This morning, the woman raking the cloves or the teenage boys carrying hundreds of pounds of bamboo up a steep hillside or the duck herder (literally) aren’t thinking “should I go back to school to get that graduate degree? Should get my massage today and then go to the movies tomorrow? Which of the 20 restaurants within 2 miles of my home should I go to tonight? Which of my 50 articles of clothing am I going to where today?” No they don’t. And I’m not arguing that this is the lifestyle I want – clearly poverty plays a big role in simplifying choice. However there is something to be said about the way these people live when faced with limited choice. Simply, peacefully, and lovingly from my observations.

Where am I going with this? Back to my plan to explore half a continent in 6 days- through endless choice and so called freedom, we can avoid the present moment. Our mind jumps ahead to these potential paths our life might take – as simple as where to eat or as complicated as marriage or career. In the past I actually set up my life to create as much flexibility as possible – not committing too deeply to my career, to other people or a location, etc. In fact I am still doing this now, living temporally, having created the ultimate freedom of a daily choice of what to do and where to be. The truth is I think this trip is an apex for me – an apex of this exploration where I begin to move down the other side, accepting more aspects a permanent existence, once where the choices narrow and I find a deeper poise in these limited choices. Krishnamurti uses the term choiceless awareness – where when we are acting truly from a position of wisdom and clarity, our so called choices are not really choices, they are an act of truth based out of love.

A Chinese sage once said “ Why go on being like goats, picking up things at random and putting them in your mouth? Or another metaphor is that we act like a fly in a glass jar, seeking liberation through everything we see but ultimately just bumping into a piece of glass. What we don’t realize is that the top of the jar is open, and if we are quiet, truly listening to the world we can fly out into the true beauty that is actual existence.

***** (One day later) *****

I remained true to my word, sitting tight in Munduk. I went for a walk, ate at a few local restaurants and found amazing strawberries at the market. I spent the evening listening to the sounds of the hillside and woke early to exercise and meditate. I started thinking again about my temporal existence – while it is in fact true that I have an unbelievable freedom of location and action, the normal daily distractions are very absence. I’m typing this many miles from any internet connection, I haven’t seen a television in 2 months, I can’t pick up the phone which I don’t own and call a friend at any time. All of this boils down to spending a lot of time with my own thoughts and self, the true purpose of this journey. The biggest opportunity to distract myself is movement – riding the scooter, taking the bus or boat, exploring a new area and figuring where I will eat and sleep. Of course that will be part of any trip – I just need to balance movement and stillness, ensuring when I do move, it is because I am ready to move on, not because I need the distraction.

3 thoughts on “Freedom of Choice

  1. This sounds like a great time for you! Thank you so much for sharing. Enjoy “play”….so many of us are forgetting how to. Thanks for the reminder…. purposeful play is so rewarding! 🙂

  2. Beautiful, thoughtful post, but you tell the story as if you are journeying alone, but then refer to ‘we’ in your beautiful pictures that include a young woman (traveling with you?).
    Is she also on a pilgrimage, searching for the meaning of life? I ask because if you two are traveling together, it seems she would be in the story, also, maybe telling about what it’s like for her. Just a thought. 🙂 Bless you on your journey.

  3. Pingback: A few more thoughts on decisions… « happinessforall

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