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The Anxiety of Choosing: How to Decide—then Let it Ride

by | Sep 1, 2020 | 0 comments

Anxiety of Choosing

Do you ever have trouble making decisions? At times I do.

Would you go so far as to call yourself indecisive?

My latest indecision dance involved singing with a choir during these strange days of COVID-19. I adore joining voices with these brilliant souls, but disease experts fingered group singing as one of the highest risk activities going.

To sing or not to sing?

About half of us opted out, and the other half resumed practices. I made a personal call based on what I’ve read and understand about the disease. But I continued to second-guess myself and obsess about the implications. “Am I being extreme? Why aren’t the others worried? Is there something I don’t understand?” And worse—“Am I letting the choir down?” What would they think of me now? Was I shutting myself off from the community? Would I lose friendships? Would they still like me?

I had myself so stressed out that I knew it was time to journey on the situation.

As a shamanic practitioner, I know that if I pick up my drum and settle into a “journey”—a state of deep relaxation supported by the heartbeat of the drum—I can come closer to Spirit and find inspiration and guidance. Journeying often involves adventures with one’s spirit guides and reveals answers in metaphor—symbolism that speaks to our deep imagination.

In my journey, I was delighted to have a visit from the Buddha himself. We walked through the woods together, and he showed me some lovely trilliums. He noted how beautiful and open their blooms were, but also that they would not last long before they withered. “Temporary,” he said.

Then he told me that my difficulty in making decisions has to do with my attachment to outcome.

What if, he asked, I just practised letting go, made my decision, and moved on? He observed that by worrying so much about what might happen, I was not allowing myself to learn in a logical way—that is, by trying things, discovering outcomes, and noting patterns. He said I was unwilling to make mistakes for fear of displeasing others, or due to fear of possible outcomes that I could never know or control.

He told me to open my hands, and then he drew his fingers down them, toward the Earth. “Let go,” he told me. Then he gave me three guiding principles:

Simplify. Savour. Release.

He explained that whenever I dwell on a decision, I am not in the present moment—I am trying to live in the future. He asked, “What if you died tomorrow? What is important? What matters right now?”

This insight brought me real perspective and relief. Coming out of my journey, I was able to offer myself these gifts. I began to let go of my nagging doubts about my decision. I was able to gain enough distance from the situation to cut myself some slack, and to reflect that maybe I had been judging myself more harshly than anyone else was.

There was a little bit of tough love in the Buddha’s message, too—make your decision, and let it go.

You will have to wait and see what happens. It will take time and patience, a bit like striving to touch your toes in standing forward bend. It’s a practice.

If you’ve made a mistake, you have the freedom to try something different next time.

I invite you to challenge yourself, just as the Buddha did me. “What is important? What matters right now?” Test it out. Are you in the present, or is your fear or attachment to an outcome taking you out of the precious moment, which you’ll never get back.

Next time a tough choice presents itself, remember you can opt to simplify—go ahead and make your decision. If you’re still unsure whether it’s the “right” choice, focus on savouring what’s really important in your life. This simple practice may release your stress and suffering.

Have you been agonizing over a difficult decision? I’d love to hear from you, in the comments below.

Love and peace to you,



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