Practice Self-Surprise: A Practical Way to Develop the Power of Instant Choice

Copyright 2006 Tom Russell

Everything depends on our power of choice. We choose to be in the present, choose to observe ourselves, and choose to develop independence and self-reliance.

However, for many of us, our energy of instant choice has been dormant for too long. How do we best restore this power? Reading about spirituality on its own can certainly never do it, but we can take action. For example, we can abruptly exit unproductive streams of thought and hypnotic mental movies as soon as they present themselves. When we do, we activate our power of choice—and it flourishes in every dimension of our lives.

Instant choice breaks up comfortable patterns with a sudden return to awareness and sanity. It won’t allow us to get away with lazy, negative habits! Rather, it’s a compassionate, loving gift for our spiritual development.

Apply this self-surprise exercise to develop instant choice:

Here’s a wonderful exercise called self-surprise that powerfully develops instant choice. It works this way: Picture a railroad car rolling down the tracks toward danger. A switchman stands beside the tracks with a giant lever in his hand. At the very last moment, he throws the switch and sends the railcar in the direction of safety.

Now imagine that you’re about to say something hurtful to another person. Like the speeding train, the angry statement has left the platform and is traveling at high speed toward your mouth. Instant choice steps in, a spiritual switch is thrown, and you don’t say what you were about to say. Instead, you say something helpful and positive.

Every time you practice self-surprise, you send a healing jolt into the depths of yourself. You’ll instantly feel it truth by practicing this exercise. Anger doesn’t dictate your speech. Your power of choice lifts you above anger’s arrows. This is not the practice of phony niceness; it’s the expression of true strength and authentic self-command. It can occur only when awareness is active in the midst of anger or other negative emotions—like the presence of a lighted dwelling in the midst of a dark forest.

With instant choice, you can get tough with yourself. You simply will no longer allow yourself to doze—to be preoccupied most of the time. Instant choice becomes a tremendous catalyst for waking up.

Instant choice—a more deliberate energy than self-observation:

The Taoists refer to life’s dance of the yin and the yang, the soft and the hard. Self-observation is yin energy, a gentle energy. It receives a gloomy mood as easily as the sky receives a dark cloud. The whole sky is infinitely greater than the one dark cloud, so why be concerned? Why not just let the cloud linger awhile and fade away in its own time?

Conversely, instant choice is yang energy. It’s more deliberate and determined than yin energy. You simply refuse to consent to your mind being used as a nest for cuckoos. Don’t hesitate to let the energy of instant choice lead to being tough with yourself.

While conducting SuperWisdom Workshops, I have often been asked, “Do we observe our thoughts or do we interrupt our thoughts?” The answer is both! We employ self-observation at times and instant choice at other times.

When we utter angry and cutting remarks, we hurt others and disregard our power of choice. Likewise, when we wallow in unproductive streams of thought or hypnotic mental movies, we’re unmindful of our power of choice.

Practice instant choice by using this self-surprise exercise to derail the momentum of negative thoughts and reconnect to power of choice that you have.