We believe that we have free will to choose to do what we want to do when we want to do it. We believe that ultimately every behavior is a result of a conscious decision, on the surface, this is correct. You can choose to eat peanut butter or cheese. You can choose to meditate daily or not. However, if you have a peanut allergy or are lactose intolerant, the food selection is somewhat less free. If you have not planned your schedule to wake up early before going to work, this also becomes a less free choice of what you eat for breakfast. But clearly you have more control over your sleep/wake schedule than your food allergies – or do we?
The law of cause and effect is at the root of all decisions and behaviors. For example: a person who is feeling as though their spouse or partner is ignoring them, “accidently” eats something that will trigger a physical illness. The partner will then feel sympathy and become more attentive. The first couple of times, the response will be of genuine concern, after that they may be annoyed because the loved one brought on the illness him or herself. But even in showing annoyance, they are receiving attention, negative attention, is still attention and it is better than being ignored.
Clearly, eating something that we know will make us sick is not in our highest interest, so why do it? Why not find another way to satisfy the need for attention? Why not eliminate the need for attention entirely? Is this even possible? Is this desirable? If one is able to be content with them self, if they have successfully squelched their greedy craving for the focus of attention being on them, then the choice of behaviors changes. Better decisions regarding what is in our higher good, can be made.
The cycle of cause and effect is still at play but the desire to improve one’s walk on their path in life changes. Different forks in the road are taken. Both forks will ultimately prove a learning situation, the exact one you need at that time. You will either be presented with a repeat scenario of something you should have learned from a previous experience but did not or you will be presented with a new scenario that will help you to understand something different about yourself.
Ultimately, every choice we make in life, teaches us something. How often we are presented with the same learning experience dressed in slightly different clothing is entirely up to us. So, yes, we do have free will to make decisions but those situations in which we must decide are preset. However, they are preset by our previous decisions to learn or not learn.
Your ability to live the life you want is entirely predicated on whether the life you want is in your highest good or not. We may want to be powerful, to have the full attention of others, or to have unlimited financial resources but ultimately none of these will move us further towards our spiritual goal of enlightenment.
Until we align our earthly goals with our spiritual goals, we will be presented with challenges that will help us learn to make the right choices for fulfillment of our total development. We cannot escape the effect of our choices. So instead of repeating the same dukka (suffering), make the choice to always consider what is in your own highest good. Take the wiser fork in the road instead of the easiest one.