Making the big decisions of life

From: Eightfold Path 1
Full Transcript

Ken: Other questions? Joe.

Joe: So in these terms, what would be a suitable basis for making life decisions? [Laughter]

Ken: Oh dear!

Joe: You’re going to take advantage of me now I think. I can see it coming. [Laughter]

Ken: Well, I’m tempted to answer this easily for me but I am not sure that it's helpful for you. And the easy answer for me, which is no help to you, is there is no basis for making life decisions, but that’s not terribly helpful to you. So that’s why I was pausing because I didn't think that would be helpful.

Knowing your experience as completely as you are capable of in each moment.

Does this guarantee that everything is going to work out? No. But, particularly if there's any important decision, you really make the effort to experience everything connected with it and every possible ramification as deeply as you are capable of, then whatever you decide...let me construct this better. Whatever the result is of your action you’ll know you've given it your best shot. And that’s about all you can really do, because we can’t know what the results or the consequences of any action are going to be.

There's a story--which is usually told to illustrate the working of impermanence--about this farmer who has one horse. And one day the horse escapes from his corral. And all the neighbors say, "Oh, that's a tragedy." And the farmer says, "Well, we'll see." And a couple of weeks later the horse comes back with another horse. It's found a mate in the wild and it's come back. So now the farmer has two horses and the neighbors say, "Well, that's wonderful." And the farmer says, "Well, we'll see." A week later the farmer's son is breaking in the new horse and he's thrown and his hip is broken, and the neighbor's all say, "Ah, that's too bad, that's really bad for your son." And the farmer says, "We'll see." And a month later an army moves through conscripting all able young men. Well the farmer's young son can't because his hip's broken. So we just don't know. Circumstances change. So all we can do is bring our attention to what our experience is right now as completely and as deeply as we're capable of. And then we decide.

Now one of the ways that I do that sometimes when people come to me with a difficult decision. I will ask them to describe what the worst case scenario is for each of the avenues. What's the worse thing that can happen if you take path A, what's the worse thing that could happen if you take path B? They usually look at me and ask, "Why are you asking me this?" I say, "Just bear with me." So they'll describe what the worst case is. "Okay, which of those two worse cases can you live with?" Oh! That can be a basis for making a decision. But that's only one way. Does this help?