Moment to moment you stand at a crossroads and life challenges you to choose a path. Will you take the life-affirming step that feeds and nourishes your soul and affirms your authenticity and wholeness, or will you slip onto a path of inauthenticity that bleeds the vitality from your life?
In Japanese martial arts, this moment-to-moment challenge is represented in the tradition of the two swords. What do the two swords mean? Which sword are you choosing?
One is “the sword that gives life;” the other is “the sword that takes life.” When you make a life-affirming choice or take a life-affirming action, you draw “that sword that gives life.” When you act out of self-centeredness, mindless habit, fear, or reactivity, you draw “the sword that takes life,” you bleed instead of feed yourself, depleting the vitality of your true spirit.
The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “Think of life as a process of choices, one after another. At each point there is a progression choice and a regression choice. To make the growth choice instead of the fear choice a dozen times a day is to move a dozen times toward self-actualization.”
Staying mindful of this moment-to-moment choice is an ongoing meditation practice. Some teachers encourage students to collect two bags of small pebbles–one bag of one color, and a bag of another color. At the end of each day reflect upon the moments you were mindful, present, kind, and made wise, life-affirming choices, and for each of these moments you were mindful, present, kind, and made wise, life-affirming choices, and for each of these moments pull out and make a pile of stones from the first bag.
Then, reflect upon all of the mindless, insincere, habit-driven, reactive, unkind moments of the day, the moments that depleted your vitality and aliveness. For each of these moments, pull out a pebble from the second bag and make a pile of these stones. Then sit and quietly reflect on how you lived today, what you learned, and how you aspire to live tomorrow.