Choice and conditioning

These past few days some beloved friends asked me some hard questions, questions I did not like the answers to, questions I could not answer yet, and questions with rapidly changing answers.

As I sat with one particular question i shared with my friend I did not like the answer I heard, and I really wanted a different answer. My body revolted against the answer I wanted. I could feel my body move away energetically, shrink and and tighten. When I answered the question truthfully I felt tight as well, resistance, but also a moving forward energy and my body grow taller. 

I thought I had the answer even though I did not like it, but there was more. This was not the end of the story.

I went to bed and had dreams that were in alignment with the answer I wanted. I sat down to meditate in the morning and listened to the moving away, shrinking and tightening energy in my body. It was fear. Fear pushed me towards the answer that was more comfortable, predictable and certain. 

Once fear was identified my experience was different when I asked myself the question again. As I thought of the answer I wanted fear was still there, but there was also an opening, an newer honesty, and I felt more alignment with what my body and mind ultimately want. 

As I keep going back to the list of questions ignited in me during our time Reverend angel Kyodo williams last month I am confronted with the question, when am I in choice and when am I in conditioning? 

Conditioning (of whiteness, capitalism, gender, sexuality, etc.) would tell me to stay safe. Choice, at least as I am interpreting it in this moment, is telling me to find alignment even when there is discomfort and fear. Many times I will not know whether I am in choice or conditioning, and I imagine most times it will be a combination of both. I do not think this is an either/or question for myself, and if there is a continuum of pure conditioning on one side and pure choice on the other how can I keep moving along the continuum towards more choice?

This is where my yoga and meditation practice can be so useful as it teaches me to stay with the inquiry, to stay with the discomfort to see what comes next. What is underneath the first answer, the second, third, fourth or fifth? I do not necessarily feel resolved in my current answer and I look forward to continuing to inquire how I can be in choice around the ways I want to show up in the world even if those ways are outside of my comfort zone.

How do you know the difference between choice and conditioning? What gives you that information? How do you move towards choice?