There is a poem written by Portia Nelson – and actually a book too – called: “There is a hole in my sidewalk”. The poem talks about how we fall into the same patterns over and over, until we gain awareness and discover we have the freedom to choose something else.
At first we believe things happen to us, coming from outside. We are the powerless victims of random events and whatever happens is not our fault. Feeling like this means we are deeply unconscious and mainly ruled by habitual patterns. It is usual, then, to complain about others and how they are the cause of all our troubles. We feel helpless to change our life, since it doesn’t depend on us.
Buddhism tells us a totally different story. We are responsible for our choices, whether we realize it or not. Even when we fall in our habitual patterns of behaviour, we are still choosing. It’s a by default choice, but a choice which will entail it’s own consequences.
Awareness may come, at some point, when we start to wonder why a certain thing keeps happening to us. Asking this question means we are starting to wake up to the possibility that events may not be random, that maybe they are related to what we do, say or think.
From then on, awareness may come quickly. We start to see ourselves falling into the same inadequacies as before – except we now do it knowingly. We may not yet be able to change our behaviour but at least we see it. And when consequences arise and we find ourselves in trouble, we no longer pretend it came out of nowhere. We know we are responsible.
Then, eventually one day, as we are about to react in the same way as we always did, coming from the spaciousness of our own mind comes a question: why not to something else for a change?