However, what this means, from person to person is completely and utterly different. On the Pagan Path of course, as other missives have pointed out, but let us try looking at the same thing from another direction.
We on the path, are expected to gain a certain amount of self determination, but before we can do this, first we need a good working definition of what is and more importantly what is not control over ones life, on the road to self enlightenment and fulfillment.
Common problems to gaining control
Putting the control into other peoples hands:
Putting the control in outside events:
Thinking that we have control over others or life events:
This last being the major one, as even the doctors have finally figured out what the Buddha knew a long time ago :) that happiness with one's life does not depend on your age, race, social standing, wealth, health etc. None of that matters, what matters, as discussed in other articles, is how we think.
Now I am a major control freak, freely admitted as such, however, in as much as it's possible, I do have control over my life, mainly by controlling the one thing I have any real control over, mainly ME. 10% of life is what happens to us, the other 90% is how we react to it, and that reaction is the only part we have any say over, look at the numbers, the major part of our life is in our responses, not the events.
Now we do have some control over our basic needs, a roof over our head, food on the table, clothes on our back, all basics that we must find a way to provide. Next comes emotional life. Do we have a social life, friends, relationships ? Then comes handling things, when they don't go as planned. Do we have the skills to handle problems as they arise ?
These are all about choices we make, but it also assumes, that as long as we have the basics, we should be happy right ? We might be, but often we are not, if we define control over our lives, as an event outside ourselves.
We may want the good life, with lots of friends, a perfect marriage and never have any problems, however, that's called dream land, it's not even close to reality. So life is, by its very nature, is not going to be perfect.
Even if all you ever wanted, suddenly came into being, you would ride the wave of joy for a while, but your control over your life and happiness would go right back to what it was before ... why ? Because the basic you and how you react to things, would not have changed.
A quick glance at the suicides rates among the wealthy and privileged, should be more than enough to convince anyone that just wealth and the benefits it can bring, does not bring happiness and contentment.
Now, it is a lot
fun to cry in a BMW than a Honda so they say, and money can buy all
of things, plain fact, but it does not, in and of itself, buy control
ones life or make one happy. The Buddha proved this one centuries ago
He saw, what our modern day mental health doctors are just now finding
out about :) It took them a while, but they did figure it out.
Self esteem, Optimism, Extroversion, and personal control ... these four are the name of the game, now lets look at why for a moment
Self esteem, as the Great Mother says, "how can you honor another if you do not first honor thyself ?" It's a biggie and has to come first. Now most of us have trouble with this idea, as we are told that to "think well of oneself" is prideful and boastful. Is it ?
Well, if you are forever telling anyone who will stand still for a moment how great you are, then pride might well at issue, and the boasting is obvious. But is just to feel this way about yourself wrong ? Of course not ! We have to learn to like the person we see in the mirror everyday, before we can even think about liking anyone or anything else. So ignore the ones telling you that to think well of yourself is a bad thing to do and just do it.
Optimism, we really can't improve our state if we don't think we can. Let me say that again "We cannot improve our state, unless we think we can" as noting will ditch any thought of self determination faster, than thinking that its not possible to do. In order for a spell or other manifestation we seek to happen, we first have to believe it can happen, or we are wasting our time and just mouthing words here.
Extrovert: Meaning simply, get out there and do something, anything, meet people, talk to people, do things, create things, life is about living, not just thinking about it. Life is a game whose rules are only known if we jump in with both feet and do it. We can not do all our living, inside our heads, we have to take actions too.
Right back to Personal control:
Now what most mean when they say this is, how much control we have over our life environment. Lots of studies have been done on people in prisons or nursing homes, etc. places were the people don't have much control over their situation and found that over all, their health, both mental and physical suffers for it. But what they failed to address in most cases was why this happens.
The why is very simple, those who allowed their lack of personal control over their life environment to make them depressed and unhappy and therefore become ill in both mind or body, is due to their own minds reaction to their situation. I know, that sounds crass, but it's no more than fact. As those same studies showed the exception to the "norm", people in those same situations, who were in control and were quite happy with their lives.
it may be a fact you don't have, for whatever reason, a lot of control
over your lifestyle, even to the extreme examples above, but it does
mean you are not responsible for how you react to that situation. We
choose to find something that we have control over and work from there.
We can be in control of ourselves, even if we don't control outside
Went to a restaurant, ordered food to go, told the woman wanted X, in exact detail, she started to repeat it back to me, wrongly as it happened, I stopped her, said it again of exactly how I wanted it, she even asked her boss how to input the order on the register.
I get home and find she had ordered the kitchen to do exactly the opposite of what I asked for ( in this case no tomatoes, and just beans, skip the rice ) meanwhile, as I'm picking all the extra tomatoes off my tacos and feeding all the rice I didn't want, and got a double portion of, to the dog ( he enjoyed it at least ), I'm fuming.. my reasonable expectation of getting the food I paid for didn't happen and I was unhappy. Now, I chided myself shortly thereafter for letting it upset me. Not that she was right to mess it up like that, she was wrong, and they will hear about it.
What was really wrong however, was me letting it make me distressed, as I know better, but was tired, after a long days Yule shopping and major traffic etc. etc., so was not at my best, and can forgive myself the lapse and and get on with it. Perfect? Not hardly, working on it, you bet, and that's all any of us can really do.
We can handle being too tired, to hungry or too lonely, as long as we don't try to do all three at the same time ! And I had two outa three going here, so needed to get a grip a little tighter and didn't, my bad, as the kids would say. It happens, and it points out the fact that my first failure was in
pushing myself to that state of extreme fatigue, which is a no no, I
better as its a lot easier to lose your perspective when your tired.
B: Not checking the order, before I left the store, as "to go" orders
notorious for being filled wrong and I know that too, then C:
both those failures by getting distressed over it. Now, it's by no
right as I said, that it happened, I had every right and
expect the food to come out as I ordered it and paid for it, and they
be told about it, but the rest of the problem, was entirely my own
As I failed to control myself.
So yes, had every reason and right to be dis-pleased about the situation, but my distress, my headache and upset stomach, entirely and utterly my own hand brought that about. The restaurant just made a mistake, I made it worse by making it personal.
To be happy with my life, I have to realize and admit my own liability. Am I gonna let the restaurant off the hook over it, no, but will I let it continue to distress me ? Also no, I will handle it as it needs to be handled, tell the right people about it, and go on. If the problem persists, I will make the choice to vote with my feet as its said, and never eat there again, but my actions and thoughts are entirely my own reasonability.
in its ultimate form, is the freedom to think, which is an act that is
completely and utterly under ones own control. And we and we alone are
libel for what goes on in our own heads. What we think becomes habit,
becomes our basic character.. so said the Buddha... so we are
for that outcome, as thought does become who and what we are, so it's
something to slouch off lightly.
The Pagan pathway, requires, by its very nature, requires this kind of personal liability, a kind of indelveing into the self, that is not often seen in a lot of mainstream religious, other than by the very devote. The why is very simple, in that we and only we, can find a pathway what works best for us. This is concept nearly all of us believe.
There is no guideline, no book that tells us.. we must think thus thus and so.. so each act becomes a stride for personal freedom, the freedom to think, our own self control. As the beginning of this missive states.. the most common problems to real control over ones life, is putting it into the hands of others, or events outside ourselves. The Pagan pathway is a direct challenge to both of those issues, as we take control over what we read, think and ultimately, believe.
Freedom of expression however, is not just reserved for those wishing to express their religious beliefs, but also for those who question them. So questioning, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, provided one does not make the mistake of assuming that just because you question a thing, that it makes the thing automatically .. wrong. Not right for you perhaps, but just because a shoe doesn't fit your foot, does not mean it wont fit perfectly on someone else.
This all too human habit is what often pits one faith against another, that if you are not doing it MY way, your doing it wrong. We on the Pagan pathway must not make this mistake, freedom is only freedom, if it applies to all. So, your right to swing your arm, does indeed end at your neighbors nose, for a certainty.
We cannot mistake freedom to mean the right to do harm. It is why our first and only real law is "harm none". To remind us of this, that in our freedom to think, act and believe, lies a demand that we leave others their rights, even if we don't agree with them.
Now, this does not mean lay down and let another harm you as their own personal expression of "freedom", as that's not right either. I always had trouble with that idea years and years ago, the idea of passivity to the point of allowing others to do me hurt, as the right thing to do.
No, I personally think not, I am a human being with the right to a certain dignity and reasonable expectation of no harm done to me. As I must yield on this point, that my rights do NOT include doing another harm to another, so too, I have the right to expect the same from others with regard to me.
And I have the right to defend myself if harm is offered me. ( Which is a point of contention and argument from many of the Pagan traditions who feel that even self defense is "harm" ) but none the less it's generally held, "least in self defense it be, harm none" but implied there is the right of self defense.
It does no honor to the self, to allow people to use you as their personal doormat. Point in fact, if you want to get real picky about it, to permit such a thing is doing harm to the other person, as you are permitting them to do a wrong by allowing it. Want to help them ? Stand up and say no ! And be perfectly right in doing so, for you and for them.