Choice and Experience

Choice and life are intimately intertwined. Life presents us with choices, and the way we make those choices determines how we experience life. Some high-level choices seem big and in the foreground, like choosing a career, or a mate, or where to live, or what U.S. foreign policy should be. We give those choices a lot of thought and attention — sometimes.

Other lower level choices lie more in the background and further from consciousness — like the choice of which muscle fibers to contract, how strongly, and in what sequence as you walk across a room, pick up a glass of water, swing a golf club, or take part in a conversation. But how you make those choices, and how well you do so, plays a major role in whether your actions are fluid or stiff, graceful or clumsy, in whether you experience yourself as empowered and competent, or bumbling and incompetent.

Yet other choices seem lower-level still, so deeply backgrounded that we hardly register making them. Many choices you make in composing your experience of yourself and your environment are like this — how much available information you actually take in (awareness), for example, or what parts of that information you notice and incorporate in your decisionmaking (attention). These things may appear to “just happen” on their own, without explicit choice on your part, but that appearance is illusory. You do choose, though you may do so automatically and unconsciously. The unconscious choices you make at very low levels may ultimately have greater influence on the direction and quality of your life than do the more obvious higher-level choices of which you are more consciously aware.

This blog will explore some of the choices life offers, the mechanisms through which we make those choices, and the effects they have on how we experience life. I believe that better understanding of those mechanisms can lead to better choices and a better quality of life. I’ll focus particularly on the choices that determine our experience of our physical and emotional interactions with the world around us — the choices through which we construct and maintain the collective illusion we call reality, as I’ve described it in the past.

There are many ways to frame these issues. In The Reality Illusion I framed them in terms of constructing reality, and I’ve experimented with various other framings since. I currently find the idea of composing experience a good one, and that will be the central theme around which I organize my thinking here.

You compose experience on an ongoing moment-to-moment basis. You filter and select bits and pieces of information from the much richer stream of information in which you are constantly immersed. You combine those bits and pieces with information and structure from your past experience to create your current experience. The kind of life you have — happy or sad, secure or fear-filled, bland or exciting, meaningless or rewarding — may ultimately be determined more by the way you manage that creative process than by the external circumstances you encounter.

Better understanding of the mechanisms you use to compose your experience is an important first step to managing those mechanisms to improve the quality of the experience you compose. I hope this blog will help you reach that better understanding.

Perceiving and interacting with the world around you — a Feldenkrais perspective

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