Free will?

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Modern culture

Modern people often have enough money to make decisions that are not purely based on survival. We choose what to do with our free time, what to eat, what to wear, how to spend money
This is a luxury. It is also has shortcomings... Do we always choose wisely? Yin/yang requires us to explore 2 sides of every situation.

Freedom of choice

The danger with having the freedom to choose is that not everything we choose is smart e.g. the average adult can eat whatever they want... Chocolate, sugar, donuts. Who is stopping you?
People choose to drink enormous amount of alcohol, take recreational drugs, they choose not to exercise, to ignore their bodies, to become unhealthy, obese and sick.
Do you personally eat healthily, rest, work your brain skilfully, exercise your body in a moderate, mindful way?

Learned helplessness

When someone becomes sick they tend to look for a scapegoat. Having used their body and mind carelessly for many years, the individual now turns to the doctor in the hope of a miracle.
They cannot reconcile the fact that there is some possibility/chance that the choices they made have led them down this road. But why not?

Cause and effect

If you save your wage, you'll have savings
. If you spend your wage on clothes, you'll most likely have no money but lots of clothes. We are the architects of our fate. Not in all respects, but in many.

Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it's not a lot. They aren't performing manoeuvres that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities - enough for day-to-day activities or maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.

The reason that most people don't possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn't because they don't have the capacity for them, but rather because they're satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it.

The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in. We learn enough to get by but once we reach that point we seldom push to go beyond.

(Anders Ericsson)

This is free will

You may choose to spend tonight
looking at social media, watching TV, a movie, eating a meal in a restaurant, drinking alcohol, sat slouched on the sofa, running the streets, working out...
Everyone is different. We all choose what to do with our lives. The main thing here is to acknowledge the truth/the fact. Be honest. Take some responsibility.

Own it

If you are significantly overweight and spend all day stuffing junk food in your mouth... own it. You are doing this. Not your thyroid. Just you.
If you charge around all day and become exhausted, that's you. It's not 'chronic fatigue syndrome'. If you sit at a desk all day long and then slouch on the couch all night, and your back hurts, that's you.
If you stare at a screen all day, the TV all night and sit in a bad way, you may have massive neck/shoulder tension, maybe even headaches. That's you. You did this.


Procrastination is an insidious, ugly, convenient catch-all. It enables an individual to postpone important activities, actions, responsibilities and concerns indefinitely
Rather than address things right now, you discover perfectly rational, reasonable alternatives...

Do you have free will?

How many of your decisions are the outcome of clear-headed, conscious, deliberate reasoning? How many are impulsive? Reactionary? Emotional?
What role does your upbringing/culture/education/peer group have to play in the choices you make?


Imagine if someone came into your house right now and told you how to decorate your residence, what to wear, how to eat, who to interact with...
How receptive would you be? You'd probably experience a negative reaction. You'd resist the imposition. After all, you've decorated the house as you see fit, you wear what suits your own tastes?
Now, think carefully.

Hijacking your brain

What role does TV, news, mass media, fashion, trends, politics, education, marketing and gossip play in your life?
That's right: they dominate your mind. They control you. They tell you how and what to do. Who to be. And you just let them. (You may even believe that it isn't happening).


How does TV affect you? Does it change how you think? Do you ever talk about what you have watched? Are you influenced by the TV?


Politics is a good example of 'information culture'. The mass media provides all manner of facts, figures, gossip and speculation concerning politics.
By observing the state of world/national affairs, people can feel to be part of what is 'going on' in the world. They feel to be well informed. There is a fear of looking ignorant.

TV and politics allow people to lose themselves in something. It is far easier to talk about politics than to examine your own life. Dealing with tangible, concrete problems requires commitment, resolve and effort.


How much time do you spend talking about other people or about yourself? It is easy and tempting to regard gossiping as worthwhile/conversation... but is it really?
Instead of investing in a discussion that leads to insight and life-changing decisions, most conversations simply eat up time. Do you really care what other people are doing? If so, why?
Much of what takes place in the world has nothing to do with us and is quite literally none of our business.

We like the feeling of being in charge of our thoughts and actions, and abandoning our sense of free will feels rather uncomfortable. However, magicians have developed powerful ways of manipulating your thoughts, and they can influence many of the choices you make. For example, the magician may ask you to choose a card from a deck of playing cards, and while you feel you have an entirely free choice, the magician made you choose one particular card. This is known as forcing and is a principle by which magicians covertly guide you towards a predetermined choice.

(Gustav Kuhn)


There are many things in the world that we cannot and do not have any control or influence over. Namely other people.
You may be the boss of your own company but at the supermarket you are just another customer. Your significance has vanished. It is context-specific. Your power has limits. And they are narrow indeed.

What can we control?

We can determine what to eat, drink and do with our bodies. We can take responsibility for the things we put into our mind. We can be mindful of our relationship(s) with the people around us.
We can also (to a large degree) organise and plan how we spend our days.


Controlling your diet is a thorny issue. There are so many conflicting diet ideas available. It is easy to become confused and disheartened. But this is also an excuse, a lie.
Whole food is quite easy to identify: it has no ingredients. Whole food tends to be real food. No additives. No preservatives. No chemicals. Just food. Start with this?


Most people's idea of exercise is somewhat 'abusive'. They treat their body like some sort of adversary and dehumanise it. No pain, no gain etc. Why? There are sensible ways to exercise.
You are not at war with your own body. Listen to your body. Exercise in a manner that has a positive effect on your entire life. Not just in the gym. Set aside your pride and vanity.
Research how the skeleton works, the muscles. Balance. Coordination. Mobility. Consider how much energy is being used. Do you feel energised from exercise or wiped out? Happy or miserable?


Many people are concerned about dementia and senility. They naively believe that talking about politics or work is going to somehow work the brain productively. Don't kid yourself here...
Try reading
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B Burger & Michael Starbird, Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg and Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.
You'll quickly discover that opinions are worthless.
Rather than regurgitate what other people have said, or your own conditioning and bias, why not step outside your comfort zone and work on building a comprehensive mental representation?
Study something truly challenging...

Comfort zone

Because of free will, most people opt for the easiest course of action, which may involve no action at all. This is fine. It's human and it's your choice to make. Meanwhile, life continues and you get older.
Your body deteriorates. Your back, knee, neck ache gets worse. Your mind gets fixed and stubborn.

Most people have never attained a level of performance in any field that is sufficient to show them the true power of mental representations to plan, execute and evaluate their performance in the way that experts do. And thus they never really understand what it takes to reach this level - not just the time it takes, but the high-quality practice.

(Anders Ericsson)

Tai chi

In order to get the most out of qigong a student should practice every day. It doesn't have to be a lot but it ought to be every day. Tai chi for health requires the student to commit a little more time.
Tai chi even more.
You may not want to commit the time.
That's OK. Don't opt for tai chi... Just stick to the health training. It's your choice.
You get to choose. The more time, study and effort you invest, the greater the rewards. But you don't need to force yourself. Do it because it's fun. Because it feels good.

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023