> Spirituality > Personal Growth

Amazon Choices

May 8, 2009 | by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych.Assoc.

What teaches us about free will and spiritual growth.

I like to shop for books on The experience is fast, efficient and very personal. When I go to Amazon, the page greets me: "Hello, Sarah! We've got some suggestions for you." Then Amazon flashes the type of books that I love to read. Out of millions of titles, they select just a few that they know I will love. They create my "personal" homepage. How do they do this?

They don't really create my page; I do, by selecting my books. For instance, suppose I purchase a book on Judaism. The next time I log on, Amazon will be offering various books on Judaism. But what if this time I want a cookbook? I simply click on the cookbook section and make a different choice. And the next time I sign on to Amazon, lo and behold, my homepage will show a selection of Jewish books and cookbooks. My previous preference has determined what choices are offered. It's all up to me.

Thoughts in Your Mind

When you wake up in the morning, a bunch of thoughts immediately fill your mind. When something annoying happens, your mind is racing with thoughts and feelings. Where do all these thoughts come from? You don't say to yourself, "I'm going to think this thought now." You just observe that the thought is there. But how did it get there?

The screen flashes your favorite typical morning thoughts.

Imagine that you wake up in the morning and a screen pops up in your mind with a selection of thoughts: "Hello, Jason. We've got some suggestions for you." And the screen flashes your favorite typical morning thoughts. "Oh, if I could only sleep in just this once," or "Get me coffee, quick!"

Or imagine that you rush to the store to buy something you need. You grab it, bring it to the cashier, open your purse and -- oops -- forgot to bring cash or cards. Log on. "Hello, Rachel. We've got some suggestions for you." And with computer-like precision, you have the usual barrage of negative thoughts: "Why does this always happen to me?" "How can I be so stupid?"

How does your mind know which thoughts to offer on your "screen"?

They are sent from the One who observed your previous selections. Your current default choices depend on your previous behavior.

Changing Your Page

Would you like to have a different selection to work with? Suppose for the next few visits to Amazon, I ignore all the Jewish selections and only browse books on cooking, finance and history. Soon, when I sign in to Amazon, I'll be looking at a homepage full of cooking, finance and history books -- with nothing on Judaism. Once I've made my choices, my automated, personalized home page will adjust itself accordingly.

In Judaism, we call this free will. You choose which thoughts to concentrate on, and which ones to bypass. So if you are not feeling totally ecstatic every minute of your day, it is because of the selections on your screen. How can you feel happy when your mind is flashing you "suggestions" of worry, pressure and complaints? As you keep choosing from these selections -- examining them, entertaining them -- you are sure to feel its negativity.

Now what if you decide not to buy one of those thoughts today? What if you drag yourself off that page, and choose to select from a totally new category of thoughts?

For instance, suppose something unpleasant has just happened. Your negative screen appears. But this time you ignore all those suggested thoughts and move to another category, a page called "trust in God." Here you can select, "God has my best interests at heart," or "God is taking care of it," or "This is for the best."

The effect of this choice is readily observed. The next time you encounter a problem and your screen flashes on, alongside the negative thoughts you usually selected there will also be a selection of thoughts related to trust in God. Click on it!

Practice this for one month and you will be a changed person.

Once you click on that category, you will find more similar offerings. "God runs the world and knows what He is doing." "This is really a test to help me grow." "A solution is already on the way."

And the next time you have a problem, you will notice a dramatic change in the first thoughts that "pop" into your mind. Do this every day for just one week and you will begin to notice a dramatic change in your stream of consciousness. Keep it up for a month, and you will be a changed person.

You are the shopper. You create your own page. You can choose to select positive, faith-filled thoughts from the grand store of thoughts in the universe. Positive thoughts are healing for the body and mind. They feel good, and they bring good results. You will begin to notice little miracles happening all the time.

You have free will. Use it to change your mind today.

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