Original photo credit: Mike Lewinski. (CC 2.0)
I love rewards. And I've noticed that the Universe functions on a reward system. I suppose if you were looking at it from the opposite perspective, which many religions do, you might say the Universe punishes people. This is the premise of the belief in sins and the punishment of hell.
However, I don't think that the Universe actually punishes us. It's just that when our action is incorrect, the rewards don't show up. It's simply cause and effect. Right cause, right effect. Wrong cause, wrong effect. When we choose to do the "right thing", a reward follows either that day or the next. It's so much fun! And it definitely is an incentive to keep doing the "right" thing.
So What's Right and What's Wrong?
So how do we know what the "right" action is? Some say they don't know or can't tell. But if we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we do know the difference between the "right" choice and the "wrong" one. After all, even when we choose to lie to ourselves we know, deep down, we're lying.
So for example, let's say you went to the store and the clerk gave you change for a twenty when you'd given her a five dollar bill. You noticed and said nothing. You knew that wasn't the right thing to do. Or in another situation, if there's only one seat left on the bus and you rush ahead to grab it because you can move faster than the elderly or overweight person who ended up standing, you know that wasn't the "right" thing to do.
Of course we know! We are not stupid! We may want to ignore the inner promptings that tell us what the "right" thing to do is, but we know.
Choosing Love or Withholding Love
However, rather than "right or wrong", I prefer to see these choices as choosing the loving action... or not. And perhaps that makes it easier to differentiate. When in a dilemma ask yourself "What would the loving choice be?" You can even ask "What would Mother Teresa do?" or "What would Jesus do?" Or, "If I followed my heart, what would I choose?"
And the fun part is that when we make the loving choice, later that day, or maybe the next day, the Universe gives us a reward, a bonus, a loving action right back at 'ya.The reward is not the reason to make the loving choice, but if that's what it takes to get us pointed in the right direction, why not!
Loving Yourself Too
It's also important to make loving choices that concern our own well-being. For example, you may have a sink full of dishes, and you're exhausted, but you still think that you "have to" do the dishes. It's just one of those things that you "should" do.
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But perhaps the loving thing is to go sit down, relax, and put your feet up. Or, go putter around outside, or sit down to read something, or call a friend to chat. Only you know what is the "right" action to take at that moment. And again, "right" is not based on a should or should not, or on what someone else thinks you're "supposed" to do, but rather on what's a loving action for your inner well-being at that specific moment. You can always come back to the dishes later when you're rested and refreshed mentally and emotionally.
I know that at times when I've felt "too busy" to go spend time in the garden, or to go take a walk, or anything else that I felt I truly needed for my personal well-being, yet I took the time anyway, when I come back usually a wonderful surprise awaits me. It could simply be that I am re-energized and can go through the chores that need to get done faster and with a much happier and lighter attitude. Sometimes it's that while I was out enjoying myself, a customer sent an order in by email. To me that was the reward. I took time for myself, and the Universe sent me a bonus.
Or perhaps I went out to work in the garden to recharge "my batteries" and when I came back in, my husband had loaded (or emptied, whichever was needed) the dishwasher. Another reward for taking care of myself. Now you might say the reward doesn't seem connected to the action, but when you look at life as everything is connected, you see that one does lead to the other. You were nice to yourself, so the Universe (in the form of another person) was nice to you.
Is It Nap Time?
Naps are other instance of taking care of ourselves. As adults we sometimes resist taking naps. Same reasoning applies to meditation, and other things such as exercise. After all, who has time for any of it, right? Well, the irony is that when we do take time for a nap, or a short meditative recharge, or a stint of exercise, we come out of it with more energy and clarity. That fifteen-minute session may end up gaining you an hour or two of productive time because you'll be clear headed and focused. There's a reward right there.
Naps are not just for children. Meditation is not just for spiritual persons. And exercise is not just for those who "need" it. These are all actions that help us be centered, focused, and in tune with ourselves and with the world around us. A clear head and rested body are much more apt to lead us to make good decisions than a stressed-out and tired one.
The Universe Rewards Pleasure
One thing I've discovered is that, contrary to what we've been taught, the Universe doesn't reward suffering and struggling and a "nose to the grindstone" attitude. It rewards joy, it rewards love, it rewards being true to yourself. When we struggle and suffer through our daily tasks because we think we have to or we should, we exude an energy that does not invite rewards. If you're a "martyr" at your job or at home, you will only invite more martyrdom. Misery likes company... and thus you'll get more of the energy that you're putting out into the world.
That's the whole secret behind the "law of gratitude". When you are grateful for the things in your life, your energy becomes one of joy and love and thus you draw to yourself people and events that match that energy. If you go around always "pissed off" at whatever, then you're walking around with a big dark cloud over your head, and it will regularly drench you. And people who like to wallow in dark clouds will be drawn to you like a magnet.
The reward for gratitude becomes more things you can be grateful for. It's definitely a wonderful circle. Your energy decides the nature of your circle: gratitude and joy, or complaints and misery. We see this manifested in Nature. You reap what you sow. Sow radishes, that's what will grow. Sow lettuce, same thing. In the same way, when we sow negativity, yup, we get more of it! Sow discord, ditto.
So since we have a choice as to what energy we carry around and emit, we can make sure that instead of garbage in, garbage out, we rather select joy in, joy out, happiness in, happiness out, love in, love out. It starts with our thoughts and our inner choices, and moves out to our energy and our actions.
How Do We Know If We're on the Right Track?
So how do we know if we're honoring our own truth? There are several questions we can ask ourselves. Is my life flowing smoothly? Am I usually feeling stressed and irritable? Do I get along with others? Do I hate getting up in the morning? Do I have to drag myself through life? Am I in a good mood?
The answers to these questions help us evaluate how we're doing. If we're being true to our inner guidance, listening to our body's needs, and acting lovingly to both ourselves and others, it will be obvious in our life. We can evaluate our actions by the rewards, or lack thereof, that are provided for us.
And remember, rewards are not necessarily material things. They are also lightness of spirit, joy of being, things just flowing smoothly, and a general at-peace-attitude towards your life.
So What Do We Have To Do?
It's our choice. It's our show. It's our manifestation. Which way would you prefer your life to go? And remember, the choice you make needs to made over and over again. It's not a one-time-fix-all scenario. The choice gets to be made with each thought, each action, each word.
At first, it may require a lot of attention, but as with all habits, after a while it becomes second nature. And actually, when it comes down to it, love is your original, innate nature and you get to let it come back to the surface and spread joy and love all around you once again.
It's pretty basic: we get to choose love or fear with every breath we take until choosing love becomes like breathing. We do it without having to consciously remember to do it.
A guide to restoring your connection to the wisdom of your soul and returning to heart-centeredness. Providing 29 breathing, relaxation, meditation, and visualization exercises, the author explores how to open each energy center to the intelligence of the heart and retrain the mind to approach life with love instead of fear.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com