Making Right Decisions: When to Stay and When to Go

What Question Is Your Soul Asking Now?

If you are in a great life transition, your soul is on the phone, and it has a question to ask you. What is the question being asked of you right now by your soul?

To answer this question you must temporarily set aside concerns about outer forms, such as: Should I quit my job? Should I move here or there? Should I be in relationship with this person or not? Should I follow this new direction in life or stay where I am? Being prematurely engaged in these outer issues distracts you from your soul questions: Who am I now? How did I get here? How have I changed?

Before you initiate big outer change, begin by hearing and answering your soul’s questions. Take creative, meditative space in your life to listen to your soul, hear the real question being asked, and find your authentic answer.

Ask Yourself the Right Question

An example of finding the soul question took place in one of my “Navigating Change” workshops. Annie sat in the back of the room, tears streaming down her face. She waved her hand to speak, pregnant with a deep question.


“Christine, I have to make a decision. I feel that I want to leave my marriage. After twenty-seven years, two grown children, and my daughter’s wedding coming up in nine months, and her begging me not to leave my husband and ruin her wedding, I have to make a huge decision. And I don’t know how to make it.”

“What’s the decision?”

“I have to decide whether to stay with my husband, or leave him.”

“No, that’s not the decision you have to make,” I said, as forty faces looked at me curiously, as if to say, “It’s not?” A bit of a ham, I admit I enjoyed this moment of high drama.

“The decision you have to make,” I said, “is this: Who do you want to be? How do you want to live? What is your vision for your life now? When you know what you want, and who you want to be, and how you wish to live, then you have the option to explore your vision with your husband to see if you can evolve together in this marriage. I recommend giving that some care and time after spending twenty-seven years together. Give him an opportunity to meet the emerging woman in you and see if you and he can work things out in this old form. He may surprise you. He also might want no part of the woman you are becoming now. It might threaten him. He simply may not want to change. He may want you to stay as you were.

“Your real decision is not about leaving or not leaving your husband. It’s a choice whether to embrace the new woman in you who is seeking bigger life expression. It’s a decision to walk forward with vision on your true path, to live from your highest values and Self, or to remain in old patterns that you have outgrown. You know the gifts and compromises of each. Either choice is ultimately okay because you will continue to grow regardless of the outer form of your life. But you do have a choice. And the choice is completely up to you.”

“Thank you.” Annie’s eyes were now like twin suns shining, fully alive and present in this pivotal life moment. She stood at her personal crossroads as she saw the real decision to make. Now her real work would begin and, eventually, would lead her to the right outer decision about her marriage.

Sadness and Letting Go: Do You Want a Dog?

In letting go, you may feel grief. The presence of grief does not mean that you’ve made a bad decision; it shows you care, and have a heart. Grief shows that you are sensitive to the feelings of others, and you feel remaining attachment and love for the person or life situation you once embraced, and now are releasing. Allow the sadness as part of your integration, but don’t let it cloud your decision about what’s right for you. I had a vivid experience of this teaching many years ago.

Kenn and I sat on the Berkshire porch of my friend Kate, a smart psychotherapist I’d been best friends with since we were ashram twenty-two-year-olds. Kenn and I were in tears as we shared our tale of woe. We had recently given our dog Angel away. The adoptive family were caring people who lived in the country and had a little girl named Rebecca. Rebecca had been praying for her parents to allow her to have a dog for two years, her prayers assisted by nuns who were family friends. That our dog was named Angel cracked the nuns up when they learned of Rebecca’s victory.

The family had synchronistically come into our life to interview me for a newspaper article about my paintings, Rebecca in tow. Rebecca and Angel bonded instantly when they met. They arrived on the very day Kenn and I had decided we simply were gone too frequently to give Angel the family he deserved and needed. We loved him, but as busy professionals we had to face that we were not the right humans for him. We felt very adult and clear about our decision.

But when we saw Angel drive off smiling in the back seat of this family’s car, with an ecstatic Rebecca hugging him, we completely lost it. Kenn ran into the house sobbing, me in hot pursuit. We were stunned to realize how deeply our dog had embedded himself into our hearts. Everywhere we looked, we felt the loss of Angel. Here’s where he waits at the door for us to come home, there‘s where he lies at our feet, oh God—an empty space where his bed used to be, and so on.

We were emotionally totaled. We woke up crying in the night, devastated by our loss. We felt we’d made a terrible mistake. We felt ripped off! We wanted our dog back! We irrationally felt mad at the wonderful, loving family now enjoying our great dog. “Why should they have him?” we asked unreasonably. Had it not been for Rebecca’s young age and rampant joy, we would have taken Angel back.

Now we sat on Kate’s porch desperate for her help. We shared our drama as Kate listened thoughtfully. Then she raised an eyebrow. “I have a question for you,” she said. “Do you want a dog?”

“No!” we both said in unison.

Kate shrugged and stood up. “Well, we’re done. Let’s go have some iced tea.” We all laughed at her clear question which cut through our teary confusion.

Now, “Do you want a dog?” has become a household mantra we use when torturing ourselves over major decisions, a way to get down to the core truth of the matter. We may have attachment, sentiment, sadness as we let go of something, or someone, or some form we once chose, but we may no longer actually be in resonance with that form. Sadness is healing and tears are cleansing, but when sadness arises, feel it and distinguish your truth. Do you really want this dog?

Can You Inhabit Your Old Forms in New Ways?

Sometimes, our marriages and jobs, our partners and lifestyles are able to shift and change with us in complementary ways. Sometimes they cannot. We need not necessarily leave our partners, end our jobs, and move across the country because we have internally grown and changed. However, the way we inhabit those old forms must change for us to remain alive and joyful within them, and to keep on track with our soul curriculum.

It’s worth taking time with long-held commitments to creatively, thoughtfully see what’s possible for change and evolution within that form, to allow breathing space for the new you emerging in your life experience. If you then decide to move forward and release a living situation, job, or relationship in your life, you will do so free of guilt or concern that you didn’t try hard enough to make it work or didn’t give it enough of a chance.

Trouble arises when a partner or job pulls on us to remain locked into who we used to be, while our Spirit wants to move forward. The trappings of our old lives can begin to chafe and bind. We want to fly and we can’t spread our wings. Something has to give. Often what gives is the old form, a shattering or breaking of what is enclosing us.

In making big, life-changing decisions, go slowly at first, being wise and honoring of what you have created in the past, and kind toward others’ feelings whose lives are entwined with yours. Introspection, seeking support from a wise counselor or mentor, meditation, asking for guidance, and journaling, all help you clarify what is really going on inside of you and discover how best to meld that—or not—with your current commitments.

When you are integrating an ending in your life, for a time it’s good to see if you can honor your old commitments and choices and still shine as the new being you are becoming. Take time to see if your old forms of life can harmonize with the new soul directions calling you.

You may find creative ways to recreate how you are in your job or partnership so that it aligns with the new woman or man you are becoming. If you later find you need to make an external break, you will have the peace and strength of knowing you truly tried to work it out without dramatic outer shifts. You’ll then move forward in new directions feeling clear that you are making right choices for yourself.

Excerpted from Navigating Change: Conscious Endings, Visionary Beginnings by Christine Warren,

Find out about upcoming programs with Christine Warren at Kripalu.

Christine Warren, a spiritual life coach and speaker, was a founding member of Kripalu and has taught transformational workshops nationally for 40 years. She is the author of Navigating Change: Conscious Endings, Visionary Beginnings.

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