In our everyday life we often feel anything but free. We feel stuck, attached, imprisoned by our bodies, minds, other people and the world in general. Finding freedom is definitely a very valuable thing to do.
But what I find interesting about freedom is that, although it may be very difficult to see for most people, we are, in essence, freedom itself, but we have lost that essential aspect of ourselves because of the many ways in which we came to see ourselves and the world around. The way we see and perceive life itself.
We look at the sun and we see a big bright object moving around this immense planet. This is what we see, but we know differently. We know that the big-bright-object is actually a much bigger object than the planet earth, and we also know that although the sun is also moving, what we perceive as movement does not come from the sun but from the earth. We know that what we see is not what it is.
It is the same with us, except that we do not know it. We look at ourselves, we feel ourselves, and everything we know about ourselves indicates that we are not free, and that actually we are very far away from it, but it’s only a misperception, not different from our perception of the sun.
There is a quote I like very much from an anonymous author from the 17th century that says: ‘Spiritually, heaven (we could also say freedom) is as near down as up, and up as down, behind as in front, in front as behind, on one side as on the other, to such an extent that anyone who had a true desire to be in heaven would be there in spirit at that very moment. For the main road and shortest road to heaven is run by desire and not by footsteps.’
To use an allegory, we can say that our situation is similar to that of the son of a king that for some reason got separated from his father while he was a child and now believes to be the son of a commoner.
He IS the son of the king, even if he does not know it. He does not need to do anything to be what he is. What he has to do is realize the truth of his situation. But it is a very different kind of doing. It is not a doing to change, but a doing to know. Then, once he knows, if he ever does, how is he going to prove it to the king? How is he even going to get closer to the king in order to talk to him? He cannot do it just like that. He needs to prepare himself. Maybe he needs to take a good bath, shave his beard, cut his hair, find some nice clothes, learn a bit the language and manners of the king’s court. All these things are not easy to do, they take time and effort and dedication, lots of it.
It is very similar with us. In essence, we are freedom itself, but we so deeply feel and believe to be anything but free that we need to do a lot of work, a lot of preparation for the truth of what we really are to become our reality.
It is apparently a long way we need to go to regain that inherent freedom. But it is only an apparent way.
Like a poem by a Sufi poet called Rumi that says:
‘I have lived on the lip of insanity,
wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door.
I have been knocking from the inside!’
This work we need to do to regain freedom, this long way we apparently need to travel is like knocking on doors. If we don’t do this work, the door will not (or very rarely) open. But once it opens, we will see that we have been knocking from the inside.
We are freedom itself, but we really believe we are not. And so we need to prepare ourselves to recognize that freedom.
That preparation is the physical, mental and spiritual work we need to do. We need to realign our sensations, feelings and understandings with the truth, which is that we are free.
And so, we need to work at the physical level, the sensation level, the emotional level, the mental level and the spiritual level.
We need to work slowly, rebuilding our understanding of what and who we are, regaining our (apparent) lack of freedom from the mistaken sense of being a bound, restricted, limited being.
We work on relieving ourselves from our apparent lack of freedom by realizing we are free from the body, the mind, suffering, external conditions, people, our own desires, the ego, psychological fear, the past, the future… and everything at once.
- From the body, by seeing that although we may have a little bit of control over it, more than 95% of what is happening with it is completely out of our control. We find freedom by taking care of the 5% that belong to us, and stop worrying about the 95% that does not.
- From the mind, by understanding our thoughts, deeply seeing that a thought is nothing more than a point of view, and realizing that freedom is our birthright when life is seen from a wiser point of view. Also, and in particular, by seeing that we are not our thoughts, but what is aware of them. And that this awareness is already free.
- From suffering, by understanding that ‘real’ suffering is profound and deep but also short lived and, if well understood, contains an immense amount of knowledge and the potential for helping us evolve, mature and grow as human beings. Different from ‘real’ suffering is what we often call ‘our suffering’ – and that I call ‘useless’ or ‘unnecessary’ suffering. All that can be done about it is the discovery of its non-usefulness and its non-reality.
- From external conditions, by realizing that our state of being is not dependent on them, but on ourselves. We all have our preferences – we may prefer chocolate to vanilla or spring to winter –and we can learn to be grateful when we are able to enjoy those preferences, but if our happiness depends on the fulfillment of our preferences, then we will always feel bound and restricted because external conditions do not depend only on what we want or don’t want, but they depend, especially, on many laws outside of our control. Happiness – freedom – is an inner sense of harmony with what is, and it is independent of what may or may not happen outside.
- From people, by understanding the positive and negative ways in which we are attached to people. The negative ways are based on our attachment to them because of our experience of their harmful ways of being. But when we see that those harmful manifestations are not a characteristic that belongs to them, but a byproduct of their ignorance of their own innate freedom, one creates a sense of separation and forgiveness; one allows oneself to experience love, which is another word for freedom. The positive ways of attachment are based on our belief that we need people – in the form of approval, love or attention – to feel happy. We regain our freedom with the understanding that happiness is an innate experience, one that is independent of what people may say, feel or do. And then, we can gain the freedom of becoming independent of any kind of judgment, neither negative nor positive. ‘The world as it is. Myself as I am.’
- From our own desires, by understanding that freedom does not mean to be able to do whatever we want. Freedom is often mistaken with the possibility of having all of our desires immediately fulfilled. But this is not what freedom is. Actually, to have freedom dependent on the satisfaction of desires is to be a slave to desires, because one of the characteristics of desires is that they never end; quite the opposite, the more struggle there is to satisfy desires, the more desires appear. Freedom is not the satisfaction of desires but freedom from desires, and this becomes possible with the understanding that what we hope to get by satisfying our desires – happiness, love, freedom – is already an aspect of ourselves.
- From the ego, by understanding that the ego is nothing but a creation based on our need to act a part that we hope will produce a more fulfilled life. But the truth is that not only the ego is incapable of doing that, but also, and more importantly, that the possibility for a more fulfilled life is already in me AS I AM, is already present in my being AS IT IS, but hidden below the many misunderstanding of myself and the world.
- From psychological fear, by the recognition that this fear, and it’s many forms of expression like worry, anxiety, tension and many others, are a condition that is not really connected to any concrete and true immediate danger, but it exists only because of a disconnection with the ‘here and now’. We experience freedom from fear by recognizing and establishing ourselves in the present moment, in what is actually here now.
- From the past, by deeply understanding that the past is nothing that actually belongs to us, is nothing that really has to do with us, with anything that we have intentionally done or created, but that is created by the circumstances of life; circumstances we have not created nor chosen. Regret is one of those emotions that seem to have a place in our life, but in reality it is a completely useless, unreal, unnecessary emotion.
- From the future, by realizing that as practical and necessary as it is to plan for the future, the realization of that plan is not in our hands, but in the hands of Life. (Life is the word I use to express my understanding of the unconcerned-loving-intelligence that creates and governs the laws of the Universe.) We find freedom in the profound realization of that higher intelligence.
- And from everything at once, by discovering that at this very moment, what we am really are – the awareness, the presence, the ultimate perceiver of this moment – is already free; it is freedom itself. We find true freedom in the recognition of our own true self.