you have a healthy body, generous bank account, and nothing restricting
you from moving about anywhere you want to in this world, physically you
could say you are free.
Or you may feel you have mental freedom, and are able to “speak your mind” whenever and however you please.
Then there is emotional freedom, which you might interpret as freedom from feeling ruled by your emotions. On the other hand, some may experience the term as having the “right” to emote however you want to in any given moment.
If you attain any or all of these freedoms, are you actually free? Are you at peace?
None of these generate a sense of REAL, lasting, permanent liberation. Why?
Because none of these access the core truth of who we ACTUALLY are, the only source of real, permanent peace and spiritual freedom.
The previously mentioned “freedoms” only involve the “me” we think we are, which is just a concept. True freedom is not a concept.
What we are already IS spiritual freedom. We are pure beingness, which can’t be defined by any concept. The true meaning of liberation can only be experienced, not just thought about. More about this in a moment.
First, let’s look at…
Why Don’t We Experience Permanent Spiritual Freedom?
While going through an uncomfortable experience with a friend recently, I realized more deeply that all suffering is created by thoughts. ALL suffering.
And actually it isn’t the thoughts themselves that are painful. It is BELIEVING them and investing them with reality.
Also, it isn’t just believing the PAINFUL things we tell ourselves which creates suffering, it is believing ANY thought at all.
All thought is in the realm of polarity and what goes up will always eventually go down. Always.
If we believe a thought such as “I’m wonderful,” it is only a matter of time until that thought will flip into “I’m worthless.”
Even after seeing this time and time again, as the next layer of unconscious patterns get triggered, we can still sometimes fall back into the old habit of believing thoughts and creating suffering for ourselves and others.
However, each time this happens we become more conscious of the ways we block our own spiritual freedom. Consequently, we liberate ourselves FROM ourselves, layer by layer.
Unconscious Belief Patterns Need To Be Seen Before They Can Be Released
If there is any belief pattern we identify with, we view our entire lives through the lens of that belief pattern.
This is why 10 different people can experience an event and have 10 different descriptions of it. Each person is viewing the experience through their own particular beliefs.
Also, whether consciously or unconsciously, the energy of our beliefs creates situations in our lives that mirror our beliefs back to us. This is actually a really good thing because we have to SEE a pattern before we can let it go.
It may seem like an event creates painful thoughts and beliefs, and therefore the suffering. However it is the beliefs (conscious or unconscious) which create painful events which mirror our pre-existing beliefs.
In my recent uncomfortable experience with my friend, my thoughts / beliefs alternated between:
“I’m right and you’re wrong so there is something wrong with you.” “You shouldn’t have done that.” “You hurt me.”
“I’m wrong and you’re right so there is something wrong with me.” “I shouldn’t have done that.” “I reacted to you, so I’m bad, unspiritual and worthless.”
It’s not hard to see how believing any of these thoughts can create suffering.
How could it not?
Until We Start To See Our Way Into Spiritual Freedoom, This Is What Happens Over and Over Again:
A painful event occurs and we react. We get pulled into listening to an old thought pattern.
We BELIEVE what our thoughts are telling us about ourselves, others and the world.
We create an identity around these beliefs. We believe this package of beliefs IS who we are.
We get through the uncomfortable situation as best we can, usually by:
distracting or “medicating” – anything to move our attention away from the discomfort
trying to strategize our way out of the suffering
pushing against the other people involved
trying to “spiritualize” the problem away by meditating or applying spiritual principles (Yes, even this can be a way to avoid what we are actually feeling!)
Then eventually the stream of life continues to flow along and outer
circumstances change in some way. We forget about the upset as best we
can and hope it won’t come up again.
However, because there is still an identification with a belief (or a package of beliefs), that energy will continue to create situations in our lives which mirror it and the very same issue will get triggered again and again.
Us humanoids act out in some pretty painful ways with each other. You may have had some quite intense things happen to you in this lifetime, and you may have found yourself acting in painful ways towards others, out of your own unresolved hurts.
In my experience, the emotional, physical, and mental pain of both sides of that need to be lovingly addressed in order to know spiritual freedom. (You’ll find help with that here.)
Gradually, we begin to see that it is what we tell ourselves ABOUT what is going on in our lives that is actually creating our suffering, and not nearly so much the events themselves.
When we are ready to shift our attention back to attention itself, we notice there is a presence which is here, alive, awake and aware and exactly the same whether something pleasant, neutral or extremely unpleasant is arising.
You, awake, aware beingness, are not at all changed, threatened or affected by what is happening in your experience.
So How Can We Find Spiritual Freedom?
Notice What Is Already Free
This alive presence we are is already free. It is freedom itself. So really the only thing we have to do is to take a moment, get quiet within, and ask:
“What is it that is already free within me, right now, right here in this very moment?”
Start out with the premise that you don’t know the answer. In other words, empty out any ideas about what you THINK the answer is.
This keeps us trapped in the cycles of reaching for what we think will give us pleasure and pushing away what we feel threatens what we want.
So, when something arises in our lives which we don’t like, we are conditioned to think along these lines:
“This shouldn’t be happening as it is.”
“I should be different than I am.”
“That person, the world, and life should be different than it is.”
Generally we’re not even aware of these thoughts. They can be so much a part of the fabric of who we think we are, we don’t even notice them.
From these thoughts our attention moves so quickly to “How can I change this?” that we aren’t even conscious of the “This shouldn’t be happening” thought.
Investing these thoughts with belief immediately puts us into conflict with WHAT IS, which keeps us feeling separate and divided from ourselves and everyone and everything else.
And actually, we ARE all life. This whole dream is made out of one thing, and it isn’t actually a thing. We are aliveness itself. This is the only “place” of true spiritual freedom.
To begin to get in touch with this, for just this moment, let everything in your life be exactly as it is:
your entire life
every person in the world
Do nothing with any of it, for just this moment.
Notice what is simply here, awake, alive and aware. Notice what has no need or desire to change anything. It is simply beingness itself.
Find Out: What Are You Really?
1. What Is Looking Through Your Eyes?
Take a moment right now and simply notice what it is that is looking
through your eyes. Just for right now, don’t refer to your thoughts.
Notice this that is alive, open, alert and aware and is looking out of your eyes in this very moment.
To experience it is simply to turn your attention toward this energy looking out of your eyes.
That’s it. Keep it simple.
Turning your attention toward this that is looking through your eyes is similar to how it is when you want to hear a sound in the distance. What do you do? You stop, get quiet, and you open your senses in that direction.
In the very same way, bring attention to this that is looking through your eyes right in this very moment. Sense and feel it.
2. Inquire Within: “What Am I Really?”
This is the most important question you could ever ask yourself if you truly want spiritual freedom.
We spend years, lifetimes even, assuming we are a body / mind / package of emotions with a past, present and future.
like when you dream at night, it can really seem like you are the main
character in your dream… that is until you wake UP from the dream. This
life is a dream also; it just lasts longer.
Take a moment right now, and direct this question within, without asking your mind:
“What am I really?”
As before, let go of any foregone conclusions about what you think the answer is. Just be empty, alert and curious. Let go of any expectations of what you think you should find or experience.
For just this moment, let go of any efforting. Release all beliefs and concepts, including those about spiritual awakening.
Just be here, open and alive. Surrender into what is simply here.
“After complete failure time and time again, I heard my teacher say, ‘You have to find your own way.’
Instead of closing in on a narrow focus, I found my own way was just to be present, which was to become totally open. This is more like listening than focusing.
In that listening, I discovered a very natural state, a state that is actually the only state that isn't contrived.
From that state that is like listening, I started to see that every effort to contrive created another state.
As soon as I made an effort, a state would be manufactured out of thin air. I could manufacture beautiful states, terrible states, concentrated states, and all sorts of states; but there was only one state that was totally natural and absolutely effortless.
In that state, I found access to the deepest Self, which is freedom.”
~ Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing
Action Has Its Place Too
If you’re in a dangerous or abusive situation, I'm not saying you should do nothing and just let your attention rest in awareness, and then everything will be fine.
Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to take whatever steps feel appropriate to take care of yourself.
I find that when attention rests back into itself – this alive, shining awareness, the spiritual freedom which is always here, whether the body / mind is experiencing joy or pain – there is always a warm, gentle yet strong guiding wisdom which is here as well.
Your Self will always naturally and effortlessly show you what to do in every situation in this dream.
The mind can't access what is beyond it. However, YOU, this alive, aware, beingness which is looking through your eyes in this moment, is the source of infinite wisdom.
However, we only become aware of it when we recognize “we” (the body / mind) don’t know what to do and we let go into awareness. Then this wisdom can arise softly, naturally, effortlessly and spontaneously within as a kind of natural creative problem solving.
Taking Responsibility For Our Actions
Spiritual freedom can sometimes get painfully misinterpreted like this:
“This life is all just a dream. I’m not responsible for the pain
someone else experiences in regards to my actions. Their life is a
reflection of their own beliefs, so if they’re suffering over how they
experienced being treated by me, that’s their issue, not mine.”
Whether someone else is saying this to us or we hear that thought within our own minds, this is the illusionary “me” (sometimes referred to as “ego”) trying to hide in spiritual clothing.
I AM responsible for my actions. We all are.
It is up to us to bring attention to the clear, calm, alive, shining presence within and let our SELF guide us into the best actions for healing for ourselves and those we interact with.
Healing and true spiritual freedom depends on our willingness to give our attention and allegiance to the pure, awake presence we are, again and again, and to be willing to let all of our reactions come up within awareness without judging them or trying to change them. In this way they gradually unwind on their own.
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