Freedom in all Directions
If you are locked in a dark dungeon, chained and suspended from the wall, unable to move and drugged into insensibility, can you still be free? On the other hand, when you have unlimited wealth and you are welcomed wherever you choose to travel, can you be unfree ? The answers to these lie in the human mind.
I’ll address the many ways that people think they are not free, or do not have a choice. We’ll explore patterns of thought that humanity seems locked into, including some that may not have been examined by you, the reader. We’ll look at the ways people may think they are free, simply because they have never known about other possible choices.
If this book turns on a “light bulb”, causes you to say “I never looked at it that way before!” and then change something to improve your life, it has achieved its purpose.
There are so many ways that you may feel restricted, limited or discouraged. These can evaporate like shadows in a new light, when you just take another look at an old idea that you had forgotten you ever had.
A bird with clipped wings, who has never seen daylight, may be unable to imagine any other form of behavior than to walk and climb around its cage. The door may be open and its feathers regrown, but it needs to be shown what is possible.
The intent of this book is to help the reader decisively break loose from attitudes, beliefs and little boxes of expected behavior that society’s “group think” uses to make us “ordinary”. The person who is truly free knows who he or she is. He or she decides what to do at any moment, not based on habitual ways or on what is expected, but by listening to the highest part of him/herself that knows what is right and appropriate.
Areas of life will be addressed which few people have considered in relation to freedom; but they all contain set ways of being, which can limit our range of choices.
It is better to read this book without the influence of drugs, recreational or psychiatric. They may distort understanding and make the exercises unworkable.
I wish you happy hunting through these pages, and may your world of possibilities be ever expanding.
|Table of Contents:|
Guilt and shame:
Tradition and Ritual:
Money, self-worth and emotions:
Us versus Them:
Who am I?
What is a man?
Powerful presence, self-assurance:
The pity trap:
Fixed ideas can prevent us from even HEARING what other people say, when their ideas just don’t fit our picture of reality. Somehow, we tend to think that we must reconcile what THEY say with the way WE perceive the world.
So here is an interesting exercise to do. The next time you have an impulse to tune someone out because what they say makes absolutely no sense: Put aside your own beliefs and just listen – with the intent of hearing what they say and, as much as possible, understanding and experiencing how they perceive life and the world they live in.
This can be such a surprising GIFT! You may still think that their beliefs are all hogwash, but you have just opened up a whole universe to experience that was previously closed off.
You can do this over and over, and discover an amazing diversity of experience, that you had never even imagined. You may find yourself seeking out weird or unusual people, just to explore worlds that few ever get to see.
Sometimes it will even expand and enrich the world YOU live in. This is the freedom to travel in a new and different way.
So many people think and act as if the LAW is carved in stone. They feel guilty if they go through a red light, or even if they forget to fasten their seat belt.
Laws are arbitrary rules made by a group of people, or even an appointed committee who do not necessarily have your best interests at heart. I’ll never forget being required to pour a bottle of Kahlua down the sink at a California customs station – just to protect the local liquor industry. Did I have a choice? Of course I did, but I did not choose the alternative.
Lysander Spooner, well known freedom lawyer in the 1800’s, indicated that the people who masqueraded as the so-called “government” could be more accurately described as fraudulent impostors or a “secret band of thieves, robbers and murderers”. Could those who would take your property without your consent (when you have done no harm) be fairly described as human predators?
If the speed limit is unrealistically low, you can safely drive 20 miles over and it endangers no-one, is it wrong to do so? Well, you may endanger yourself if there is a uniformed predator lying in wait, but where does right and wrong enter into this equation? Why feel guilty?
That leads to the next strange idea:
We so often hear the expression “defying authority” as if it is a crime. Well, many of the French defied authority when they opposed the Nazi occupation. Hardly the same thing as when a shoplifter defies authority by sneaking out of the store with someone else’s property.
The key point here is: “Do the rules make sense?” Do the people who set themselves up as “authorities” truly deserve your respect? Here are two ways we could view “authority”:
1. Unquestioning acceptance and obedience. This can make life very easy. We simply do what is expected of us and don’t ask too many questions. For most people this is the way to fit in, gain acceptance from others and remain “safe”.
2. With skepticism. This is on the path of the “peaceful warrior”. It demands more of us, may open us to attack from those who would corral the masses, but allows us the freedom to be independent and perhaps make a difference in the world. Ghandi refused obedience to the British “authorities”, and so liberated his country.
In his famous essay “On Liberty”, John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859:
I have long puzzled over the mystery of why the vast majority of people, including those who are intelligent, educated, and successful, accept without question the idea that “society”, i.e., government, should be assigned authority over their lives and actions. This near universal acceptance of the authority of the state is especially baffling in light of world history in which we see that the State is consistently the source of human misery, and government “solutions” invariably worsen every problem that they propose to solve.
The medical “authorities” kill more people in most years, from malpractice, side effects of drugs, unnecessary surgery etc, than the military “authorities” kill when they invade foreign countries. If you don’t believe me, do an internet search on medical + “unnecessary deaths”, or “death by medicine”.
Medical doctors are good at setting bones and dealing with emergencies. With their government enforced monopoly, they claim “authority” that may not always be deserved. They often attack alternative healers who heal more effectively, and do much less harm. They have a favorite word: “quackery”. It serves them well as the antithesis of “respectable authority”.
The scientific “authorities” expend great effort ridiculing honest researchers who step outside some currently accepted ideas, or whose conclusions do not support the profits of those paying for the research. A good example here is Dr. Peter Duesberg, acknowledged as the leading light in retro-virology, until he showed that HIV cannot cause AIDS. There is a lot of information online about respected scientists calling for reappraisal of the AIDS hypothesis. The announcement that HIV is the cause of AIDS was a politically motivated act, which contravened standard scientific procedures. As intended, it enabled a large drug company to sell its stockpile of AZT for billions. AZT had been declared too toxic for chemotherapy.
Dr. Duesberg refused to go along with the scam. Suddenly his funding disappeared along with his “scientific” reputation – the price of integrity. He has written several books on the AIDS industry and the cover-up of the real causes. He is no longer quoted by the media as the “authority” on retro-viruses.
Documented tales abound of health food stores, research facilities and private homes being raided by the Food and Drug Administration “authorities”, with guns drawn. Computers, documents and tons of harmless products have been taken (stolen), only because they threatened the income of the drug and medical industries. Sometimes excuses were given about deceptive labeling or claims that some disease could be cured. If only the pharmaceutical and food industries were held to such standards of honesty! One author was threatened with jail if he dared to mention the names of natural remedies in his books.
The bottom line on “authority” is: Who can call on the biggest guns or the most money? If a uniformed representative of so-called authority stops you because you forgot to signal a lane change, you have the freedom to call him an “arrogant snot-nose punk” and drive away. But you know he belongs to a well armed gang (calls itself a government) that does not tolerate resistance. They would hunt you down with sirens, dogs and as much deadly force as it takes to stop you. (At least this is true in the U.S.)
So where does freedom enter the picture here? Well, if you are a hunter in the jungle, you would probably know the rules of the game. You don’t walk where the tigers can surprise you, and you learn what you need to know to stay safe.
Knowledge gives you the freedom to do what you want and choose the consequences you prefer. When you know how the game is set up, you have greater ability to predict the consequences of your moves. Some may exercise the freedom to NOT learn the rules and take their chances.
The U.S. government sponsored Grace Report showed that NONE of the money collected in federal income tax is used to run the country. It all goes into the pockets of a private international banking cartel that owns the Federal Reserve. There it is used, among other things, to blackmail governments, buy politicians and choreograph wars. There is a vast amount of data available online and in bookstores to corroborate this. In particular you could look up “The creature from Jekyll Island”.
If you run a business in the western world and don’t want to contribute your hard-earned money where it will be used for harm, you could familiarize yourself with how the IRS operates, corporate structures, trusts as well as off-shore alternatives and other currencies. Your freedom comes from knowledge.
Agencies like the IRS are riddled with corruption. Agents are not required to follow their own stated rules and procedures and are usually upheld in courts even when they don’t. (I speak from personal observation).
Nevertheless, you may find it more comfortable to follow the instructions they give you, and not tie up your time and attention in fighting them.
At the Nuremberg trials following World War 2, the excuse “I was just following orders” was addressed as a defense for committing atrocities. The decisions made were not conclusive. Along with true freedom goes the responsibility for one’s own actions. When people join a military organization, they have given over their freedom to an “authority” that they will allow to command them. How important is it for them to investigate the ethics of the actions they will be involved in?
It is part of most human cultures that it is virtuous to become a soldier. As the famous poem goes, “Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die”. Einstein said: “The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.” When ordered to fight, a free and responsible man asks “Who and what would I be fighting for?” He takes the trouble to find out the truth.
The meaning of freedom, for you, depends on where you draw the proverbial “line in the sand”.
With a dozen or so mainstream religions around the world, why do the vast majority of people hold the same beliefs as their parents? Is it fear, need for approval or just mental laziness that robs the freedom of thought?
The dogmatic beliefs of these religions contradict each other, so they can’t all be true. Do you go to hell if you don’t accept a particular interpretation of the scriptures, or do you reincarnate into a different form depending on the life you led, or do you simply cease to exist after death, like a clock that stops ticking?
Is God a jealous male entity in whose form we are made (they don’t say if that includes the sexual parts) and who demands to be worshiped and obeyed (conditional love)? Is She an Earth Goddess who inspires and empowers her worshipers? Is It the totality of consciousness and all things created, that is synonymous with infinite love? Is God an experience, which does not fit into any concept? Or is God a fabrication, designed to control people, build power for a religious hierarchy and distract the masses from taking charge of their own lives?
The concept of God is intimately tied in with one’s beliefs about the nature of existence. Do we live in a clockwork universe, with nothing beyond the physical, where consciousness is only an illusion and everything happens by accident?
Is this a universe where God watches over each atom and life form, monitoring and controlling every movement? Did He create it, set up the laws of Physics and then stand back? Or is God the impersonal life force that expresses through each one of us, and is the physical reality merely a composite of all of our thoughts, beliefs and intentions?
There are so many models of existence with people who cling to them absolutely and claim to have the Truth. Just as a map is not the land, roads and buildings represented, a theoretical model of existence only points at how the universes may be structured, but does not substitute for the reality. Perhaps no model tells the whole story. Perhaps we can work within a theoretical structure in our personal development, until we outgrow it and are ready to discard it and try out a new theory.
My answer is to examine the alternatives and look into your own heart to see which ideas sing their truth to you and empower your life. They may be none of the above, but they will be yours. And there is no reason that you may not change them as you learn and grow.
Freedom includes the option to re-examine your beliefs at any time.
There is absolutely NOTHING that you HAVE to do. You may be threatened or bribed with consequences, but unless someone physically controls your body, you are not compelled to do ANYTHING. Wisdom lies in being aware of the results of your actions and omissions.
In common usage, morality is usually concerned with sexual behavior and related beliefs about what is sexual, what is not, what types of sexual behavior are acceptable and under what circumstances.
It is not productive to debate people’s fixed ideas about absolutes. So I will not do that here. I WILL be presumptuous enough to examine some ideas, so that you, Dear Reader, have the option to decide what makes the most sense, in light of what you want to see in your life. Here are some beliefs that bear closer scrutiny:
-The unclothed human body is sexually immoral, or even pornographic! In many cultures and subcultures, nudity does not imply sexual interest under most circumstances, only a desire for the sun’s rays, a sense of freedom, openness, honesty, artistic beauty or just plain comfort.
Then there are the constipated minds that see only nudity = sexual arousal = immoral behavior and, as such, it must be stamped out!
Just beyond your comfort zone may lie freedom. Many people, after their first visit to a nudist resort, make profound discoveries about themselves and expand their self-esteem dramatically. Clothing often represents a pretended self that they can hide behind so that people will not see who they really are.
-Sex is dirty. This one usually hangs out in the subconscious. Few people these days will say this outright, but it underlies most of their attitudes towards relationships, their own bodies and especially what children are allowed to see.
Several words in the English language have this attitude embedded in their definitions: prurient, lewd, lascivious, unchaste, wanton. The word “slut” is applied to a woman who celebrates the beauty of her sexuality. The usage implies unclean, but the dirt is in the mind of the person using the word.
It is the belief of many, that our source of vitality and aliveness IS the spiritual/sexual energy. There are tantric and other breathing techniques that can demonstrate this as a vivid and profound experience.
This idea that sex is dirty is a soul-killer, and naturally leads to the next one, which is seldom questioned:
-Sex MUST be regulated and controlled. Oh my God! If you allowed this kind of freedom, you’d have widespread rape, disease, unwanted pregnancy, child molesters, prostitution, children without fathers and all kinds of unimaginable evils!
I see … but we still have these things in our neatly regulated society, don’t we? We spend so much money enforcing laws against so-called “vice”, where activities are CONSENSUAL and there are no victims. The jails fill up, the public pays and everyone loses except the ambitious prosecutors.
Without regulations, what would you do to someone who raped your daughter? How long would he live? And would he be a rapist if prostitutes were respected and available – even as a form of therapy? Maybe we’d have less rape?
With knowledge easily available to young people, without shame or guilt, would they not be more likely to protect themselves against disease and unwanted pregnancy?
Child molesters and rapists are sick people – the inevitable product of a repressed society. The damage has been done and they need to be removed from the streets. When sexual energy is stifled from its natural expression, it will emerge in some perverse form. It is easily seen that the most repressed cultures are also the most violent.
Here I betray another personal bias: When you reach inside for your compassion, ethics will come naturally.
Very complex codes of conduct and systems of ethics enforcement usually only appear in institutions dominated by greed, corruption and/or a drive for power over others. e.g. the “legal” system, regulatory agencies and other (government regulated) institutions. They don’t work very well because the rules are frequently applied to pursue some hidden agenda and compassion is conspicuously absent most of the time.
You are as free as you will allow yourself to be. If you feel clean about your motives and intentions, with no dark shadows of self-doubt, then the sky is no limit.
This can manifest anywhere from a casual comment questioning the character of someone your partner is relating to, up to a screaming, murderous rage. If your fears or emotions tip your judgment to any extent, then that is the limit of your self-determinism in decision making. Real freedom is seen when you make decisions from the heart, that you feel good about, with no reservations.
Example: a married woman, deeply in love with her husband, finds herself strongly attracted to another man, and the feeling is mutual. He has common interests with her that her husband does not share. He also resonates with her at a deep level, in a way that is very different from the love she feels for her husband. She does not want to give up either. What are her options?
Some would say that she must choose between them. She might have that belief, and with a deep sadness, abandon a beautiful relationship. Perhaps she might feel conflicted and guilty about her divided loyalties and question her own moral character.
She might “cheat”, have the affair, and hope her husband does not find out. The result could be tragic. Or, she could tell her husband how she feels. Now HE has several options.
He could fly into a jealous rage, beat up his wife, grab his gun and go looking for the other man. He could retreat into grief and self-pity and wonder if the other man is more attractive than he, and then insist that his wife choose between them. Or, he could listen, share his wife’s joy in finding something else that sings to her soul, and understand that the depth of her love for her husband has not diminished in any way.
He may befriend the other man, and later discover that his wife comes back to him with even more love than before. I met one such couple, where the other man moved in with them. I met another happy family that now consists of 6 partners. Science fiction author, Robert Heinlein coined a term for intimate relationships that continue indefinitely because younger partners join as older ones die out: “line marriage”.
Jealousy is a learned response, not an instinctive reaction. It directly blocks the ability to make free choices. It is often based on fear of inferiority or of losing the other person. It is usually absorbed from the culture. One related belief is that if a man’s wife is seen with someone else, he must react violently, or be perceived as less than a man.
Guilt and shame:
Jim takes his 4 year old, blond, blue-eyed granddaughter to a museum, while his daughter (the mother) is busy with something else. After an hour, he has to go to the bathroom. He asks someone there to keep an eye on the child for a few minutes. Two minutes later he returns, and his granddaughter is nowhere to be seen, neither is the woman he left her with.
He frantically asks around, calls the police. After two hours he is told that she is probably out of the country by now. He is terrified at the prospect of breaking the news to his daughter.
He could carry the guilt for the rest of his life, and never forgive himself. What are his other options?
He can call all over Mexico or Europe to every resource he can think of in a desperate and unlikely quest to find her. This might postpone the pain of guilt for a little while.
He could force it out of his mind and refuse to think of it again. This is not a freely made decision, because it is driven by his guilt. It will fester in the back of his mind and damage any future relationships, especially the relationship with his daughter.
He can create or volunteer for a campaign to increase social awareness and prevent child abductions. If he can save just one other child from this fate, he can feel that he has made some amends. Or he can join a group to give comfort and counseling to other parents who have lost their children this way. These are ways that a free individual could deal with such a situation, and eventually relax and let go of the guilt.
That was a tough one. How about the guilt from religious conditioning? After the last one – that’s easy!
A teenage girl feels terribly guilty because she got aroused by a boy and touched herself in a way that her minister would disapprove. A boy almost gets caught masturbating by his mother. They put these thoughts in the back of the mind, grow up, but never resolve the guilt. It continues to damage the self image. They feel “dirty” inside.
If the following technique doesn’t resolve it, then find a good counselor:
Look inside and find a behavior or thought that you feel ashamed of. Trace it back to the first time you can remember feeling that way. Now ask these questions:
– Did it damage me physically?
– Did it harm anyone else?
– Is there anyone I would be afraid to tell about it? If so, visualize telling that person and what you think their response would be. Are they right? Is there any action you feel you need to take to make things right? If so, do it. If not, let it go. Repeat these steps until you can say aloud, in front of a mirror: “I am worthy and feel good about myself”, and know that it is true.
The truth is, that if you know your intentions are good, and there are no unfinished amends that YOU feel are needed, you can FEEL like the terrific person that you are.
Freedom is alive and well when you acknowledge that your intentions are good, and have fun with your life. I’ll go one step further: Even if your intentions are to cause harm, you always have the ability to change them to good intentions. Thus there is absolutely nothing you can do that would make you fundamentally a bad person.
Extreme example: under orders from a “superior” officer, you destroy part of a village in Iraq. Soon afterwards, you see screaming women and babies, many dead, the rest with missing or injured body parts, blood everywhere, but no guns anywhere. You feel sick, and know that it was your doing.
You feel the need to make amends or accept court martial. After you have done everything you can, where do you stand? Have you learned anything to make it less likely that you would do harm in the future?
When the fuss has died down, and some stability has returned, look at yourself in the mirror. You are still the same person. You have not become something evil. You still want to do right by other people.
Step into your freedom. You have added depth to your character. You can still do something to make the world a better place and even have fun with your life.
If you don’t have fun, what’s the point of anything anyway?
We entrap ourselves when we tie up our energy and attention on blaming someone else for our current life conditions. Extreme example: I once met a woman who blamed her failure in life on her brother because he married a non-Jew. She went on at length about how this had ruined everything in her life. I never understood quite how this worked, but it led to her being an alcoholic, incredibly bitter and not getting any better.
To the degree that you consider yourself a victim of circumstances or of other people’s actions, you are stuck, and will not progress with your life.
This has been written many times, but bears repeating: blame and ill wishes towards another only hurts you, and maybe those close to you. They do not hurt the other person. If it is appropriate to take action against the other person, do so. Then, let it go. Either forgive, or understand that there is NOTHING to forgive. There are many techniques available to help with this, pick your favorite and go for it. You will feel so much freer and more alive!
If you don’t have a technique handy, here is one you might try:
Sit quietly and comfortably with your eyes closed.
Bring your mind to rest as much as you can.
Now, start to feel the emotion of anger, hatred, annoyance, or whatever is there. Feel it intensely and picture it in a definite space in or around your body. See its boundaries and perhaps even its color.
When you have explored the feeling completely, tell yourself: “I am creating this now.”
Make a decision to let it go, with forgiveness for the other person.
Know now that you can do it, and just allow it to release or disappear. Sometimes it works to just look away from it. All you have to do is stop creating it. Make the decision to release it. If you are not sure, just decide that you can, and then you will.
If someone has truly hurt or harmed you, have you told that person how you feel about it? Sometimes this is appropriate, sometimes not. It may help in forgiving them, to be able to separate the behavior from the person.
Because someone did something evil does not necessarily make them an evil person, no matter how comforting the thought may seem. If you can visualize him or her doing something loving towards another person, it may help. When you can make this distinction, you will certainly feel freer and more able to love.
Once you are free from the urge to blame, just start with what you have and what you can do, and build from there. You will be amazed at how much easier life becomes, when you have no attention on the past. Help will come from places you would never have expected.
Many of those who hold onto an inferiority complex, also have a deeply held belief that they possess qualities that make them superior to others. The interplay of these conflicting attitudes can hold the condition in place.
The condition can contain elements of shame and fear that others will see their inferiority, and elements of guilt because others might condemn their arrogance in believing themselves superior.
One solution to this situation might be to write down a complete list of all the ways that you might consider yourself inferior, and another list of the ways that you might be better than most. Make SURE that these lists feel complete before continuing. Then examine EACH item on these lists, to objectively assess how much validity it has.
Many Mensa members define themselves by their IQ. It can allow them to obscure from themselves other ways in which they feel inferior. In my observation, those who do this are not happy people.
Forest Gump, in the movie, was not very bright, but clearly had a huge heart. I perceived this film as a powerful antidote to intellectual snobbery.
Some people fear that they have deeply offended God in some way, and have become terminally unworthy. If this is true for you, I feel your pain, even as I believe that it is not possible.
The scriptures of all religions state that God is LOVE. Does this mean that He is Love only when you obey His rules? Is this a conditional love tempered by harsh, unwavering judgment? If God is the embodiment of Love, how could He do otherwise than empower you to grow into your most beautiful expression? As the source of everything, did He not also create the concept of unworthiness? What value could this feeling have, except to make you alter your course to be worthy of the glory that you really are? After all, He created you too. Why would He create something less than glorious?
After a close examination of the items on your list, it will be obvious that you are better than most in some ways and less in others. There may also be some way that you feel inferior or superior that you cannot define, and the mystery of it seems to trap you.
If this is the case, then just sit quietly and explore the feeling (of inferiority or superiority). Without trying to figure it out, just experience the feeling, until you have explored it all the way through. Some answers may come, you may feel the need to take some action, write something down, or just do nothing. This may need to be repeated later, perhaps several times.
Depending on what your beliefs are about existence, you will notice that one or more of the following rings true for you:
– My body came from the elements of the Earth and is intrinsically neither superior of inferior to any other.
– God’s love for me is equal to his love for all of his children.
– I am part of the divine unity of all life and all that is, and am no more or less worthy than any other part.
An affirmation that may work very well is: I CELEBRATE ALL PEOPLE AS MY EQUALS. Say it and believe it. Say it as often as you need to. The results can be awesome.
We all know better. So why do we do it?
You can’t be free if you are not effective. It’s hard to be effective if you have a lousy opinion of yourself.
How do we demean ourselves? Let me count the ways:
– I have to be modest, or they will think I am conceited.
– Who do I think I am anyway?
– With his fist raised, the bully said: “You think you’re better than me?” then he hit me. He won, so he must be better than me.
– I’m no artist; I couldn’t paint my way out of a paper bag.
– I don’t want to toot my own horn.
– “I can’t afford that”. What you really mean is: “If I want to spend that much money, I’ll do something else with it.” Thus we demean ourselves when we are just talking about our priorities.
– “I can’t do that”. But quite often you can, only it would be uncomfortable. So you demean your abilities rather than stretch outside your comfort zone. How else will you grow?
– He/she/they rejected me, so I can’t be any good. The thought goes by so fast, you hardly notice it. But it sinks in and becomes part of your image of yourself – even more so if there is emotion attached to the thought.
– Look how much damage I did, I must be a rotten person. The conscious mind barely gets a chance to examine this one before it becomes part of your subconscious self image.
– You’re at a party and everyone looks so happy and carefree. You don’t feel that way, and don’t have much in common with most of them anyway. So you think you’re not as well adjusted and maybe inferior to most of them. Underneath the glib exterior, how many of them have the same fear? – A famous song, written around 1779, goes: “…that saved a wretch like me.” What on earth are we telling ourselves!
– Kneeling in front of a toilet bowl and throwing up because he is so drunk. Some people call this fun! It’s amazing how far a “fraternity party animal” will go to fit in. What must he really think about his own worth?
These are habits that we can break if we just decide to be conscious of them. The Native Americans call it “stalking” – observing ourselves objectively, to know our own behavior patterns. It is a spiritual warrior technique.
Not to be confused with self-deprecation. This is a genuine respect for the integrity and importance of others. It usually includes the willingness to listen and understand and especially does not overstate one’s own importance.
True humility also does not negate one’s own value and importance. Those, like some ministers of religion, who use this concept to control and manipulate others may pervert its meaning to be the invalidation of the individual. The humble person also loves and respects himself or herself.
It takes humility to honestly look within ourselves and examine our own thoughts, behavior, experiences and reactions. This is how we transform and grow.
This has nothing to do with ownership of another person, and is not to be confused with emotional dependence. It is intimately connected with compassion. There is no real freedom without compassion. I say this without doubt or reservation.
Aside from considerations about the law (as represented by gun-toting cops), we have the freedom to increase our wealth and power by taking from others – either by theft, intimidation, trickery or selling things that have no value or cause harm (read carefully, Monsanto and Eli Lilli).
But what kind of freedom is that? Freedom without joy? Now you have to live with yourself!
Well, lots of people manage that: many lawyers, most politicians, unscrupulous salesmen, traffic cops, tax collectors, soldiers, spammers, hell-fire and brimstone preachers etc. They may rationalize to their conscious minds, but deep down they know the harm that they do.
Unfettered joy is the province of the clear conscience. You won’t see it in the contrived smile of the lying politician, or the forced passion of the preacher who tells you that you are born a sinner. He may even believe it himself, but he is probably addicted to the money, power and prestige that his preaching brings him.
Why do we have trouble sleeping when we have done harm? Why do so many ruthless prosecutors turn to alcohol? If we were not basically good, well meaning people, why would those things bother us?
You are reading this book on freedom, but why do you want to be free? What does that mean?
Do you want to be free FROM something? Like poverty, political oppression, fear, guilt, obligations, having to work hard to survive, prison, illness, danger from enemies?
When you learn the rules and strategies associated with these things, you can deal with them most effectively. You can look at it as a game. You know your goals and the nature of the barriers you have to work around. So you work out the best game plan, not allowing your emotions to interfere but not losing your compassion.
If you are bothered by political oppression, do you want to live your life by getting around it, just ignore it, help to overthrow it, or some combination? Resentment without action will just spin you in circles and increase the power of the oppressors. Being clear on your intent, when love is the driving force, will set you free.
Or do you want to be free TO … ? Free to travel, express love where it is frowned upon, learn a language, buy a new house?
Do you love yourself enough to go out and get these things?
When we are not crushed by poverty, ill health or depression, we LOVE being alive. This love IS the driving force behind life and the wonderful things we create. When we feel this love within ourselves, and allow it to radiate, it encompasses all things. It cannot, by its nature include fear 28or condemnation, even as it observes people who dramatize those things.
When you align your intent with the love of life, power and effectiveness are there.
And with that power comes freedom.
Teachers of spirituality: individuals or organizations. They come in two varieties.
The first says: stay with me as long as you find wisdom here. When my teaching no longer feeds you, you have my blessings to move on. They will never ask you to give away your power. Your freedom is not compromised.
If they charge for their services, you will usually get good value. Harry Palmer and his Avatar course changed EVERYTHING for me. And I love the Sweet Medicine Sundance teachings. The wisdom is there, and some awesome tools for transformation. But these teachers also encourage you to search other paths.
The teachers or groups to watch out for claim they have something that you need and will not find anywhere else. This is one way to entrap. The worst of these will put you in fear of personal disaster if you leave. They may indeed have some valuable teachings that will brighten your life and help you expand – up to a point. I am forever grateful to Hubbard and Scientology for several major breakthroughs, technology to help others and two wonderful, empowering leaps forward. They called them Exteriorization (learning to go outside the body) and Clear (at peace and in command of my own thoughts and emotions).
I am equally grateful to myself for the decision to move on. This second type certainly may help you grow and become more free. But be wary and know when it is time to leave.
Tradition and Ritual:
On the positive side, these things make it very easy for people to know what is expected of them, and what is needed to “fit in”.
The danger in rituals and fixed ways of doing things is that they can become trappings that bind the spirit and the mind. The more enlightened teachers of ritual may explain that the ritual exists to release the attention from mundane affairs. Chanting and ritual has value in that it pulls the attention away from daily affairs and compulsive or habitual thought patterns. Some rituals are designed to enhance the sense of aliveness. When it has achieved its purpose, the ritual itself must be released to set the soul free.
Some people draw their sense of identity from their traditions. That is a false identity. If we consciously follow a tradition, but only in the situations where it seems appropriate, then it need not trap or limit us.
One of the sneakiest ways used to control our thoughts is through language. For example, the word “cult” may be applied to a spiritual or religious group. It carries the intent to make us bypass the process of examination to find out if the group has any positive value.
A public speaker may be called a “demagogue”. This implies that he or she appeals to people’s emotions in order to bypass the reasoning process. On the road to freedom, it is important to distinguish between the use of words to accurately describe, and their use to get you to agree with someone’s opinion.
Another trick used by controlled media, is to state things as fact without providing any documented proof. This has been used to get public acceptance of many harmful policies including unjust wars. It may require extra effort to seek out the truth, but as more people make that effort, all of our freedoms can increase.
Money, self-worth and emotions:
How much are you worth? Even though this question seems to ask the value of what you have, the implication is that your possessions indicate your worth as a person. So many people believe consciously or unconsciously, that this is the truth. Wow!
So the next logical question is: What are you worth to whom? To yourself or to the rest of the world? How many VERY rich people have committed suicide? Obviously they did not value themselves very highly. Who would judge the value of Mother Theresa by her possessions?
Nevertheless, a huge number of people tie their self-esteem to their material possessions. The key point to recognize here is that your emotions and how you feel about yourself have absolutely NOTHING to do with your circumstances or possessions.
The big lie, that entraps so many people, is that conditions in the world around you, your bank balance, the health of your relatives, the value of your house or your car somehow control the endocrine balance in your body (your emotions) or the images of self in your mind.
The only connections here are those CREATED BY YOUR BELIEFS! Your brain gets wired thus: Doctor says my wife has cancer -> disable independent logic function -> activate “doctor knows best” filter -> display image dying_in_hospital -> trigger grief hormones.
Maybe you believe that, because you made a mistake and hurt someone else, you have to feel rotten so that you will make amends. Somehow we expect that if we say “I feel awful about what I have done”, we are more likely to be forgiven.
If you feel like a piece of excrement, will that make anyone else feel better? When you feel good about yourself, you can be that much more effective in helping. If you are miserable, you simply add to the sum total of misery in the world. What good does that do?
You do have the freedom to feel wonderful, just by deciding that you do. And the image you have of yourself – self-esteem, is only the sum total of what you have been telling yourself these many years. You certainly have the freedom to change THAT.
Is it possible that you would attract more money to yourself, if deep down you honestly believe that you deserve it?
Here’s something that exists only in the mind but can make people into slaves. You say: but I have the deed to my house. Well, yes, there is a piece of paper in a filing cabinet 32with some markings on it. Without the concepts in people’s minds that interpret the markings and associate the writing with you and a house, where is the ownership? All that exists in the physical world is a piece of paper with ink marks, maybe even in different colors.
A pattern of electrical charges or different colored indentations exists on a flat plate, in a machine in a distant city. Someone interprets that to mean you have a debit of $14,000.00.
A family has to sleep on the street and eat from dumpsters because they don’t have enough Federal Reserve debt notes to exchange for the necessities of life.
Someone else spends 20 years locked in a cage, because markings on a piece of paper are interpreted to mean that someone else’s job depends on putting him and keeping him there.
How interesting that we hang the quality and patterns of our lives on mental abstractions. Compassion and human values often get lost, when people turn their bodies into servo-mechanisms for a machine-like structure of concepts that exists only in our minds.
The door is opened to corruption when we pay more attention to those concepts than to real life situations. Mankind itself will become free as we learn to keep these things in better balance.
They trap us. Deception makes life complicated. It doesn’t have to be. We can only be deceived if we make deception a part of our life and way of being – that means most of us.
“How are you today?”. “Fine, thanks”. It’s a lie. Usually the person is not fine, their attention is most likely on a problem or malady. The person asking is feigning an interest (lying) because they believe it is the polite, friendly thing to say.
Have you ever had a stranger or casual acquaintance ask how you are, and then actually told them – in detail? Watch their face drop!
Lying is a fundamental part of our culture. Does it lubricate social interactions? Maybe it does if you want to live in pretense and just exercise your vocal chords. Better to join a choir.
Try asking someone how they are and really being ready to listen. It may take quite a while to convince them that you are for real. Then, when they talk about the things in their life that NO-ONE has had the patience to hear, and you ask questions to show that you are hearing and understanding, you may have a friend for life.
Do you lie to government agents, people who are not your friends and who will look for a way to use what you say to their own benefit or even against you. I won’t debate the virtue of those lies.
My friends get the truth – or as much of it as I estimate they want to deal with. If I hold something back, it is done lovingly, with the understanding that too much information would be unwelcome or even uncomfortable for them.
Politicians routinely lie to us, and get away with it because we have numbed our ability to discern and intuit what is real and true. We lie in job applications. We lie to ourselves about our feelings. We pretend an interest when there is none. We lie to protect the feelings of others or because they might be angry at us for the truth.
We run away from the truth when it may disturb our way of life. It is common knowledge that many German people “turned a blind eye” to Hitler’s activities, thus allowing them to continue. Is it possible that there are things some of us overlook in our own country?
The hole we have dug with our self deception is deep indeed. It obscures the real nature of the world, and allows us to live in a pretended reality. Would you really be much happier, in the long run if you drove a Porsche? Did you freely elect leaders who truly care about your well-being? Well, no; but it’s a democracy so that’s OK.
Don’t remind me that Walmart buys products made in sweatshops with sub-human working conditions. Their clerks smile at me and give me the best prices. Besides, all the stores do it, don’t they? Don’t bother me with your negativity, just let me enjoy my new (Made in China) microwave oven.
If you truly want freedom, there is no other way but to dig yourself out. It may not be quick or easy. The next time you pass an acquaintance in the supermarket, you can smile and say “Hi”. It really is not important that “Hi” was originally a contraction of “How are you?”. When you say “Nice to see you again”, is it true?
I could write pages on the ways we fool ourselves, but the way out is to observe yourself, and just notice the little deceptions. Don’t beat yourself up for them (not good for the self-esteem), but become aware and even smile or laugh at yourself. All these little steps will add up.
There are so many systems and courses today to accomplish this. I like one called “Radical Honesty”. Find one conducted by loving people, that sings to your heart. Try it, you’ll like it!
How do I look? Will they like me? Are my clothes in fashion? Is my car new enough? Does it give a good impression? Does my perfume or cologne smell good?
So much attention is wrapped up in superficial factors that may determine how you are perceived. How much does your opinion of yourself depend on what other people think? Do these impressions help your career? Does looking good help your self-esteem?
Making a good first impression may increase your chances of finding good relationships, but not necessarily of keeping them. In this shallow society it is often the case that your fashion sense will have a greater initial impact than who you are and the power of your conscious presence. Some people fear that their appearance is all they have going for them.
Are people who place more importance on appearances than qualities of character the people that you want as friends? Would they stand by you in tough times? These are things to consider in making free choices about where to put your time and attention.
Us versus Them:
When do we go to war? When do we initiate legal actions? When do we question someone’s character, call them unpleasant names, criticize them behind their back, or just punch them in the nose?
– When fighting gives us personal satisfaction: it feels good to smash your fist in the bad guy’s face, make him suffer, let him know the pain he has caused. (Or maybe it was just someone he reminds you of.)
– When we seek justice: violence, manipulation, covert or coercive action may seem the only way to get it.
– When we just feel like a good fight, want to get one-up on someone, or just to take what we can get.
Some have the attitude: “After all, it’s only the lily-livered, mushy, over-sentimental, pandering, permissive, liberal, leftist, psycho-babbling weaklings who want to understand the other guy’s viewpoint first. That takes too much work. He can never understand reason anyway. I might even have to question my OWN ideas. We strong good guys need to show them what’s right!” (Ouch! I’m starting to sound like a real American macho man.)
That’s what punching bags are for. Oh, how we let our anger and emotions override our free will!
“That person is a brilliant conversationalist”. A phrase that denotes fluency and probably the ability to entertain. It usually means that they vary their tone in a way that communicates excitement and draws people into the ideas conveyed by their words. It may not imply any particular depth of meaning, or even character.
Why do we speak? Freedom involves being conscious of what we do and say, and why. Sometimes we may even be embarrassed if someone calls us on the real reasons for our words or actions.
Here are some of the reasons we speak:
– to convey valuable information.
– to answer a question.
– to fill an awkward silence.
– to convince someone else that we are OK. – to convince ourselves that we are OK. – to express anger, appreciation, regret etc. – to vent our emotions.
– to impress someone that we qualify for a job or position.
– to entertain with a joke, anecdote or story.
– to ask a question, either sincerely or with feigned interest.
– to show off how smart we are.
– to think out loud.
– to express a sentiment, belief or idea.
– to convince someone that we are right.
– to make someone else feel better.
– to make ourselves feel better.
– because we think we will look foolish if we say nothing.
– because we are asked to.
So many of us are partly unconscious, and don’t always know why we are talking. Notice where you find yourself in this list. Recall some moments when you had these reasons for speaking. Becoming conscious of points like this is the road to freedom.
Should should should should should! Why do we keep expecting the world to be fair or just?
They should have paid me for the work I did.
The Sudan government should order all the slaves released.
They should not have lost my social security check.
My boss should not have exported my job to The Philippines.
My father should have treated me better and not abused me.
“Oh how I suffer because THEY did me wrong. I just keep hoping they will come to their senses and do what they SHOULD. Then I won’t have to suffer any more.”
Well, that’s an extreme example. But how often do we tie up our attention on the way people SHOULD behave, when clearly, “it ain’t gonna happen”.
You can be fair in all your dealings – you feel better when you do. But if you worry when the world is not fair, it will slowly kill you. You do what you can, then cut your losses and move on, free from the past. If someone who owes you wakes up and comes through, that is a bonus.
Doctors are not God, at least no more so than you or I. So why do we hand over the responsibility for our health?
People were dying from scurvy – 50 years after the discovery that it was simply a deficiency in vitamin C. The medical establishment, for the most part, had no interest in that information at that time. Do you think things are different today? Cancer, diabetes, obesity to name a few, have been unnecessary for more than 50 years, but the information that could prevent them has been suppressed.
The plain truth is that the food and drug industries in America will do whatever it takes to sell more of their food and drugs. That includes adding chemicals to the foods that will make you crave more and get fat. This is even more so for foods marked as “diet foods”.
Fat people buy more food. The FDA allows over 15,000 chemicals to be put in foods without being listed as ingredients on the labels. Sick people buy more drugs. The FDA launches lawsuits against small companies whose products help people heal without drugs or surgery.
When the evidence showed a connection between the mercury preservatives in children’s vaccines and the increase in autism, more than tenfold in some areas, our friendly representatives decreed that Eli Lilli is immune to lawsuits.
Along with freedom goes responsibility. I will not do your homework for you. Legitimate information is widely available to anyone prepared to dig. It is extremely tempting for me to just give you a list of websites, but I’ll control myself. I think it’s better that way. There are some great search engines out there. To get started, you could search “natural cures”.
This is a common trap: “I need someone to make me happy”. This is the purest B.S.! No-one else can make you happy.
Perhaps your mate is beautiful, generous, sweet natured, sexy, compatible, a good listener and loves you dearly. This gives you a good rationale to feel happy, but he or she does not MAKE you happy, you do that for yourself.
People who depend on someone else to inspire happiness are doomed to be miserable most of the time. It is a very unpleasant trap.
Find the joy and happiness in your own heart. That’s the only place it exists anyway. A good relationship is just a wonderful bonus.
I feel absolutely wonderful. Say it! Aloud! Is it true?
If not, then what feeling do you get when you say it? Feel that feeling, indulge it, wallow in it, explore it – all the way through. Don’t hide from it, no matter how uncomfortable.
Now, again say: I feel absolutely wonderful. Do the same thing until you can say it and the mind throws nothing back at you. Now it is true.
This one changed my life!
Who am I?
We have images of ourselves, usually hundreds of them. We put them on and take them off like masks, sometimes very rapidly. What kind of situation am I dealing with? In a flash, the right mask goes on.
When we do engage in the “search for self”, it is often an attempt to figure out which image is the “REAL ME”.
Many of us have wished we could escape from ourselves or just be someone else. Well, which mask did you want to escape from? Must be one you identified with pretty closely. Was this persona too nice, too dumb, too boring, or some quality that you don’t have words to describe?
You can play with these images of self, use them as stereotypes and see them on other people, peel them off like layers of an onion, consciously act them out as if they were real.
You can sit in meditation and watch as the images float to the surface of your mind, before you let them go. They are all pretend, none of them is you. Which IS the real you? YOU are the one who is looking at all the images. Can you describe the YOU who is looking?
If you can, then take a good look at the image you described. Then let it go, it was just another mask. Now, WHO was looking at the mask? Did you get another image? Well do the same with that.
This may take a while, maybe several sessions. Eventually, I promise you, you will ask who is looking, and just have to laugh. There is nothing to describe. You will have an unshakable certainty of who you are, with no way to describe it to yourself or anyone else. It comes from the core of your being and you know “I just AM!”. The light will shine from your eyes like never before.
There is another step beyond that, particularly in meditation: one is aware, wide awake, without active thoughts, and even the sense of “self” evaporates. There is only aliveness. There is no fear, no ego and no time. Some say that enlightened people live there ALL the time!
What is a man?
This is a personal story. I am including it just in case you might find something similar in your own life. Until I resolved this, I was never able to define myself as a “man”. Even though the dictionary defines it as an “adult human male”, the word carried a lot more baggage for me. So I examined my concepts:
A man has completed his growth, is insensitive, rigid in his ways, dominates those around him, has a fixed way of being and is always in control. He is a set, grown-up pattern and he smokes cigarettes. He has no essential, dynamic, loving aliveness. He “takes his punishment like a man”. He uses anger to solve his problems.
Well I got rid of the idea that I was ever supposed to be one of those! After releasing that set of beliefs, I have no desire to fit into anyone else’s concept of what a man should be. I feel joyful and childlike much of the time, and that does not make me any less a man!
Powerful presence, self-assurance:
You recognize it when it is there. What are the qualities that make this possible?
– The attention is not distracted by other times, other places or fear of what others may think or do.
– Enough self-esteem so that there is no need to impress.
– Respect and love for oneself. – Words and actions are based on what feels right, not on what will gain approval from others.
Sometimes it is important to get our associates to understand the reasons for our decisions, but it is much too easy to compromise, and thus betray ourselves. Many of us depend on other people’s approval to an extent far beyond what we admit to ourselves. It takes real strength to follow your heart without needing the agreement of those around you.
If you want more of that kind of freedom, first decide to get it. There are so many systems and workshops today. Listen to your heart and pick one that feels right. The next section may help.
This can brighten your day, almost beyond belief. NEVER give from a sense of guilt, or expecting something in return.
When you give, don’t just do it to get it over with. How do you feel about the person you are giving to? Is there a strong, heartfelt compassion, and a gut feeling of appropriateness? Or do you just feel a vague obligation, without knowing whether your gift will make any noticeable difference to the person’s life?
Have you ever taken a homeless person into a restaurant, bought him a meal and listened to his story, or picked up a hitch-hiker and then helped him locate a potential employer in the yellow pages?
Our culture has a little box of conventional ways to give, that only require a little money or time, and no imagination.
Here is another way to exercise that freedom muscle. When you see an opportunity to give, ask yourself what would make the biggest difference to that person’s life. It may be something you have never heard of anyone doing before, but it feels appropriate, is within your means and does not unduly endanger you.
It may take a leap of courage, and a stretch outside your comfort zone. The reward can be a joyful glow that will amaze you with its intensity.
It can be fun to pay the turnpike toll for a stranger in the car behind you – and imagine their face when they wonder why you did that. You don’t need a reason.
When I see a homeless person, I will never give $5 and then drive on. If I have it, and my intuition tells me it will make a difference, I will stop, talk to the person, and, if it still feels right, give them $100. There is absolutely NOTHING that feeds my soul quite like that! I feel profoundly grateful that I am ABLE to do such things.
Who says “it is better to give than to receive”? I just don’t buy that. If a gift is given with the attitude: ”This makes me, the giver, more worthy than you, the receiver”, what kind of giving is that?
If someone offers a gift that will enhance your life, and it comes from the heart, what more can you do to expand the sum total of joy in the world, than to gracefully accept it? I love this quote from a novel I am reading by Stephen Donaldson: “Accepting the gift honors the giver”.
Share the happiness of the one who gave to you. Make a resolve to “pay it forward”. One person at a time, the world becomes a happier and more beautiful place. The giver, gift and receiver are all necessary parts of one joyful event.
There is a male mystique in some parts of our culture, that stifles the ways that men may openly enjoy beauty.
A man may find himself embarrassed by his own appreciation of something exquisitely beautiful, having the belief that this makes him effeminate. This could be an opportunity to break free from a limited view of himself.
Sometimes our enjoyment of beauty is filtered through some belief that makes us feel partially dissociated from ourselves. It may be that the beauty is so intense, it would cause us to feel more wonderful than we think we have any right to be. Perhaps our mind is so busy, that we don’t have enough attention left over to simply be present with something as awesome as, say, the Grand Canyon.
The answer here is to just breathe and enjoy. When the mind tries to interject a distracting thought, just bring your attention back to the breath, and to the beauty in front of you. Allow yourself enough time for this.
How do we wind up with the friends we have? Are they
– neighbors, co-workers, relatives or people we happen to meet at our clubs and pubs?
– people who share our position in society?
– people who seek us out because they want something from us?
– people we have decided to help?
– people who are willing to help us?
– people we can control?
– people with a similar approach to life, that we can relax with because they don’t challenge our ideas?
– people whose company we just enjoy or who make us think in new ways?
I invite you to become conscious, if you have not already, of how and why you chose each of your friends. How do they enhance or detract from the quality of your life?
Choose your enemies well (if at all). We can waste an awful lot of effort, fighting, resenting, resisting, complaining when it will change nothing. Why bother?
When conflict must be dealt with, freedom comes from finding a creative way.
I know people who think this is a virtue! Nor is it a crime. It is a state of mind. Lots of people are broke, no car, no house, no assets, no money. They don’t stay that way, because they do not see themselves as poor.
“Resistance is futile.” So saith the Borg.
Ghandi resisted British imperialism with non-violence, and won.
The French resisted the Nazis with force and lost.
The British resisted them with more force and won.
Aikido is the way of winning through harmony. Opposing with force is a “crap shoot”.
Those who would take your freedom know only force, trickery and intimidation. If you face them head on, you play on their turf. The odds may not be so good. Some options are:
– don’t let them find you.
– blend into the landscape (act and seem like everyone else).
– go high profile and stay clean as a whistle. Then they don’t dare touch you.
Sometimes, staying free requires a carefully researched and thought out strategy. Your strongest suits are compassion and neutrality (not being controlled by your emotions). Don’t lose sight of them.
The pity trap:
The victim says: “Oh please take care of me. I can never manage on my own.”
Fall into this one and you both lose. This is where freedom depends on the ability to distinguish compassion from pity.
The wino wants your pity, and money for his next drink. How degrading, to ask for handouts while making no effort to climb back on his feet. The “poor” family goes on welfare, and stays there for years!
Compassion is the greatest of human strengths. It is our desire to help others get better and stronger. Never confuse this with pity, which only degrades and weakens. What a shame to institutionalize pity in the welfare system.
Charity is money given in love. Taxation is money taken by implied (or real) threat of force. If your luck was down, which would you rather accept?
Pardon me if I must be somewhat graphic in order to explain some of these ideas.
We looked outside the box called “monogamy” to see alternative relationship structures.
How many of us have ever considered the movement of energy in the body during sexual activity, especially orgasm? This can open up a whole universe of experience outside the little box symbolized by the “missionary position”.
The exploration and experience of this energy can expand and transform our consciousness. Some of those who study Tantra consider it a pathway to God.
One (very powerful) kind of orgasm can be experienced just by breathing in a particular way, and being aware of the movement of energy through the body. It does not involve genital contact. It can last an indefinite time. It energizes and awakens the body – sometimes called the “fire breath”.
Some see sex as a race towards orgasm and male ejaculation, and then it is over. That is akin to a life of eating only pancakes, with no inkling of the almost infinite realm of gourmet cuisine.
The door is open, if you care to step outside into the vast dimension of spiritual sexuality. There are many teachers, each with a different perspective.
I have been guilty of this: I decided that particular kinds of music were only for terminally stupid people, culturally deprived mountain dwellers or those with no imagination.
Well I was the one who was deprived. I am still learning ways to appreciate jazz, blues, and maybe someday someone will teach me to love Bach.
Some opera is tuneless, loud, harsh and very unpleasant on the ears. If this was your first experience of this form, I feel your pain. Allow me to shine some light on the subject. An aria by Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti etc. sung well, can be one of the most exquisitely beautiful, emotionally engaging experiences available. I have been moved to tears more than once.
Freedom is opening to new experiences.
This is a choice we make. We can look around us and find reasons that things are getting worse, or we can see just as many reasons that they are getting better. Our attitudes and beliefs filter our perceptions.
Even if our situation looks hopeless, such as incurable disease or impending death, we still choose our attitude. Resistance only serves to intensify the physical or psychological pain. Acceptance is simply relaxing and ceasing to resist.
We CAN choose to feel the love of life under all circumstances. We can CHOOSE to see a rosy future. That does not make us blind to the greed, hatred and violence that exist. It DOES make us more effective in creating something better. If anyone tells you that life begins at 40, don’t believe a word of it. It’s 60!
As distinct from discernment or evaluation.
Some years ago, I almost walked out of a movie called “To Wong Foo”. The sight of Patrick Swayze putting on makeup made me slightly sick. Luckily, the woman I was with wanted to stay.
There is an entire category of people called “drag queens”, that I had only ever heard of or considered as the subject of jokes. I learned that they too can have emotional depth, beauty and compassion. I acquired respect for a whole section of humanity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Swayze.
Without realizing it, we superimpose stereotypes on people in so many ways. Not just the color of the skin, race, religion, sexual orientation, those are the obvious ones.
Someone whose mouth is shaped a particular way may remind you of someone in your early life (maybe even a previous life). Now you no longer see an individual, but the composite image and personality matrix that you associated with the other person.
We carry these stereotypes by the dozens or even hundreds. It takes real work to move beyond them. When you find a wonderful human being behind the mask you had mistaken them for, the reward is worth it.
Once I married a woman who, I am now sure, confused me with someone from her past. I had my own dysfunctional reasons for choosing her. It did not take long for her to discover that I did not fit the profile. That marriage lasted 6 months.
Flowers in the spring: they pop up, display their beauty to the world, then they’re gone.
Do we lament their passing, grieve, put our lives on hold for months? That’s a funny idea, but…..
A lover departs forever, a child dies. It is healthy to grieve for a while; nothing you can do will bring them back. But how often do we get stuck in the pain?
Even though it may leave our conscious thoughts, part of us remains stuck in the longing, and our own beautiful light, that tells the world who we are, becomes dimmed.
There are books, systems, practitioners who can help us release the pain of the past. The world deserves to see you shine in all your brilliance.
Here’s a way that may help:
Find a safe space. Sit quietly alone, breath and still the mind. Now picture the person you have lost. See them laughing or smiling. Share their joy.
Sit with that for a while, and gently allow whatever emotions that arise in you to be expressed. If tears come, let them. If anger rises, feel it! Yell or punch a cushion if you need to. Take as much time as you need for this.
Acknowledge the love you have, in whatever way feels best. Eventually, you will know that it is time to let go. Say goodbye to the beloved one, thank yourself for the gift you have given yourself. When you are ready, open your eyes, look around the room, and find something you had never noticed before.
If there is someone close that you want to share a hug with, this is a good time. You have released the past, and it requires no more of your attention.
Where have you set your sights?
The questions I would draw your attention to are:
– What do you want to accomplish?
– Who are you doing it for?
– Who do you want to impress?
– How will it improve your life or that of someone you care about?
If you are working towards a certificate or degree, will it help your career, give you status, knowledge, or personal satisfaction? Could you do what you want to do as well without it?
Do your goals excite you? Are they your own? That’s all.
Does the word sound ominous? Is it the opposite of play?
Maybe life was easy in the Garden of Eden. The fruit ripened on the trees, you picked what you needed, obeyed the rules and never knew the meaning of worry.
So many times have I wanted to get off the treadmill. I’m sure I’m not alone. We endure the burden of work, so that we can have real lives in the hours that are left. And that’s just the way life is.
The fortunate few make a living doing what they enjoy – until the fun is gone from it. Then they pretend for a while, until the pretense wears thin. When did it turn into a treadmill again?
In the remaining hours of the day, we can escape into television sports, sitcoms, alcohol, pot, anything to forget the reality of here and now. We get enough of THAT on our work shift. Life is hard.
So it seems. Where did the joy go? Did it disappear along with childhood? Has it vanished from the matrix of our being, erased from the DNA?
Meditate, and discover that it was there all along. Take a few minutes from your day and find that little spark of joy in the area of your heart. Your conscious intent can fan it into a roaring flame that washes away everything in your field of awareness that is NOT joy.
THIS is the primary expression of who you are. This is the energy that you can take even into your job and make it a work of love.
The very same action, such as solving a computer problem, lifting a piece of scaffolding, laying the last brick in a new wall or getting your student through their driving exam, can be an effort or an exhilaration, depending only on how much joy you approach it with.
What is the difference between a dreaded Monday and your first day on the job, when you looked to the future? The newness disappeared.
Here are a few ways to put the newness back and help you once again look to the future:
– Do something on your job in a way you have never done it before, maybe invent a more efficient way – imagination keeps you in the present moment.
– take a new employee under your wing and help him or her get started well.
– look for another position in the same company.
– start your own business.
– trim your living expenses and retire.
– meditate each morning before going to work.
Joy is only created in the present moment, and can never be put on autopilot. The more you create it, the easier and more natural it becomes.
The energy of joy can empower you and can give you any needed courage to make the leap into a more satisfying livelihood.
We do tend to put our lives on automatic and, like any machinery, it runs down. You will thrive as you consciously create your life. Be connected to the joy when you make your choices.
Some believe that joy is another name for God. It is the source of your power.
Why couldn’t the Buddha vacuum his couch?
He had no attachments.
Our desires and wishes give us direction in life. Without them what would we do? Follow orders? Sit at the top of a mountain and meditate? Well it took desire just to get to the top of the mountain.
There are some teachers who will tell you that to become enlightened, you must be free of desire. This is where language breaks down. Sometimes a sense of overwhelming joy may flood your being, so much that you just know what actions, inactions or words are appropriate. Then desire does not even enter the picture.
The joy can seem to have a life of its own, independent of identity. Intuitively, you do or say the right thing – that is what feeds the joy.
You could call the “joy-driven” impulse a desire, but there really is no word in the English language to describe it. There is no thought preceding the words or action, there is just a flow that feels “right”. Athletes call this being the “in the zone”.
Where we get in trouble is when we confuse desire with attachment.
– someone just stole your brand new Ferrari – before you got it insured. You may feel sick, devastated, angry or extremely upset.
– driving on the highway, you see the familiar flashing lights right behind you, and the toot of a siren. They are designed to induce extreme fear, just as a humpback whale sings a “hunting song” to paralyze its prey.
– you just came from a job interview – you want the job so badly you can taste it! You may have butterflies in the stomach, feel nervous, scared or just anxious.
These feelings are not created by the loss, fear of loss or the possibility of gain. They are created by the mind (conscious or unconscious) as it responds to the situation and contemplates a possible future.
Uncomfortable emotions never happen when our attention is in the present moment. When we have a compulsive attachment to a valued possession or to a desired outcome, we make ourselves vulnerable to painful emotions.
– Oh no, I may never drive my Ferrari again!
– Oh hell, what did I do wrong this time?
– Please God, let me get this job,
put our attention on a situation that does not yet exist, and our imaginations stimulate the endocrine secretions that we experience as emotions.
Meditation and other systems can bring us freedom from these attachments.
Good/evil, black/white, male/female, hot/cold, right/wrong, beautiful/ugly. In all these pairs, one concept cannot exist without the other.
When we narrowly focus on only the good, the evil takes on a life of its own – even in our own thoughts.
Freedom includes the ability to encompass ALL of our thoughts and all possibilities, without judgment.
What does it mean to ENCOMPASS our evil thoughts. Well, to begin with it means to not judge them. For example, if I have a thought that I want to murder someone, I am no less of a good person just because I had the thought. Under normal circumstances, I would – of course – decide not to follow through.
The point is that you can embrace ALL of your qualities, thoughts and past actions. The tendency in many people is to wall off a portion of themselves, judge it unworthy and deny it as a part of themselves.
An extreme example is the child molester. As a result of childhood trauma, his mind compulsively generates a thought of abusing a child.
You can bet that it has been pounded into him how evil the thought is and what a vile, wretched creature he must be for thinking it. On top of that, he is probably telling himself the same thing almost every day.
If he did not so thoroughly condemn his own thoughts and impulses, there would most likely be less of a compulsion to act on them.
I have met New Age and religious people who see only the “good”, and refuse to look at anything “negative”. They are labeling, judging and walling off a portion of existence and even a part of themselves. This tends to limit their perspective and make them appear shallow.
We can go inside ourselves in a calm, deep meditation. As we relax, the thoughts we most resist will begin to float to the surface. We can simply allow each thought to just float by, WITHOUT resistance. We don’t hide from it, explain to ourselves why it is OK or condemn ourselves for it. Just let it be and let it go.
It may be advisable to seek therapy to deal with the underlying pain. There are many forms of therapy that will help you work through and resolve the issues. If the therapist tries to put you on a drug, RUN!
Be aware that psychiatrists may feel legally obligated to inform the “authorities” if they suspect danger of laws being broken. Spiritual counselors are in no such bind. The best ones are compassionate and VERY competent. Certificates and licenses do not guarantee effectiveness. Results do.
The sensation is uncomfortable, we label it “pain” and try to withdraw our attention from that part of our body or that part of our psyche. Despite our best efforts, against our most determined resistance, the pain draws our attention back. We pull away and it draws us back, over and over and over.
The pain interferes with our sleep and even our ability to function in life. How do we stop it?
With a drug? Shut down the body’s ability to feel – until it comes back and we need even more of the drug. As an emergency solution, this can sometimes help. Become dependent on the drug and you are its slave.
Stop the pain with help from a chiropractor or acupuncturist? Great idea. If that does the trick, you’re ahead of the game.
Here’s a novel idea. Try this: Let the drug wear off (if you had taken one), relax INTO the pain and allow yourself to fully experience it! The idea might seem intolerable, but really, what do you have to lose?
Will the pain kill you if you don’t resist it? If it has not already, then it probably won’t. Will it get worse beyond your ability to tolerate it? You won’t know if you don’t try.
This is a particular kind of sensation that you have LABELED as pain. I invite you to take a leap of faith and EXPLORE this:
Sit or lie down and be ready to fully see, feel and experience what is going on in the body. Sink INTO the pain. Without resistance, let yourself FEEL it completely.
Embrace the pain, make it your friend. After all, it is giving you vital information about your body.
Allow the pain to be. When it has finished telling you its message, it will begin to subside. Get the idea: Love is the only thing that is real. You don’t have to believe that, just try it on, as you would try on a new jump suit. See how it FEELS to have that idea.
Pain is the loving way your body tries to tell you what it needs. Listening to the body’s message is the best way to return this love to yourself. When this is complete, you will know what to do. Then do it.
Just do it! Focus your attention on what you want. List and then take the necessary actions to make it happen.
Time management has been written and talked about a great deal. It can be summed up in the following steps to plan your day:
– Decide the first project you will work on.
– What time will you start?
– How long will you work on it?
– Plan so that there will be no distractions.
– Stick to those times and allow just a few short breaks.
– Don’t be tempted to switch to another project during the time allocated to this one.
– If you receive a phone call, keep it short.
– Do the same for the next project.
Good work habits are just that: habits. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
This subject also applies to things you do that you DON’T want to do. Breaking a habit simply requires a decision. It does not need to involve force of will or effort. When you make the decision, ask yourself if there is any advantage to continuing the habit. This will not work if you are unsure of your decision or if you are doing it for someone else.
When I quit smoking, I set a date, two weeks in advance, on a day that was easy for me to remember – winter solstice. Then I smoked like a chimney until that date. I replaced the smoking habit with another one – counting the hours since my last cigarette. I even used the calculator to compute how many grams of tar I had NOT spray painted onto my lungs. After a few thousand hours, I felt the compulsion much less frequently. Now I just count the years.
The secret to self-discipline is loving YOURSELF enough to just do it. Meditation can help with that part – do lots of it.
I wrote this section to help resolve my own shortcoming. It is so easy for me to get sidetracked into activities that distract me from my primary intention. There is no other way than to just stick to a workable plan.
“Don’t worry be happy”. So goes the popular song. I’ve seen people get really annoyed at how shallow and simple- minded the message seems. The conventional wisdom is that life is just not that easy, and only stupid people think it is. Where does the song say that you should not DO something about the tough situation?
The truth is that WE control our feelings, NOT other people or the environment. Because we are well grounded, and focusing clearly on effective action, does not mean that we cannot smile, laugh and be glowingly happy at the same time. All it takes is the DECISION to feel that way.
Worry does not propel us into resolving a situation. More often, it paralyzes us into inactivity. So pack up your worries, throw them away, and get on with your life. If you want to deal with some of them in therapy, great, but don’t overdo it. Life is not about therapy.
We also trap ourselves by being in too much of a hurry. Take the time to breathe deeply, relax and maybe spot something beautiful that you can enjoy for a moment. Just as you can’t push a river to flow faster, some things must take place at their own speed. And some people, maybe ourselves also, perform better when not forced.
Impatience is a habit. The next time you find yourself stressed and rushing, act deliberately: consciously push harder and try to force the pace; then, when you are ready, relax. The best way to break this kind of automatic behavior is to do it deliberately, with full knowledge of what you are doing. Then it will no longer be a habit.
If you find yourself being impatient with someone, slow down for an instant, put your attention fully on that person and FEEL what it must be like to BE them. Feel the things that must be affecting them: body condition, social pressures, temperature etc. It suddenly becomes much easier to know what to say or do, to make them more efficient. This is a practical application of the power of love.
Here I invite you to explore your beliefs about the things that can be done and those that cannot.
How deep are you ready to go? There are yogis who have demonstrated the ability to stop and start their own hearts, control their blood pressure and other “miracles”.
The four minute mile was thought to be impossible until one person did it. Then others followed. There are countless stories of people with injuries or disabilities who accomplished what the doctors said was impossible.
“Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East” by Spalding, tells stories of teleportation, eternal youth, lifting a platform full of people using pure intention etc.
We make our choices about what to believe and that determines the nature and quality of our lives. If you contemplate an unusually ambitious goal, conventional wisdom (mass conscious belief) may declare it impossible. Whether you consider it “self delusion” or a “leap of faith” may very well determine the outcome.
It takes courage to set a grandiose goal. If you do, BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TELL! Even your friends may have trouble stretching their imaginations enough to give encouragement. Discouraging feedback can defeat you before you start.
Stepping outside the box of commonly accepted possibilities can be very lonely. It all comes down to your willingness to choose your own beliefs and maybe take a leap into the unknown.
I hope you have found some valuable tools here to help you make the quality and conditions of your life more to your choosing. There will be many times when you will run into buried beliefs that limit you in some way. Freedom is the willingness and ability to find and to change those beliefs – and thus expand your life. In the words of Jim Morrison: “Break on through to the other side!”