In the final climatic scene of Braveheart, when William Wallace is displayed on the executioner’s stone and about to have his insides roughly delegated to his outsides, his final resounding exclamation isn’t “Ouchh!Or “WTF!Call a freakin’ ambulance!”
Nope, instead it is simply, “Freedom!”
So, seems like there is something to this.
Yet, for all it’s importance, it also seems like many, if not most people, rarely investigate what exactly freedom is.What is freedom?
If we look at it, perhaps with the lens zoomed in, we could say that freedom is very simply the ability to do what I want, say what I want, think what I want, and be what I want.Wouldn’t you say?As a working definition, this about sums it up?
Yet it seems like our perspective of freedom here has some strings attached, doesn’t it?It has a rider in the fine print, which perhaps we don’t notice at first when we view freedom through this lens.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote that there are two great tragedies in life: not getting what you want, and getting what you want.See, it’s the wanting that screws up our definition of freedom. Even though we could say this is freedom, it is bound by our desire, and I don’t know about you, but my desires are anything but reliable.I just can’t trust ‘em.Either can you..
Maybe it is just me, but hell, most of the time, I don’t even know what I want.Wants are constantly changing.They are fickle.One minute I want the “Gotta Have It” size double mint chocolate rocky road ice cream from Cold Stone, and at the same time I don’t want ice cream at all; I want a salad with balsamic dressing.When I want a promotion at work, the next moment I’m thinking about getting a new job.All the single ladies want a ring on it, and then ten minutes later are lovin’ being single and wouldn’t trade it for the world.I’m driving an old Jeep, and I want a new car, yet at the same time, I love my old Jeep (and my lack of a car payment) and the desire fizzles.Now I just want my old Jeep to keep running.
This is the dilemma of desire.Even if you get want you want, you end up wanting the opposite.Crazy, huh?And definitely not freedom.
But why do you suppose this is?Do we have some faulty wiring in the brain?
Or is it possible that on some visceral level, some very deep space within our being, we know that our wants can never satisfy.We know we can find no fulfillment in them, no solutions.Because they constantly change, we cannot rely on them to bring us freedom.
If we zoom the lens out, and expand our view, we will begin to notice how useless desire is – indeed, not just useless.
Desire is a lie.
An outright lie.
Every single desire is based on the idea that things can be different, or should be different, than how they are, and that is simply not true.This moment can never be any different than the way it is.It cannot be better, nor can it be worse. Things are always the way they are.
Don’t take my word for it.Check it out.Can this moment right now, be any different than it is?
When this is understood, something really wonderful happens: we begin to see through the lie, and begin to allow for what is to simply be.It’s going to be anyway, no matter how much you desire it otherwise, so why not simply allow it?
But do not fall into the trap.You cannot stop wanting.You cannot end desire. As a matter of fact, desire is necessary.The desire for freedom is the ultimate desire, and must be burning, unending, implacable and wholehearted.Just see it for what it is: a necessary lie.
But beyond a resigning acceptance of what is, is it possible to actually turn the desire, and begin wantingwhat is?
Instant happiness!When you bring all the energy and drama of your desire and place it on what is happening right now, boom!Your desire is instantly fulfilled. How could it not be? If you desire what is happening, and it is happening, then you are getting what you want. Always!
You can do this. You can actually want what is happening right now, whatever it might be, with the same enthusiasm that you bring to any other of your unreliable desires. However, this freedom does come with a price.For this desire to be reliable, you have to give something up, because in wholeheartedly wanting what is, instead of the lie that what is could be different, there is nothing for you to do. You have to give up the idea that you can change what is.
And so true freedom then, in our expanded view, could be defined as the absence of the desire for things to be any different.Or said the opposite way: the wholehearted desire for things to be exactly as they are.To have continual gratitude for each moment as it arises.There will still be desires, for they are also what is happening, but it will no longer matter whether they are fulfilled our not.Our satisfaction, our contentment, is in the appearance of whatever is in the moment itself.
By saying “yes” to each unfolding moment, even when that moment contains desire, is to invite an open playful curiosity about what is happening, no matter what the results or outcome of that moment is.This is true freedom.
Stop dwelling on, fixating on, fretting about, reviewing.
Just stop kicking shit around.
The amazing thing is that this requires nothing from you.You don’t have to be intelligent, or creative, or eat certain foods, look a certain way.You don’t have to wrap your legs around your head, prostrate at the feet of anyone; no purification is required. You don’t have to remember elaborate rules or rituals, retain and repeat mantras or codices, scriptures,or traditions.It requires no special experiences, higher states, visions or insights.
Most importantly, it requires no belief.You don’t have to take my word for it, or Jesus’ word for it, or Krishna’s, or Eckhart Tolle’s, or your mother’s, or even the most highly revered and respected spiritual teacher or leader you can imagine.
People have sat around thinking and come up with elaborate ideas, some which become really cool books, that we read and then sit around thinking about.
People have had wonderful elaborate experiences with lights and fireworks and metaphysical energies and spirits bouncing off their foreheads and then sat around thinking about these experiences, interpreting them, sharing these stories, and then we sit around thinking about them.
They are just stories.
Now, I’m not saying “stop thinking”.I’m not advising you to give up solving the math problem.I’m not suggesting you toss the term paper, or use “ennie meenie miney mo” to make your most important decisions, although that would really be fun.I’m not saying kill the mind, or your thoughts.Just don’t be a tool for your tool.
All I am saying is: the mind is like a computer, right?You tell your computer to open that excel file, look at the data, work with the data, and then close the excel file.After you leave the computer, it doesn’t sit there reminiscing about that excel file.It doesn’t try and figure out the motivations behind it, the effects of it; it doesn’t worry about whether thefile is good enough or how the world will interpret it.
To the computer, the file is just there.That’s all.
I’m writing this blog.If I highlight everything on this page, and hit “delete”, what remains?
All that is required is one simple thing:just look.
I’ve been working with this, and I’ve discovered a few things.
1.It’s the simplest, most effective, most wonderfully available and accessible spiritual practice ever.
2.It is exceedingly difficult.Really, really difficult.In the words of my dear late Grandpa, it is “pert near” freakin’ impossible.
It is difficult because it is so simple.
Yet it is possible.Short moments of resting the endless stream of imagining by just looking right now, again and again, become automatic.
Over and over, again and again, whenever you remind yourself, simply stop and look.Wherever you are.At any time.
In this simple seeing, this simple noticing of our addiction to the stream of incessant chatter in the mind, something wonderful happens.
When attention is shifted from what is unreal (thoughts about the past or the future) to what is actual, what is happening right in this moment, without naming it, without thinking about it, a simple playfulness arises.A curiosity arises, like the spontaneous questioning of a child.
Wouldn’t you agree that the most profound insights, the most wonderful and helpful inventions, the clearest expressions of being are born from this playful, open, curiosity?
I notice- thoughts arise and dissolve.Some of them I am interested in, some I am not.
The thoughts I am not interested in, dissolve and are gone.The thoughts I am interested in, stick around and become “mine”.I make something of them.I take these unreal, insubstantial, fluid, fleeting pieces of nothing and I claim them.
They become “my” thoughts.
But when I stay focused on what is actual ,what is happening now, without naming, labeling, associating, creating stories, the reflecting mechanism of my mind collapses, and where are these thoughts?
In this direct seeing, where is the “Me”?
Stop and look.
It doesn’t take a slap in the face!Okay, maybe sometimes it does:
"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must
close his eyes and walk in the dark."
~St. John of the Cross
I love this quote. It reminds me of what I must give up. What has to be abandoned, because what is required to walk a road in the dark is much less than what we cling to.
It takes only two things: attention and trust.
Anything that distracts my attention from the road beneath my feet is a trap – something that can lead me off into the darkness. There are no landmarks to be seen on this road, so there can be no value in anything explained to me, or told to me, or learned by me.
I can have descriptions of the nature of the road, stories of what the road means, metaphors, symbols and ideas about the road, but all of this will only distract me, keep me looking off into the darkness, unseeing, instead of my attention being firmly planted in just this:
One step. Then another.
Steps. That is all. That is all that is required.
One step. Then another.
Nothing learned can be retained. No belief about where the road leads, or what the road means, will help me to be sure of my footing upon it.
But this, closing my eyes, is not shutting anything out, it is allowing the darkness in.
It is resting in the space that is unknown, that can’t be known.
But can be trusted.
But to trust in what?
Trust that the road will lead me from the darkness to the light?
Trust that walking this road will make me a better person? Give me what I need?
Trust that my walking the road is better than not walking the road, or walking some other road?
Trust that at the end of this road, or at anytime during my walk on the road, I will be rewarded, or punished, or will be free, or live more peacefully, give more, receive more, be more?
Trust that there is something, or someone keeping track of my progress as I walk, giving my walk meaning?
Trust that there is something to be gained, to be achieved, some conclusion to be reached?
I can take none of this with me.
All beliefs to be flung into the darkness, useless except for taking my attention away from this:
Recently, I attended a discussion on the purpose(lessness) of spirituality. I think this parable sums it up nicely. This is bastardized from Adya, but he won't mind, him being me and all.
Guy is jogging, just running along. Another guy runs up beside him and asks,
"Hey, what are you doing?"
Jogger says, "I'm running".
Other guy says, "What for"
Jogging dude replies, "Running, man. I'm trying find something".
Other guy asks, "What are you trying to find".
Jogger answers, "Rest".
"Rest? "Um, like, why don't you just, like, stop running?"
Jogger gets excited. "Holy crap! I didn't think of that! Great idea! What a minute. I can't! I can't stop! I can't stop running, what will I do?!?
Other guy, who by the way turns out to be God, only with a bad 80's mullet, says,
"Hey, run faster. Run like hell, flat out! It's just around the corner, Run! Run until you are exhausted, and soon enough Rest will find you".