Freedom is just another word…
When people think about freedom, most will think of it as one of two things.
The first is freedom from difficult, adverse situations and suffering. This is ‘freedom from’. It is about getting away from something that is unpleasant. This is pretty reasonable. Yet, when we look at someone like Victor Frankl, who was a prisoner in the holocaust, he found a deep sense of freedom within the horrific constraints of those conditions, he considered himself freer than the prison guards.
That aside for a moment, freedom from adverse situations such as childhood adversity, warfare, starvation and slavery (it is still rife in our world and accepted as valid in some religions) is a reasonable goal for a civilised planet and a species that considers themselves wise, Homo sapiens.
The second is freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want to. This is about getting into a position when there are no more constraints on your desire, you can have what you want, when you want it.
This is a deeply selfish kind of freedom for a rampant self-story that pays no attention to the intelligence of seamlessness – we are all interconnected and interdependent.
Coming back briefly to Victor Frankl, who’s deep inner freedom was a freedom from the narratives, meanings and conditioning that would otherwise put him in the position of the victim.
If we are driven by our familial and cultural conditioning, then there is no freedom – there is just acting out of those conditions.
What is conditioning?
Conditioning is the default mental and emotional patterns of perspective, interpretation, belief, value, meaning making and sense making – inherited from our family, religions, school, and culture. Acting them out is simply recreating these patterns, and is not freedom.
When we are pressured by circumstance, stress and complex situations, we drop into the default mental circuits that define our response. Blood flow to the executive part of the brain, the left prefrontal cortex, is reduced and we react rather than respond.
Staying out of reaction, staying out of conditioned reflexive actions is freedom, freedom is the freedom to respond, not react. Freedom is this choice.
Choice, real, authentic choice can only arise out of awareness. I call it awareness-space. There may well be conditioned patterns arising in our awareness, but they are not acted upon unless we choose them as an appropriate response.
Freedom requires choice and choice requires space to make that choice. The space is awareness. In awareness-space there is an experience of sufficient time to intercept old patterns and conditioned reflexes and choose a radically different response. In fact, even a marginally different response is a step into freedom.
Often we have to process through deep patterns many times, creating the wedge of space, before there is the leverage of awareness needed to finally break them. This is why discipline is needed.
The awareness practices we work with are the finding of this space, the wedge, the leverage, the pattern interrupt and the movement of life-energy – attention through choice into a new behaviour.
Freedom in this sense is the continuous capacity to make clear and informed choices, regardless of context, circumstance or conditioning, and to act effectively on these. This is the freedom to be.
Imagine expanding this awareness and finding it to be the very base and ground of who you are. Imagine if every thought, feeling and sensation in the body, every interaction and relationship was held in this field of awareness as awareness, as awareness which is aware of this awareness.
Imagine if every arising flow within this field of awareness was available for choice, for behavioural choices that benefit all beings. Why all beings? Why not just me?
Because we are an interwoven web of livingness and the self-obsessed state of faux-freedom that is popular with those that sell ‘the dream’, is eventually unhappy isolation, and a road to an unrealised death. That is sad.
If we know our very nature as this abgrund, this base of clear awareness, which is also the nature of connection of interdependence, then the natural feeling state that reflects this knowledge is kindness, care, compassion and love.
Freedom as a deep experiential knowledge of who and what we are is compassionate, not self-obsessed.
Freedom is thus a multi-faceted experience including freedom from constraint, freedom to become, freedom as awareness and also the freedom of knowing one’s deepest identity and truth. Ultimately freedom is living this in our life.
If the dream you want to live is one arising from a conditioned state then it will lead to a temporary faux-freedom. A dream arising from a lived clear state of awareness will most likely involve making this world a better place for all beings, however that plays out through your unique psychology.
When your dream is arising out of this kind of clarity and is in alignment with the flow of life and engaged with what traditional tantrikas call ‘pure motivation’, then live it, make it happen. We need your dream. Let’s all dream such beauty together and reap goodness on this planet.
If your dream is just more grandiose self-obsessed desire to hide from pain and suffering, from old age and death and to have as gratified a nervous system as you can before you take your last breath – well hey, you can do that too, lots of folk have their own private islands, private jets, huge mansions by the beach and so on. Question is, is that freedom or just a glorified prison?
I taught in Burma to folk from the United Nations when it was run by the dictator General Tan Shwai. He lived in a bunker surrounded by barbed wire and guards, because he was terrified of assassination. Terrified of the kind of mindset that got him into power in the first place. Terrified, ultimately, of his own mind.
Financial wealth without all the components of the multi level freedom to be and freedom of knowing in place, is mere acquisition of resources. Money in the bank can help folk move out of difficult situations, it can help us act effectively on choices. This is good.
Money in the bank does not directly give the capacity to make clear informed choices, it does not cultivate awareness and does not teach knowledge of our nature. As the Beatles said, “Money can’t buy you love”, it can of course purchase a facsimile of love. The question then is would you be satisfied with a mere facsimile of love, awareness, knowledge or anything else worth having?
So whilst finances can be attained through unaware states and low level ego-drives, true financial freedom, real wealth, and authentic freedom can only be attained through fully awakening into who and what we are, and living this reality moment-by-moment, day-by-day. This comes from the combination of the grit and discipline of systematic, methodical practices and pure grace.
From the realisation and insight that arises out of this dance of grit and grace, we can now make clear informed choices, free of conditioning and with finances to hand, we can then act effectively in the world to make these choices and our dreams manifest.
Enlightened financial freedom is precious, as it allows us the time and space to cultivate awareness, access teachers and teaching, it gives us time to study, to develop, grow and cultivate awareness practice. Some folk manage this on minimal money, some in community, some build retreat centres.
Enlightened financial freedom gives us the opportunity to be truly generous and contribute to the growth and development of a conscious culture. I certainly want this. I want your dreams to manifest in the world. The more we work together, the more conscious teamwork allows us to live from a richer place of service and contribution.
We will find a way to steward this planet. We will find a way to live our dreams well. We will find a way to care for future generations – now.
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