Freedom

January 4, 2017

“Lose your way and you have lost, too, all of your obstacles. Cry if you must for that parting, but weep yourself dry and begin again. What you reach for is not your liberation but another way that you whip yourself into submission. You are a slave reaching for nothing but an easier chore, one less brick on your load, begging for your master’s mercy. There’s nothing worth reaching for that is not the unbinding of every chain and every fetter. Nothing but your total liberation is worth anything at all. You count yourself lucky when the master says, ‘An extra ration for you today.’ What luck is there in that? Will you not wake tomorrow in the same chains, with your greatest dream being only one more ration? Such fortune should not make you smile. It means nothing if your slavery is intact. And it means nothing when the handle of the whip is in your own hand. You bow to a god that means you nothing but harm. It is a way you have imagined God to be, and then you have followed the dictates of your own imagination. God does not wish you these chains. God is the voice calling through the dark forest, begging you leave and come home. God is the ray of light that says, ‘Right now, put down your heavy load, loosen your grip on your whip, and walk away.’ There is no God in your prison, no God in your self-loathing, and no God in the way that you torture yourself even for being human. But God is in every breath of real freedom. God is in every word that comes from the liberated voice. God is the heart that says, ‘I will be free, or I will die trying.’ Escape now. Every moment you wait is a new lesion on your already tattered skin, on the back that bleeds and breaks for transgressions long passed, for guilt that seems bottomless, for pain that is only born anew with every lash. Light your way with your intention, the intention to be so utterly free that nothing threatens you and nothing is too much to lose, and even death is only a way into greater freedom.”

Freedom

January 21, 2016

This talk unfolds as if spoken directly by that undifferentiated oneness that goes by so many names—God, the Universe, the Self, the Lovely (as I recently saw it referred to in a Buddhist sutra).

“What I give to thee is not pleasure or pain but the possibility of a lifetime of freedom. The pleasure is an illusion and the pain just as much so, but the freedom is real, and it is not measured and small but vast and unencumbered. What I give thee is not knowledge or even, rightly understood, wisdom; it is not something considered nor something contemplated; and it is not something foreign, something discovered like exotic treasure. It is not made of gold but it is not without substance. Freedom, the promise of this lifetime, is what has been handed down to every living being. It is what has been given out through the very act of breathing. It is what you already have, even though you almost never know it. And when I say, I give to thee, I am saying, Look at what is offered here; it is as if you have a present like no other and you have not even unwrapped it. And when I say, I give to thee, I hope that you will say, ‘Who?’, because in that question your face turns towards the source and, just out of curiosity and wonder, you might glimpse the bestower itself. I give to thee all that is possible in a human lifetime. Not the achievements, none of the goals, not even the emotions, the states, the revelations—my gift is that none of these, ultimately, inhibit you in any way, that you are whole and perfect because you are already free, that you are loved and loving because you are already love, and that you are the dearest of life’s creatures, each and every one of you. You breathe, and so you are free. You are, and so you are holy. And I give this to you so that you will look back towards my face and see only your own. I give this to thee so that in your freedom you will love as deeply as you can, and in trying to love me find that everything you touch is love. I give this to thee so that you will be happy. May you be happy. May you be free.”

Freedom

April 8, 2015

This beautiful teaching on one of my favorite subjects, freedom, speaks as if it is from that universal Oneness (which we varyingly call God, Self, Buddha nature, the Universe) itself.

“What I give to thee is not pleasure or pain but the possibility of a lifetime of freedom. The pleasure is an illusion and the pain just as much so, but the freedom is real and it is not measured and small but vast and unencumbered. What I give thee is not knowledge or even, rightly understood, wisdom; it is not something considered nor something contemplated; and it is not something foreign, something discovered like exotic treasure. It is not made of gold but it is not without substance. Freedom, the promise of this lifetime, is what has been handed down to every living being. It is what has been given out through the very act of breathing. It is what you already have, even though you almost never know it. And when I say, I give to thee, I am saying, Look at what is offered here; it is as if you have a present like no other and you have not even unwrapped it. And when I say, I give to thee, I hope that you will say, ‘Who?’, because in that question your face turns towards the source and, just out of curiosity and wonder, you might glimpse the bestower itself. I give to thee all that is possible in a human lifetime. Not the achievements, none of the goals, not even the emotions, the states, the revelations—my gift is that none of these, ultimately, inhibit you in any way, that you are whole and perfect because you are already free, that you are loved and loving because you are already love, and that you are the dearest of life’s creatures, each and every one of you. You breathe, and so you are free. You are, and so you are holy. And I give this to you so that you will look back towards my face and see only your own. I give this to thee so that in your freedom you will love as deeply as you can, and in trying to love me find that everything you touch is love. I give this to thee so that you will be happy. May you be happy. May you be free.”

Conscripted

December 9, 2014

In this recent retreat entitled Conscripted But Not Bound, we spent the day confronting the inherent frustration of being constantly hemmed in by our bodies, our circumstances, and our limitations, and considering the deeper truth that it is these very restrictions which give rise to our experiences of happiness.  Here is an excerpt from the opening talk:

“We cannot feel free without first knowing what it is to feel confined, we only know the definition of flight because we know the definition of gravity, and we only experience revelation because it is preceded by confusion.  And so it is our very strictures which provide the possibility for our release from them and the experience of that weightless unboundedness.  And so, not only is it possible to be contented while still hopelessly limited, it is in fact only possible because of those very obstacles.

It is clear in our love, too:  we cannot really love unless the thing is confined into form.  Even when we believe that we love the formless, what we love is an experience or it is a current or it is an opening in the mind; it is not formlessness itself.  And everything else that we love has a body or a quality or a material form that draws us in and lets us access something that we feel a deep and abiding satisfaction when we touch.  And so it is those qualities, those bodies, that make even the love and the satisfaction possible, because they make the touching possible.  We can only reach things, limited as we are by form, through their form.

We are imprisoned here by these bodies and these circumstances; until we die, we are inexorably tied into characteristic, quality, and requirement.  But that becomes for us our bliss, and it is not in surmounting these things as if they were obstacles that we become, finally, happy; it is in happily embracing all of our bounds so we might have those experiences of freedom and of love that only they allow us.  You will never feel that you have surmounted the imprisonment here.  There are always walls we cannot walk through, rules we cannot break, qualities and impulses we cannot help but have; even at the point of full enlightenment the body must have food, the mind must have rest.  But that is our very blessing, our very opportunity.  We are made so beautifully for this chance at freedom and this chance at love.  We are made so beautifully bound so that we might be contented, so that we might know a kind of satisfaction not otherwise possible, and so that we might see the beautiful, almost endless variety of things in its true perfection, in its absolute holiness.  We would not have any of that if we were not so limited.  Let us have such gratitude that we are.”

Decisions

October 24, 2014

There are several themes I love in this teaching taken from our recent retreat at Mount Shasta:  First is the idea that there are both things we need to be free of, and, equally importantly, things we truly belong to—emptiness, truth—that we must seek to bind ourselves to.  Both are required.  Second is the idea that it is our constant sense that we can and must decide everything for ourselves, that gets us into trouble.  We simply do not see things clearly enough to reliably discern what to hold to and what to let go; we must relinquish our sense of deciding and let what is true emerge from things-as-they-are.  And last is that lovely notion, so prevalent in these teachings generally, that the way things are is already perfect, holy, and complete—that we cannot hope to improve upon that, only to surrender to it.

“It is time for your liberty and your reunion.  It is time that you were free of yourself and united again with yourself, both.  It is time that the pieces of yourself were allowed to live their own needed storylines and the wholeness of your person, that empty, glorious oneness, was allowed to reunite with its own private source.  The parts of you bound need to fly, and the parts of you scattered need to come home to rest.  You have been for too long the slave of your own will, binding the sadness in knots inside you and loosing all that insight and wisdom you so need to hold close.  We have all the wrong information and see even the most beautiful things from such a skewed and bizarre perspective that we cannot hope to decide well.  And that is why even the most well-intentioned of us will bind and hide the very things that need to fly, and let go those things we were always meant to keep.  But if you can just relax all of your own deciding, even for a moment, the rightness of freedom and of reunion asserts itself for you.  If you can stop, even for a moment, being the one who decides, then that lostness, that sadness, that loneliness start to fly, and that deep certainty, that peace the truth brings with it, come back to you, make their home in you.  I cannot say it any more simply than: just let things be as they are.  There is no more perfect, no holier, no more glorious state in which the world could possibly find itself than the one it is already in right now.  Things are already right, everything is already sacred.  Surrender your own will to the will of that, and both freedom and reunion are already yours.”