Monday, March 5, 9984


What is freedom?  “That’s easy,” you say. “Freedom is to not have anything bad happen to me, and to do what I want when I want.” While those things are pleasant, that definition falls short of what freedom really is, which is the ability to experience anything without resisting what is. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic. Your ego has a knee-jerk angry reaction. Now you are in a mental prison of your own creation. Sure, you are free to react in this or any other way, but you are trapped in an unpleasant mental state that you do not want to be in, hence you are not free. You cannot accept what is, you resist it, and you cannot change it. Welcome to prison.

Freedom does not mean that everything happens the way you think it should, because that would limit you to a small set of circumstances. Freedom encompasses all: sunshine, rain, gain, loss, food, hunger, water, thirst, work, rest, companionship, aloneness, pleasure, and pain. If you cannot accept every circumstance, then you are not free. Now, if you incur a very painful bodily injury, that is an extreme case, and accepting the pain might be impossible, but the vast majority of “problems” are quite manageable events that pass with no long-term harm.

True freedom means the ability to choose not only what to do, but also how to feel. If a motorist does not actually smash into your car or cause you any physical injury, then any negative reaction on your (i.e., your false self’s) part is a component of your self-created prison, for you have decided, “I refuse to be happy because he cut me off.” So you have exercised your freedom to choose how to react, but in the process you have thrown away your freedom by putting yourself in a mental box, not to mention poisoning yourself with anger, frustration, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, or what have you.

We are always free to act, react, or not act or react, in any way we choose. It might seem as though our knee-jerk reactions are uncontrollable, but that’s only because of the choice we’ve made to create and maintain a false self that doesn’t want certain things to happen. We can drop this false self any time we choose. If we choose not to, then we will remain emotional prisoners and experience pain whenever anything threatens our ego.

We can be free only from the false self, not as the false self. The false self can never be free no matter how much “stuff” it gets, because it will always be dependent on that stuff. The false self believes that getting whatever it wants makes it free, but its freedom is constrained to that very narrow condition, hence it really imprisons itself.  Plus, the false self is driven by desires it did not choose. Since it cannot let go of these desires, it will always be a slave to them. It might be free to pursue what it wants, but it will never be free to choose what the things it wants are.

The true self doesn’t need anything worldly. It feels happy/peaceful/blissful just to be. Not that it doesn’t want to participate in the world. It enjoys things of this world, but because it is already at peace, it does not depend on worldly things in order to feel good.

So the only path to true freedom is to drop the false self. This will allow us to view things as they are, not in terms of how they affect a false self, and unless they pose an imminent physical danger, we will not react with emotional pain.