This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted and shaky — that's called liberation. ~ Pema Chödrön
The holidays of Juneteenth and the Fourth of July offer an opportunity to reflect on freedom. We celebrate laws and policies that protect and support the freedom of all people to live fulfilled lives and flourish in their communities; uplifting others is important spiritual work.
Even more challenging is the work of freeing ourselves internally. To be completely free, we need not only external freedom, but freedom from the conditioned thinking of the mind, which insists on reinforcing an identity of limitation and lack. Pema Chödrön, the well-known Tibetan Buddhist, brings these ideas to life for the Western mind.
Chödrön emphasizes that our mindset is a choice, that "we sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now." Through practices such as mindfulness, we begin to see how the mind shapes its own reality moment by moment. Buddha put it succinctly: "As you think, so you become." While the mind blames the external world for its unhappiness, we begin to see that its suffering is self-generated.
Internal freedom brings with it clarity, choice, and the ability to be fully and lovingly present in each moment — if we choose it. Moving toward internal freedom is a process of letting go more and more, until we let go of everything with which the mind identifies. Even the idea of letting go! That internal freedom serves you and those around you with its radiant fullness. As Chödrön instructs: “Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.”
There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.
Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”
We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.
Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.
Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on, I’ll be mad.
Rumi, from A Year With Rumi, Edited by Coleman Barks