December marks the beginning of whale season in Hawaii. Around this time majestic humpback whales appear in Hawaiian waters, having traversed 3,000 miles of deep blue sea from offshore Alaska. The whales stay through the winter, mating and bearing their young. To watch them cavort is a spectacle for the senses and the heart.
Last Valentine’s Day, Michael Fishbach and Gershon Cohen were fishing off the coast of Baja when they encountered a humpback whale tangled in a myriad of fishing nets. The animal’s fins were encumbered to the point that she could not swim and, if she remained fettered, would soon die. Armed with but a pen knife, Fishbach and Cohen worked diligently for over three hours, cutting away one small section of netting at a time, until “Valentina” was free. As soon as she gained a distance from the small boat, Valentina put on a freedom show to bring tears to any eye. [Check out the YouTube video here.)
I was amazed that such a huge creature — as large as 40,000 pounds — could be imprisoned by relatively fragile nets. In a way that’s what happens to human beings. Spiritually we are huge, free and unlimited — literally children of God, with all the powers of the divine imbued within us. Yet we become encumbered by the nets of earth and we experience being imprisoned. Our nets are not physical, like Valentina’s, but mental and emotional. We have been conditioned to believe we are small, frail, lost, and limited, and those thoughts are enough to keep us so.
One of my favorite “Star Trek” television episodes, Menagerie portrays Captain Christopher Pike (Captain Kirk’s predecessor) imprisoned on a planet supervised by mentally powerful aliens. At one point Captain Pike begins to sense that his jail is not physical, but an illusion created by his captors. The next time one of the aliens comes to feed the crew, Pike grabs the alien by the throat and tells him that he believes the jail is just a trick of the mind, and he demands to be free. At that moment the appearance of the jail disappears and the crew is liberated.
The symbology of this scene goes far beyond fiction. Human beings have been subjugated to what Ernest Holmes called “race thought” — the cloud of fear, separateness and limitation that hangs over the world because people subscribe to beliefs of lack, loss and divisiveness. This sense of alienation from love is not real, but a mind-net we strengthen by believing in it. Indeed, there have been many noble individuals who have transcended their sense of limits and served as models of freedom. We call them saints, gurus, healers, free spirits, and sometimes lunatics. Yet, they are no freer than we are. They have simply recognized the freedom we all own, claimed it, and lived it.
Jesus told his fishermen disciples, “leave your nets.” This advice was a double entendre. On one level he was telling them to let go of their profession as fisherman and come with him. On another level he was telling them — and all of us — to let go of the mental and emotional nets that have encumbered our fins, so that we can swim in the great ocean granted to us as our divine domain.
I am very interested in the phenomenon of hypnosis. When hypnotized, subjects can be burned with a lit cigarette and develop no blister because they have been told that they were being touched by a finger. Others can be touched by a finger and develop a blister because they were told it is a cigarette. The power of the mind is phenomenal, creating very real physical results. A normal person can lift a car leaning on someone stuck under the car, when under less dire circumstances the weight would be unbearable. These examples are insignificant compared to the entire world we have created because we believe in it. A Course in Miracles tells us, “Illusions are as strong in their effects as the truth,” and that there are no idle thoughts, because “that which gives rise to an entire world can hardly be called idle.”
For this reason we must constantly examine our thoughts to discern between thoughts that imprison us and thoughts that liberate us. Every thought is taking us either deeper into illusion or toward greater freedom. If you monitor your thoughts you will be amazed at how many nets you have wrapped around your massive fins. While this realization may be startling and even feel daunting, there is a gift in it: If you have the power to net yourself, you have the power to release yourself. Herein lies the method and path to freedom.
We are living during a time of great awakening. The ills that seem to plague our world must be undone from inside out. Each of us must find our way to freedom so that we may show others the way. You may feel netted but you have also been given a knife. The freedom available at the end of the knife is one that will give rise to a most glorious show.
Copyright © 2011 Alan Cohen. All Rights Reserved.