Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Power, Freedom, & Grace: Living from the Source of Lasting Happiness, published by permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc.
Free dom : The power to think or act without restraint; the capacity to exercise choice.
One of the most crucial aspects of life is the notion of freedom and the notion of bondage. Ultimately, our goal is to experience freedom, but to understand what freedom is we first have to understand what bondage is. What does it mean to be free and what does it mean to be in bondage?
To be in bondage is to be stuck in this or that possibility, having lost the ability to choose from an infinite range of responses. What is the bondage to? The bondage is always to our own boundaries, to our own beliefs and conditioned responses. Boundaries and beliefs are nothing more than ideas or concepts that we have committed to and accepted as truth. And when they are as rigid and inflexible as concrete, we cannot see past them. They become the prison walls that we inadvertently construct around ourselves.
You wrap yourself in thoughts the way a spider wraps flies in gossamer. You are both the spider and the fly, entangling yourself in your own web. Your entire lifetime and other lifetimes are packaged inside you as imprints or energy patterns that are triggered by words, encounters and relationships. You have been conditioned to interpret your experiences in a certain way, and this determines how you react to them. So any bondage that you experience is really the prison of your own conditioning.
Most people live their entire lives in bondage. They are a bundle of nerves and conditioned responses, which are constantly being triggered by other people and circumstances into totally predictable outcomes. To be free of bondage, we have to break down conditioned responses; we have to go beyond boundaries and experience the boundless.
What is freedom? Freedom comes from the experiential knowledge of our true nature, which is already free. It comes from finding out that our real essence is the joyful field of infinite consciousness that animates all of creation. To have the experience of our real essence is just to be. Then we are free. In this state of freedom, we understand that life is the meaningful coexistence of all opposite values. We may experience happiness or we may experience pain and suffering, but we do not get attached to pleasure and we do not recoil in fear of pain. In freedom, we even lose our fear of death, because the belief in mortality is just a spell that we have cast upon ourselves.
Behind the mask of mortality is the field of immortality. The real you is immortal; it is beyond birth and death. The real you is not your ego, which is time-bound; it is your spirit, which is timeless. When you know that, when you identify with your spirit, you are free of every limitation, including the limitation that you are a person trapped inside a body for the span of a lifetime. You are the source of both body and mind, and you are not touched by this world of change because you know that you are the unchanging essence of pure consciousness itself.
The time-bound comes and goes; the timeless always is. The time-bound is the known; the timeless is the fresh unknown. In our addiction to the time-bound, we have projected a reality of separation and suffering. We live in a collective hallucination where we are bound and imprisoned by our own projections. Past and future are in the imagination; reality is in this moment. Suffering is in the imagination; freedom is in this moment. Beyond all of the obstacles to freedom is a world that is free of all projection; it is the world of infinite consciousness. And that world abides in the eternal moment.
There never was a time when your life was not this moment. There never will be a time when your life is not this moment. It is impossible to deal with that which does not exist in this moment. Therefore, live in this moment by keeping your attention in this moment. Abide in this moment, and you will abide in that which is eternal, timeless, ageless, and fresh.
When you live in the now and the here, you recognize that the real you dwells in the timeless, eternal moment. You no longer want to live in the memories of the past or the imaginings of the future. You want to live in the present moment, where you can exercise the power and freedom of choice. The whole purpose of living in freedom is to enjoy the choices that you make in every successive moment of the present.
People have asked me, "Is the world one of free will, or is it deterministic?" The world is both deterministic and one of free will. If you are aware and beyond conditioning, then you have free will and you live in freedom. But if you are unaware and conditioned, then you do not have free will and your world is deterministic.
The present is the moment of choice and interpretation. Your choices, this moment, are creating the external events you are experiencing in this moment. Your interpretations, this moment, are creating the internal events you are experiencing in this moment. And because the "outer" world is a mirror of your "inner" world, your choices and interpretations co-create and perpetuate one another. You are neither the choice nor the interpretation but the source of both. If you become aware of your choices and interpretations, you will begin to experience freedom of choice.
Therefore, the key to freedom is to become the silent witness, which is the ever-present awareness that witnesses everything. The silent witness is awareness itself. Awareness, aware of itself, is presence, profound wisdom, and peace. When you are free, you identify with your inner self instead of your self-image. And within this freedom lies the ability to spontaneously put your attention on those choices that bring joy to you, and also joy to others.