Most of us living in the western world are free:
We have a tremendous amount of wealth (compared to most human beings on this planet), we live in democratic societies (maybe not as democratic as we are taught at school, but all in all quite free), and we benefit from relative freedom of movement (although in recent times, this has been considerably restricted).
These aspects of life pertain to external freedom:
I can express myself freely, do the job that I feel like, go out with the people I choose, and vote for whomever I want to elect.
Yet, most people experience an enormous amount of suffering: mental, emotional, physical. No matter how much you buy, vote, see other people, improve your career and material situation, you might still be stuck in the hamster wheel.
As Lily Tomlin puts it:
“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
This hamster wheel has a name. In the Buddhist tradition, it is called Samsara.
“Samsara” means the wheel of suffering, the incessant cycles of death and rebirth. To get a sense of what that looks like, I highly recommend the beautiful movie Samsara:
You might be free, but you are not liberated.
Exiting the Matrix
If you watch The Matrix, as a process of initiation and of liberation, it can give you a sense of what is possible for you. But you don’t have to go that far.
As a simple example, I usually ask some students from my Conscious Business class to engage in an experiment. We have a whole session dedicated to a discussion on the conscious use of technology. I ask the students to take a walk out of their home, without their phone. Even a short walk, of 15-30 minutes.
The following week, I ask them how it went. I remember a student mentioning that she felt anxiety rising and felt that it was challenging at the beginning. After a while, she got used to it.
That is what the process of liberation looks like:
liberating yourself from the material that clutter your mind and Soul.
Lifting the veils that prevent you from enjoying reality as it is.
Removing the imprints that prevent you from feeling free from the inside-out.
You can objectively be free (freedom), but still not feel free (liberation).
Freedom is external, whereas liberation is internal.
You can be locked up (no freedom) in a literal prison cell, and yet be spiritually liberated. This was the case of many great beings, some of them very well-known (Martin Luther Kind jr., Nelson Mandela, Sri Aurobindo, and many others), and others more anonymous. Some are incarcerated in prisons, others are institutionalized in mental health centers, where they are misdiagnosed as mentally ill because the mental health system does not recognize the legitimacy of certain spiritual states of consciousness and misdiagnoses them as mental illnesses. Yet, some of these “patients” (the meaning of this word describes accurately their situation) might be more awake than some of the psychiatrists “treating” them (here again, notice the meaning of this word).
That would be a topic for a whole other article.
Are you free?
Are you liberated?
If you have a doubt, consider this:
“There is wisdom in the doubt.” As a good friend once told me.
If you are not free, how can you become more free?
What are some areas of progress for more freedom?
One that I clearly see is the improvement of our democratic processes.
Missions Publiques is doing a great job in that direction.
I am more interested in how to become more liberated. (Indeed, liberation is a process. We can think of it as spiritual Enlightenment which can happen in a variety of ways:
In the Zen tradition, we can distinguish Kenshō from Satori.
Satori is the sudden awakening of a being: they realize who they truly are, always have been, and all doubt disappears. No more questions, no more answers. Just being.
This can happen in a variety of ways, and one of them is through constant practice of meditation (in the Zen tradition, it is Zazen).
If I had to make one recommendation, I would highly advise you to start meditating if you don’t already (find a class, an app, a teacher, a YouTube video ; whatever works for you). I don’t use apps for that as I don’t want to depend on tech for my inner well being. If you can resist it, I would recommend a natural way.
(Meditation is one of the top 10 Routines, Practices and Habits that changed my life).
Kenshō is a more progressive form of awakening. Instead of having a lightning-like experience, it is a more progressive awakening of Consciousness, more like a flower that blooms over time. Practicing mediation can lead to Kenshō.
Find a method and a tradition that works for you.
Keep going, and enjoy.