It’s often been said, at least in this country, that freedom isn’t free. Yet true freedom, as I have come to understand it, can only arise at the tremendous cost of dropping all my preconceived notions of how the world works; of my storylines about who others are and honestly confronting the veracity of my noble efforts not to judge or condemn. This kind of self-review is like a running dialogue, moment to moment. And as with all actions in life, sometimes I succeed and at other times I regress – abysmally. Yet realizing that moment of forgetting, of losing sight of what is essential to my own well being, is not failing. I know now that what has changed in that instance is not my fundamental nature, which I am convinced is and has always been loving – but my willingness to drop my defenses (even those directed toward myself) in order to free my mind from perpetually cycling back to its dark cave of retreat.
Licking my wounds only reinforces the damage, and mentally or verbally lacerating (myself again; others) is often and not surprisingly the result. Confronting what I fear most within and which others reflect back to me (perhaps in order that I might awaken more fully to the truth of my being) grants me the opportunity to settle more authentically into my center and cease the deceptions which keep me locked up in fear and uncertainty.
In Secrets of the Yamas, author John McAfee speaks to a basic human tendency toward violence. Of course there is the violence that surrounds us – wars, pestilence, human rights abuse – yet according to him (if I understand correctly), this arises from our individual ignorance of a core of violence which stems from a persistent sort of human denial. We want to believe we are better than we are, perhaps especially those of us who strive so diligently to create a peaceful mind, a peaceful home, a peaceful world. Even so, we find ourselves pointing fingers; putting others on trial (even in our minds), while all the time harboring feelings that are not in harmony with a true inner contentment. Such behaviors, whether we are aware of them or not, are not in alignment with the compassionate nature we most wish to exemplify.
McAfee: The first step in understanding our violent nature might be the observation that violence is stimulated whenever our security is threatened. We have built complex walls of relationships, ideals, financial arrangements and religious beliefs, behind which we hide from change and uncertainty … Most of us would like a formula to end violence, a set of instructions … But such a solution is a trick of the mind. No one can lead you to yourself, and there is no formula for self-discovery. These things are distractions, momentary occupations that keep the mind from perceiving what is plainly visible … If we are fully aware of violence as it is happening, and observe, without judgment or distraction, then in that full observation the root of violence is revealed, and in that understanding violence evaporates. Then the duality of violence and its opposite cease to be an issue.
Then, one supposes, we might experience – perhaps for the first time – peace of mind. I know it works for me most of the time. But then again, I’m still and only human. It’s a work in process.