Towards Freedom – Temporary Concluding Remarks

I have used the term temporary to offset the meaning of concluding, for in a relative universe the idea of a finite end is a bit off. And as this is a work in progress, it is unfinished. In this pamphlet I have introduced something of an overview, I have been scant on detail and general in approach. I am making no claims of originality, nor am I saying that these are the teachings of some “master” or other. They were not given to me by any disincarnate being. If you are familiar with Buddhist teaching, then you might notice some similarity to “The Middle Way”. You may notice a flavour of other “teachings”. This pamphlet is a verbalisation and aims at being somewhat contemporary. I have steered clear of words used in various traditions, but cannot do so entirely. Language is limited after all.

In attempting a general approach, I have made thematic reference to the challenges on the road towards freedom. It differs by individuality yet shares some commonality. As an overview it might be generally applicable. It cannot be exhaustive. Hopefully it is of interest and of use.

It is currently envisaged that this pamphlet is the first in a series.

Towards Freedom – Caveat

If the seed, the germ of freedom starts to germinate in you, there may be a long way to go and that quest is beset with pitfalls. It is a noble quest and one that tests your mettle. Humanity is, perhaps, heading towards a new age where the forms and structures both current and of the past, are starting to quiver and fail. Against such a backdrop, for the right kind of individual, the times are more fertile in terms of this quest. With the individuating being less needful of organisations and churches, the genuinely new has yet to materialise. As such the role of devotion, mindless or otherwise, shall cease to dominate. The cult of the personality fades as the masses are educated and learn to think for themselves. The need to hand power over to some hero, guru or leader, is less strong. Nevertheless, belonging to a club, an organisation, a group, a party, a cult or a church, still has a strong draw. That idea of belonging, tribal as it may be, remains powerful.  If you are to hand your salvation over to a saviour, of whatever denomination, in all likelihood, you will be disappointed. Given so much power over, few can resist its temptation.

This is not to say that within organisations there is nothing of merit. Many have great value in their core teachings and a sense of community in their society. To swap one world version for a better one, is not bad. It is ultimately limiting. In this the provenance of lineage is often touted. The idea is that the teachings are pure. However, if genuine adherence to doctrine is maintained, it swiftly becomes out of date. A truth remains a truth, but it is best flavoured with an essence of the times and not laden with the vinegar of preservation. A teaching intended for an Indian body and psyche, may not transfer directly to a Dane or a Belgian. Flexibility, according to make-up and culture can enhance learning. Dogmatic worship of the past, can hinder. Be very wary of anyone, or any organisation, that asks you to hand your power over to them. Even if you seek the kudos and bragging rights of beings associated with some guru or other, use discernment. As I have suggested before a free being will not seek power over any other being. Handing your power over to a saviour does not make you free; paying for blessings and potions, cannot liberate you. There is only one reliable way, do it yourself.

One can cherry pick from a tradition, but this can, at least in the early stages, lead to confusion. Some immersion is needed to gain benefit. This is best done with the caveat of discernment. There are no short cuts, you will have to hanker down for the long run. As you traverse you will see that what appear to be major differences in ideology may simply be down to manner of communication and contextual setting. When you get to this stage cherry picking is much safer.

Along the way you will encounter your own prejudices and predilection. If you are by nature a space cadet, unless something is weird and far out, it will not attract you. If you perceive yourself a rational being with a scientific approach, you will seek out evidential proof from within the context of your world version. There must be proof. Unfortunately, not all things in the universe are subject to reductionist working. This may jar with how you think things ought to be. The trick is to be open minded and reserve judgement, yet not to be gullible and over easily led.

The glamour of ritual holds strong with many. It accentuates a sense of belonging and can create a near hypnotic state as mind is handed over to group mind. These experiences can be pleasant or otherwise. They do not represent freedom in its purest. Glamour can be found on all sides and as one develops it is easier to assume a premature omniscience, which exists not. The human Ego is one tricky son of a bitch and it will play game after game with you. In this respect taking most things with a pinch of salt, is helpful. Do not be overly cynical and negative because, guess what? That can be your omniscient Ego talking to you….

It is likely that you may be attracted to people who think in a roughly similar manner to you, this provides the coterie of group satisfaction. It generates a group consensus, to which temporary loyalty may be felt. It can lead to defence and an inward-looking mentality. History shows that when groups of beings, blinded by devotion, encounter others, war results. This group-think is by definition, limited and cannot be free. The parameter space of truth and reality cannot be fully explored whilst there is subscription to consensual world version. There is an added problem in that within all groups there is a tendency towards social politics and hierarchical position. With a sad inevitability this leads to intrigue and gossip. These are the antithesis of freedom and not the predilection of a free being. Should you start in earnest on the walk to freedom, sooner or later, you will experience the pointing finger and the stabbing tongue.    

Having made these caveats, and should you be determined or fated, then what are you waiting for?

The quest for freedom starts with an urge, proceeds via control over your own mind and talking, towards a greater objectivity. In being honest and real, you will start to listen to your heart. The concrete world version you started with will slowly dissolve as you open your mind. In the search beyond the façade for your authentic essence, you will develop an authenticity hitherto unsuspected. Thence a sense of equanimity and choice develops. No more will you be a slave to drama and soap opera. And without knowing it you will be imbued with both a centre of beingness and an ever-increasing understanding of freedom. You will be on your way to becoming a free being, a magical creature of the universe.

Towards Freedom – The Corporeal

Unless you are some dis-incarnate being wandering through space-time it is likely that you are, as yet, corporeal. And this meatiness of being corporeal presents a major challenge for the times I live in. We have the new phenomenon of body dysmorphia and the ability to surgically alter outer appearance. Thanks to the availability of leisure time and high definition photography we are surrounded by images of people, bodies and food. Due to the decline of manual labour and the availability of food, for the first time in history, humanity has a problem with being overweight. The advances in modern medicine together with its magic bullet hint at an increased longevity and a panacea for old age. People can compare what they look like to those held to be exemplar and beautiful. The obsession with corporeal image is at the root of much unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The simple truth remains, as things stand, all humans face the prospect of growing old, losing their faculties and dying. It comes to us all. There is an identification with form, with body and a hypochondriacal worry about its workings and the imminence of death. People are shit scared of dying, by and large. This corporeal identification is a part of the fear, as well as fear of the unknown.

Are you your body or your thoughts?

This simple question points at the fact that the essence which makes you a being is more than either your body or your thoughts. It is possible to observe your body and let people stick needles in it. It is possible to observe your thoughts. This means that there is something more than these, something extra or maybe less, doing the observations, your essence. If a partial non-attachment is possible, then it follows that this degree of detachment might be enhanced, with practice. If you are going to vacate the form, the body and are unpractised, when the time comes it is going to be harder. Now here is the weird bit, many understand that they are not simply a body full of thoughts at an intellectual level, but that is as far as it goes. The thinking isn’t joined up, or clear.

If you are going to drive a car, then it is best that the car is looked after, serviced and checked out from time to time. There is nothing wrong with taking care of the form you inhabit, but when it becomes an obsession that is unhelpful. When you are continually worrying about the next MOT test, you can forget to live. It doesn’t matter if someone else has an Audi, you have the car you were born into. You can’t swap cars, but you might be able to add a spoiler and change the exhaust. So long as the car functions it can still get you from A to B, from birth to death. The car may have a few tantrums and with the help of a mechanic (doctor) you can get it back on the road again. Changing the badge on the car does not change what is inside the car or the car itself. When you get to B, you will have to leave the car at the breakers’ yard. There is no choice in this. It may be used for spare parts or simply torched or buried.

In order to have more freedom, it is necessary to lessen the corporeal attachment and reduce the levels of drama about both its appearance and how it works. Not everyone can run as fast as Bolt. The body has certain biological functions, and these are necessary, it has reproductive drive, it has hunger. Associated with these functions is a mass of mind stuff where the mind makes up a whole bunch of drama to indulge in. The primal reproductive desire is overlaid with pleasure seeking gratification and indulgence. People can fuck themselves stupid. To be free is to have these urges in balance and not to be slave to them. One must see them as they are and not as some glamorous thing, some competition. Remember freedom is increased by reducing the number of things which have power over you. If sexual lust controls you, there is no freedom, simply a commanding basal urge. 

In our antiseptic times there is a tremendous squeamishness about bodily function and phobias against bacteria. Whilst some prudence is good, it can get out of control. And to have a taboo about basic bodily function is to be hung up by them. Just like death we all have some commonality in the need of these. Anything which you have a hang up about, impinges on your freedom. To be precious is to be constrained. In the west we have the luxury of modern sanitation which renders life easy and lowers health hazards. Being a little more earthy about the body demystifies it and frees up. I am not going to delve into the psychology of bodily function here, but the mental drama so associated is widespread and unnatural. In this respect modern western living, largely detached as it is from nature, lends a hand to phobia.

If one over exercises in order to sculpt a body, there is a very real danger that body identification increases. This worry in comparison to others does not liberate. The wretched pass time of comparison is at the root of much dissatisfaction and suffering. You have the car you were born with, learn to appreciate it and treat it reasonably well. Find out what it can do instead of comparing it to the Joneses all the time.

If one has invested heavily in the body and the intellect thereof, the degree of attachment increases, as does the fear of loss. But if you are not your body or your thoughts, both of these are simply on loan and impermanent. Everyone knows that they will die, yet this emphatic evidence of corporeal impermanence is set to one side and ignored by most, at least for the first four decades or so. It is only when the body starts to malfunction and grumble that the reality of death starts to knock. The gift of a body is taken for granted and imagined eternal. 

 Along with materialism, corporeal obsession works to decrease freedom. If someone can take away your possessions, they can take away your life or injure your vehicle. Fear of this is rife. Thinking a little it follows that if fear has power over you, then you are not free. And so many human fears are associated with this, the corporeal. These meat fears and social faux pas fears both inhibit freedom.  I am not here advocating a reckless disregard, rather a decrease in identification with the form side of life. If your essence is not the form, then why be so overly concerned about the form? Treat it with some respect but do not let it dictate.

 The more control over your mind you gain, the clearer you see that the corporeal is not tantamount, it is not the be all and end all. Perhaps you can see the degree of interrelation of mind and body, beyond mind there is essence. It is with the essence that authenticity lies. Getting to this essential core does not happen overnight. Glimpses of it loosens corporeal obsession, which increases freedom. And when the time comes you are much more ready and willing to let go of the body. This transition is less fearful, and you don’t live with the cloud of fear overhanging.

In this sense the body is but a vehicle used to explore the earthly reality of our day-to-day world. It did not ought to be master. One can enjoy the use of the body but to over indulge in it is unhelpful. Equanimity arises out of an increasing objectivity, where corporeal function is seen for what it is and no more.  We are here to learn, and the means is corporeal.

Towards Freedom – Materialism and Possession

I think it fair to comment that a swathe of humanity is somewhat obsessed with material things; houses, ‘phones, cars and maybe even yachts. There is a desire for the less concrete material things, the man-made things, like position, status and kudos. These are the markers, the accoutrements of the show-and-tell story of success, material success. People attach a lot to objects and stuff. Some houses are brimming. There is a like of the shiny, the medals, the trophies of societal conformity. One can even have a trophy wife and post-nominal letters. These things can be taken away, an event which causes distress and suffering because of the attachment, thereto. People have possessions and are possessed by them. That which they are attached to has power over them. In the hunger for acquisition rarely does it occur that people are giving their power over to their possessions.

If you are to be free then the equation of freedom is that the fewer things that have material power over you there are, the freer you become. In the limit of no possessions, one might wander the streets penniless dependent upon the hand-outs of others. This, depending upon mind-state, is a state of powerlessness. This can also not be free, because of the dependency. Is there perhaps a happy medium? Well in a world where relative might operate, there is. One can have only those belongings which one actually needs and that suffices. Many acquire way more than this, perhaps in a vain attempt to satiate some hunger, some hole in being. Their “happiness” is correlated somehow, to number count of material accoutrement. It is straightforward to see that, in such cases, the thinking behind is faulty.

Even then it is likely that some degree of clinging to accoutrement occurs. This clinging is needy and not free. If one uses, with respect the needed things, knowing that their use is a temporary gift of the universe and without a sense of entitlement, there is less attachment. Non-attachment without respect is wasteful and profligate, it engenders a throw-away society. Non-attachment with respect is perhaps a hallmark of a free being. In this one has no belief that the universe owes us a living or anything much at all. Thereby one is grateful for the loan of the material things offered, yet not attached to having them.

Materialism implies a lack of spirituality, which comes in many flavours and degrees. Despite all the reason, logic and justification, many find that some sense of spirit is the icing on the cake of life. Without it life is incomplete, unfinished. In our times spirit seems to be dying in favour of material, it may be that this underlies the tremendous levels of world angst and anger. This is an opinion for you to consider.

There are many wise quotes that suggest materialism is a hollow path, that whilst shiny and bauble laden, offers no lasting happiness or peace. This gnawing materialism is insatiable; at the end of its rainbow is the pot of enough, which cannot be found because for those so oriented it simply does not exist. This elusive enough, often sought, can cause suffering. It is sought with the wrong mind-set and motive and ergo, is elusive.  There is a Buddhist expression which I am fond of; hungry ghosts. A ghost then is a being divested of spirit seeking always to quench a thirst and silence a hunger pain, in the netherworld of materialism. If you don’t believe in “actual” ghosts, perhaps you can see the manifest hungry ghosts walking alongside you on our streets? They are quite common, and they do come out during the day.

In order to walk towards freedom, it is necessary to reorient in respect of the material so that it all but ceases to have power over you.  Despite the prevalence of totems, relics and the like, they have no inherent power. The power is only in the mind of the reverential and acquisitional. This power is a mental construct attached by the being who holds it. These attachments can bind and hold.

Objects can be the talismans of memories, markers of stories and anchors of such. They evoke baggage and strengthen its hold. To be free of the past is to reconcile and dissolve it. To evoke and bolster it is unwise. In this respect sentimentality is a burden.

A major part of the obsession with materialism is, as I have hinted, this show-and-tell competitive social behaviours based in comparison mind and exploited by the advertiser. This fear of missing out on the latest grooviest thing is the marketer’s dream and a fundamental weakness in the herd of consumers. So many buy stuff they do not need so as to partake of a show-and-tell life. This to the extent of living beyond means in many cases. A trophy cabinet is of little solace when the creditors foreclose. You could say that this attraction to shiny baubles is a little primitive and yet pervasive.

If one looks ever outward to the material world for “happiness”, reward and acknowledgment, the inner world becomes barren and untended. There is no balance, no centre. It is difficult to be free when near perpetually off balance.  In this respect simplicity is a counterpoint to acquisition, where need as opposed to want or desire, is the basis of interaction with the material world. Not everyone can tolerate the idea of monastic sparseness, yet relative comfort without excess is liveable for most. And in not feeling owed, or attached, knowing that your tenure of goods is transitory not guaranteed, equanimity can be found. The concept of ownership and permanent ownership at that, is a human invention. Nature can at any time challenge human perceived ownership of goods and irrevocably so. This construct of ownership and possession is of human origin and thereby a part of the illusion of the common dream, the prevailing world version.  The mantram of “must have” is chanted daily by millions and it is not a mantram of peace or fulfilment. It is mantram of hunger. “Must have” is not free.

In order to be free, one must at least lessen the power which things and awards have over one. There needs to be a responsible lessening of attachment, perhaps in a stepwise manner. Slowly the umbilical to the world of materialism needs severed. To be possessed by possessions is to be hooked to them and their purveyors. And short of a full-blown exorcism it is best to wean yourself towards autonomous living and thinking. This addiction to materialism is powerful and it holds power over most.

Towards Freedom – Fate

In this pamphlet I have discussed in general terms freedom, equanimity and balance, now there is this controversial idea of fate. Fate implies karma a concept that underpins eastern thinking, but which is less popular in the west. Nevertheless, cause and effect are a major part of scientific method. Newtonian mechanics are taught widely. There is a disconnect because we accept this concept in the world of things but are less comfortable in the world of people. The consequence of cause and effect is karma and the summation of karma is fate. It does not take too much to see how some acts, some words even, cause things in the world of people. There are consequences to our actions, so although not expressed as karma, karma it is. As a rule, people fail to acknowledge just how much interconnectivity there is, this is because responsibility tends to be avoided. There is some immature childish behaviour which suggests that so long as one does not get caught there are no consequences for the person acting. There may be consequences for the person acted upon, but they do not matter provided deniability holds.

It is convenient to imagine that God and sin do not exist and that there is no reckoning for indulgence, for enacting every whim as and when. If you look around this mentality can be found easily. Provided that there is some perceived advantage many do not care less what they do nor how it affects others. They inflict themselves, their wants, desires and ambitions in a willy-nilly fashion. Yet there it is unspoken, unacknowledged and ignored, cause and effect. If you don’t like the word karma, these will suffice.

What has fate got to do with freedom?

If you are reading this tract, then at some level the idea of freedom is of interest. The circumstances of this life and perhaps the others that went before, have lead you here, today, to this.  All the actions you have done, each cause has effected your life, so that as a consequence you are here, right now, reading this. It is your fate to read it. What you do subsequently is up to you. Fate has lead you here. You could argue that this is mere coincidence. But what has caused things to co-incide? Is it pure chance or has your education, place of birth and career made it possible? Has your life always been heading directly at this moment, however fleeting it may be?

Advocates of free will may put it down to choices made. But the summation of those choices has had the effect. At any point different choices could have been made, but they weren’t.

Without being specific if you are considering freedom then perhaps you were fated so to do, by your life experience. Otherwise you would be like many, unquestioning. What matters most is the next football match, the next soap opera episode or the “news” and gossip on Facebook. Somehow, you the reader have found yourself in an eddy in the stream, away from the current of modern living, with sufficient curiosity to be reading this. The odds against this are quite high. There are seven billion people on the planet yet here you are. For how long, who can say?

There may be a counter-intuitive problem with the very notions of fate and freedom. If something is fated, then it implies a lack of freedom. This is a kind of logic. Yet if freedom is your fate and you are fated to be free, then you have to follow that fate. There is freedom in evolving that fate in the general direction of freedom, one can’t avoid the fate, but one can be free in following it. This is as opposed to trying to shoe horn your existence into one of the available life templates extant in the epoch of your birth. Cutting a swathe through life which differs from the societally pre-ordained is much more liberating. Being able to think for and by yourself is less constrained and blinkered. Stepping outside of the hive to inhale the fresh air, if so fated, is fresh.

In order to get to a position where the tried and tested holds less pull, there has to be work on self, this is a cause and the effect is an increasing sensation of freedom. This is karma in action and the evolution of a fate, it is not succumbing. In various philosophies all that you do in this life is an effect of all that has gone on before in others. In this sense each life has a fate and the summation of all fates is your destiny. If it is your destiny to acquire more freedom, then surely that is the only acquisition worth anything in the long term; especially given the impermanence of the material and the social. One could say that of all the fates available, freedom is not a bad hand to be dealt.

Thus, we each of us contribute to our evolving fate by every single action, each thought and how we respond to life. If it is your fate to not yet contemplate freedom in a meaningful way, then you are not yet ready for freedom. Any act may do it, may turn you towards freedom and the quest of it. Freedom cannot be hurried, it can only come when one is prepared for it. If you are fated to start out on such a quest, then there is nothing that you can do to stop it. You can however stymie and hinder it by being stubborn. Pause for a moment and consider; is there any freedom in being stubborn? The only freedom is to express pig-headed mind, not an altogether free state of being.

If you discount the concept of fate, then within the logic of fate, you are fated so to do. We each have to learn. And such a discounting is an effect of your state of mind, your education and your peer group influences. These have caused your current mental make-up and operative world version through which you interpret the physical and social world. You alone have not made up your mind, others have influenced you, so free will isn’t as free as. Whilst we might like the ideal of free will, in practice no being lives and evolves in isolation. The only thing that one can hope to control in any sense of entirety is one’s own mind. It is not as easy as it sounds.

This urge to freedom comes as a response to life, largely when the dissatisfaction grows, and its illusory quality is sensed. Beyond this threshold there is a whole bunch of work and only if that work causes a deeper understanding can one effect, that is make real, a growing sense of genuine mental autonomy and freedom.

If it is your fate to seek freedom, then in time it must be also your destiny. To this end application to task must be unceasing, and unhurried. One needs to be mindful of distraction and avoidance, because some of the things needed to achieve freedom are both scary and at first difficult. Your fate will ask them of you and if you are to evolve your fate then best get on with it. You had better take responsibility for your words, acts and deeds so as to become an authentic being and as authenticity increases so does freedom. It is not a bad fate, nor an unworthy quest, this freedom thing.

Towards Freedom – Uncomplicated

Modern living is very complex and highly entangled, it is perhaps considered a sign of success to be well connected, to be busy and have loads of social contacts and a big circle of “friends”. One can measure virtual success by the number of followers one has on line and the thumbs ups given therein. This desire to be connected is a major barrier on the road to freedom. Life is hectic and very busy. Unless you are willing to be a yogi in a cave there seems to be no easy to way to change this situation. There is one simple mantra that might help, and this is quality over quantity. One could say that this is a wheat from chaff approach. In our complex modern world, complexity is seen as good. But by the very nature of it, there cannot be found freedom. Spread thin and thereby disperse and dissipated it is nigh on impossible to use one’s energy to obtain even a measure of freedom. By seeking simplicity and reducing the number of contacts that eat time, one can focus and give proper attention to whatever it is one is doing. By not being pulled in all directions it is possible to introduce quality as a guiding concept.

There is a lot of stuff and a lot of people who are not needed and drain, in the lives of most. For some the overarching terror of missing out has them stretched past their elastic limit. Relationships are facile and without depth. It is not possible to address profound questions whilst one is flapping around like a fish caught in the shallows. If one is to seek a measure of freedom, then quite quickly one comes upon the need to make life more simple, less hectic and uncomplicated.  It does not need the extreme alluded to above, but I’ll pretty much guarantee that if you reduce the complexity of living you will feel, maybe not initially, but ultimately, more at peace and develop a measure of equanimity. To do this one has to face and overcome this fear of missing out. Constant distraction and involvement in socio-political drama does not bring a calm and measured equanimity. The counter argument is perhaps that multiple contacts and alliances afford freedom, a freedom of choice. Yet a little more careful analysis suggests that an alliance is not free, alliance implies a degree of dependency. The energy needed to sustain all those complex relationships negate one’s freedom, the freedom to be quiet and alone, away from the noise so that one can get a view on life and thereby develop an understanding of it. If life is chock-a-block with perceived devoirs, there is no time left to devote to the understanding of self. All that stimulus causes endless reactions. The draw of sociality eats time faster than a Pac-Man.

What is so very wrong with being simple, straightforward and uncomplicated?

This is a very good question and the sophisticated and successful might think that to even ask such a question is naïve. That it is perhaps backward and uncivilised. The highly politicised world of positional gain and self-advancement holds no truck with sentiments such as this. Life after all is about acquisition, kudos, power and fame. Be clear here, each of us makes choices, one path leads to freedom and the other to “power” of a kind, that kind is material power and not spiritual power. In a very real sense one cannot have material power and freedom in its emptiest, most free sense. If you are interested in material power, what the hell are you doing reading this? Perhaps it has lost its gloss, its allure?

It is an aspect of all development and evolution, that one has to find out for oneself and by oneself. Human nature being what it is, rarely takes advice. Oftentimes it is only when one sees or begins to sense more profoundly that something is not working that any alternative is sought. People, in our times, are overwhelmed by a pseudo-connectivity within the species. In so doing they lose sight of self in the outer presentation and any notion of true nature is abandoned in the needy desire to “fit in”. As ever the common denominator is not all that high, yet for some bizarre reason many seek to be “normal”, to blend chameleon like with the herd. If this is you, then you had better put aside any notion of high level freedom. You might get a little freedom, but not a lot; dependency has you.

Even should you seek to become uncomplicated, society is not keen on you doing this. It does not like the rejection and its normative ethos seeks to corral the wayward. And should you be uncomplicated, society will foist its own complexity in regard of moral and motivations upon you, by means of its perceptual lens. Being complex and full of motivations, it cannot perceive that you are not. It will transfer its “shit” onto you and only see those aspects of you which mirror self. It will imagine and expound upon your motives, even when they aren’t present. It will make up stories so as to cognitively assimilate you within the confines of its world version. Society has a taste for soap opera and will invent a script which bears little resemblance to the actual reality. Where there is no drama, it will attempt to manifest some.

To be uncomplicated is almost beyond the bounds of possibility for those prone to and beset by a love for complexity and intrigue. People are enamoured and hence entranced by interpersonal power dynamics and chicken coop pecking order interpretations. It is very simple, intrigue and freedom, cannot walk hand in hand. One excludes the other, if you are free there is no interest in intrigue, if you love intrigue then you are bound by it. Lasting freedom comes not at the personal and the interpersonal, it is not associated with the soap opera dynamics of the personality.

To be uncomplicated is to approach life as it is and not with the shoe horn of how it should be or according to the dictates of will, how one wants life to be. Life is way bigger than petty human will and to recognise that you cannot have life on your own terms, one cannot dictate to the universe, is a very liberating thing. It removes all that force, all that effort, all those expectations and thereby alleviates suffering and angst. This desire to be something, one is not, leads away from authenticity.

Simplicity brings a mental freedom like nothing else. Strangely though in our times it is very difficult to practise this, because the minds of our fellow men do not like to countenance or encompass such a simple this as being uncomplicated. Removing complexity saves energy which can be used in the direction of liberation. Simple really….

Towards Freedom – Authenticity

It is a simple truth that you cannot have equanimity unless you are authentic. In other words, until such time as your words and deeds match there is a veil, a mask of deception. Being harsh you are in effect living a lie, you say one thing and do another. This mismatch may not be conscious or intentionally manipulative but at one level, beyond the kidding of self, one knows it. And this can produce an unease and fear of being found out. To be dramatic we might call this impostor syndrome.  To get to where the outer presentation coincides with the inner reality can take some time. This is because people like to try to impress, to attract attention, to please, not to hurt, to hurt etc… There are white lies and avoidances at every corner. Few have the confidence to stand metaphorically naked, as they are, in social situations. So, we have façade after façade after façade. Humans are not unlike a Babushka doll, there are layers of illusion hiding the core. We might call this core the true nature or the authentic self. We could draw from Sanskrit. I prefer to simply call it authenticity. Authenticity enables equanimity and freedom.

Finding this individuated authenticity is a long process, there are many blinds and layers. Just when you think you are approaching your essence another skin is encountered, to be shed as and when. To look deep, may in the fullness of time, lead to metaphysics and philosophy, towards the very nature of existence and being. Not everyone can nor is fated to go so deep. One can get more equanimity, less suffering, by peeling off layers becoming more authentic on the journey towards authenticity. It is a part of realisation, namely becoming real. Political correctness and wanting to appear ”nicer” or more “acceptable” can hinder and inhibit. In this journey one must, at a certain depth, encounter the dark side which we all possess, and which possesses some. To pierce this dark side and thereby transcend it, is to let in more light. If one denies its existence, then one is not being real and as a consequence authenticity will be lacking. Many are afraid to look. To stare direct is dangerous, to glance and observe is safer. This dark side is best approached with caution and with patience. If you own it, you can dissolve it and go beyond. If you deny it, then you are lying, and this perturbs equanimity and balance. To imagine and profess an angelic nature, where butter does not melt in the mouth, is to lie to self and others. 

From what I have said already it suggests that most do not know themselves all that well and in fact, because it takes work, the journey of discovery remains largely un-started. The majority put up with dis-ease and suffering because they are familiar. There is some fear always, associated with the unfamiliar. Whilst the level or dissatisfaction remains “tolerable” and can be borne with sufficient pass times, there is insufficient motive or motivation to look into it. People can be very dissatisfied yet able to pursue a career and appear to have social interactions, they can be a social success.  All too often this entails a “partner in crime” mentality where things go unmentioned, not discussed and to an extent, taboo. People do not challenge each other, they collude. Collusion is an emotive word, and of course there are degrees of collusion. At a low level when someone is playing the victim game it is very easy to collude with them and sympathise; “oh you poor thing, how terrible for you”. Of course, even in this simple example there may be dishonesty.

With layers of façade and a social requirement to play the façade game it is rather difficult to get to or at authentic behaviour. We have therefore the idea of relative authenticity and temporary authenticity. The latter is when you are being as authentic as you can be for the time being. Doing the best you can so to speak. This is a relative authenticity when compared to your true authentic essence. It is a stepping stone on the journey. And if you are as authentic as you can be all the time, your degree of authenticity with naturally increase. If you like, your authenticity is very much a work in progress and not the finished product. To expect perfection is to fail, to strive for perfecting is to head in the right direction. The closer you are to your true nature, the more at ease you feel in your-self and with your-self. And when you are relaxed and not tense about being found out, you are more at ease and can respond to life rather than react. Life becomes easy. In time this increases your belief in own ability which is something of a virtuous circle, provided that your head does not swell as a result.

In order to get to this authenticity, you have to get rid of the emotional detritus which hangs heavy. It does not shift all by itself, it needs conscious effort. You can’t put the bin out and expect someone to take it away. You have to press it out, little by little, you have to learn to express. The amount of stuff suppressed and bottled up in the average person is high. It is no wonder then that many are fit to bust all the time, all it takes is a simple pin and the socially acceptable balloon explodes. Take a look around you, how many people are full of pressure and therefore taut in their being? Are you a taut being?

I have introduced various concepts and given a partial description, but I have not said much about how to go about doing. In this I am being general and not adhering to any school of thought. What should be clear is that until dissatisfaction has reached a sufficient level there is no motivation for change. The longer one leaves dissatisfaction to fester the more likely a “cataclysmic” explosion is. In this respect early and prophylactic action is wise. Otherwise the debris of explosion can set you back. There is a tension between dissatisfaction and fear of the unknown, fear of action. It is for each individual to decide how and if, they start the journey towards authenticity, the walk to freedom. It is best to start and if you do, it is best to go all the way, should you be fated so to do.

Towards Freedom – End of Certainty

It all sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Feel the urge to wake up, get some control over mind and talking, escape from the world version born out of societal conditioning whilst being cognisant of a growing self-knowledge. At the higher overview level, it is simple, but as the illusion fades there is an inevitable end of “certainty”. When the parameters of the world and the basis of a life start to fade what shall replace them? As the goals and stories shared by the commonality cease to be so concrete, the “ideals” suspect and even the reliability of perception in question, it is easy to feel lost, bewildered and without anchor. How does one navigate a nascent consciousness within the context of the common dream or at least living adjunct to it? There is no other way than to improvise. As all those things held to be “true” fall by the wayside one after another it can be tricky.

The societal template starts to dissolve, and the advertiser’s nightmare is seen for what it is, marketing. It isn’t real. No matter how many Instagram pictures one sees, how many “buy a house in the country programmes” one watches, the only commonality is you. Wherever you go, you goes to. No matter how you dress it, what extent of plastic surgery and how many pals you may have, you. There is no escaping it. The only real certainty there is, is death. And so very many are shit scared of death. At its simplest life offers death, of course there can be much in between birth and death. It is my observation that not much thought is given to how one spends that time. There is little discernment and quantity tends to dominate quality in the manner of living.

I personally don’t understand where this “must have” mentality comes from, I can observe it. And it is this ambition, the acquisition lust, which has prevalence. I doubt its satiation brings anything other than temporary even instantaneous relief or gratification. When the moment passes it is back, as hungry as ever. But what is it all for? What does it mean? Few question for the “must have” holds dominion in one way or another. That field over the fence is so tempting in comparison to the grass at feet. And mundane success is so often measured by the extent of acquisition, whether that be money, fame, kudos, clothes or notches on the bed post. It is my hypothesis that the “must have” does not bring peace, freedom or equanimity. I may be alone in this hypothesis though I suspect deep down most sense this if only as the autumn of life approaches. By then there is enough anecdotal evidence that folly does not fulfil. This “must have” holds dominion and it seems that the certainty of success pivots around it.

Might there be more than one kind of success?

A life lived to build a curriculum vitae for public consumption and personal advancement, may look good on paper. One might be able to talk to it, justify it and explain it; it may bring kudos and cash. It is on paper and not in being. No list of achievements can comment of the state of being, the degree of freedom or of equanimity. If one is striving, does one have balance? It does not take too much thought to see that striving and balance are not cut of the same cloth. If all you have at the end of days is a paper list of achievements, then perhaps your earthly sojourn looks good on paper but what has been the true value of living? Without sounding like some religious zealot, it is reasonable to suggest that the answers do lot lie entirely in material advancement, acquisition and consumption. Anyone who has lived a while knows this. It is convenient to abey this knowledge in the conversations of face value of mutual justification which comprise much of human interaction. Somehow it is way too scary to be open about dissatisfaction with the prevailing madness. It is de rigueur to compare lists, no matter how hollow this game is. If you take away the certainty of list-living it can be cognitively difficult to construct a justifiable sequence to peers and family. This end of apparent certainty is unsettling. If one seeks freedom, then that always goes hand in hand with a lack of certainty. There can be conviction that freedom is sought but how that might be achieved is fundamentally uncertain. There are no concrete boxes to tick to quantify success. One cannot draw graphs to talk to. All the life goals, often material in nature, are not the signposts or way stations on the walk to freedom. In fact, one may never arrive.

The broad consensus of living in the west has some materially quantifiable indicators of success, which provide a conversational framework for world version. Should these cease to apply then one has make a world version 2.0, and in between temporarily viable world version, there is no certainty. I have implied here that world version can be subject to a software update. In this the mind constructs a current world version operating system which is prone to update. But in the limit, there is no world version, just now. That now is of an eternal nature and updates second by second. To live in the now without apparent certainty is not to everyone’s taste. Freedom can be scary. It can have no comparators to give confidence, no metrics and few if any rules. Such an ill-defined world, a world not defined by social conditioning has less mental interpretive structure, it does not need justificatory sense making.

To walk toward freedom is to dissolve world version and do away with the illusory certainty. It is to stand metaphorically naked, a tiny being, against the backdrop of an awesome cosmos. This is reality. It is not the complex socio-political world version which humans appear to be enamoured of.  The world created in the minds of man, is inaccurate as regards its perceived importance within the cosmic context. Tiny beings deem themselves much more important and magnificent than they actually are. From time to time nature reminds mankind of its insignificance, those lessons are forgotten, and man carries on just as self-important and as self-absorbed as ever. The “certainty” of socio-political world version is tantamount though misplaced and inaccurate. 

If you want to be free, then you will have to end this apparent certainty of the socio-political world version and begin to see life for what is, accepting as you do the scale of your beingness. It is not to everyone’s taste to wake up from the demanding “must have” of the common illusion. Strangely if you don’t go to Santorini on vacation, can’t therefore post snaps on the internet or brag about it to friends, the universe does not implode. Why it does not do this is a complete mystery to me!

As it is phrased elsewhere one has to stop the world in order to get off. And it is only when you have gotten off that you can discern with clarity the extent of madness. Then one sees just how much assumption and supposition goes into building the apparent certainty of the common illusion. Once this certainty ends, questions begin, and learning starts. It isn’t comfortable. It is starting to be real.

Towards Freedom – Power

It may seem a little out of place to start discussing power in the context of freedom and equanimity, but it is necessary. Until you have more than a notion of your relationship to power and with power, it is difficult to have balance. Power of course has many meanings, there are many types of power and it comes in all shades. There is power in the sense of dominance, power in the sense of ability, power in knowledge and power as in material plane enforcement. Power is a vast topic itself. Some people have power, that can be positional or organisational power, it can be personal power, it can be muscular power or sexual power. There is the saying that power corrupts, though it need not, it often does. Humanity has a bit of a thing for and about societal power; it has a status hang up.

If you wield power in the sense of political or corporate power, it is unlikely that you will have equanimity and peace. This is because people are so often fighting for power. Even if your powerful position is secure, by the very nature of that position you will be required to make decisions. Those decisions are a responsibility of positional power and rarely do they come with serenity and peace. It is not the fate of most people to learn what high positional power means and those so called are in for a bit of a tough time. All societies have leaders, and these are of varying ability and quality. Some seek power with a thirst. And it is many that are so drawn who end up abusing power. Power has many traps associated for those drawn to it.

In the context of freedom, it is useful to figure out what has power over you and then adjust that situation. Things that have power over you can be as simple as arachnophobia. If a simple spider makes you come out in a sweat, then you are not free of spiders. A tiny creature can evoke a massive drama. It is not the spider’s fault, it is your reaction. For whatever reason you have a fear and a drama associated in your mind with spiders. Chances are this is disproportionate. Few spiders attack humans just because there is nothing better on the TV to watch. People have hang ups about a host of things and this restricts their liberty. Anything which can evoke drama upsets balance.  If small creatures have power over you, then what does that say about your level of mental control and balance?

Similarly, because of co-dependency, there are many people who have power over you. Some will go out of their way to manipulate you into a dependency and if you are so oriented you might even seek such people out, whether consciously or not. There are a multitude of buttons available to others for the pressing of. If at the pressing of a button off you trot into drama, then that button and the finger thereupon, have power over you. It can evoke drama and lack of control, you are off balance and flailing around. It is in this dependency and co-dependency that people give their power away to others. If you want to be free, then you do not need other beings having emotional power over you.

Many of the things that have power over you are to be found in the truck load of baggage which most adults carry with them. There may be shame, wounds, ambitions, unresolved conflict, grudges, guilt, vengeance, fear, unrequited love etc… The list is often long and until you have clarity on where the button comes from, it will stand proud and beckoning. It is in unpacking the baggage and by examination that one can begin to understand and slowly loosen the power over which is held. To be relatively free of buttons is to have more freedom generally. One is not beholden to the past and the narratives of it, which if we bear in mind the likelihood of selective perception are in any case often inaccurate. Memories and history are prevalent members of the set of buttons which are the indicators of something that has power over.  A skilled manipulator can spot these a mile off and press them at will.

If you seek freedom, then you must defend it. This may sound ever so slightly bellicose, but one has to fight to extract oneself from situations in which things, people and ideas have power over you. The past has power over most and reorienting the past in such a manner as to be free of it, is no easy task. The common dream advertises that building memories for your dotage is a good thing, but who can really live in a sepia or rose-tinted world? It is not real. It is imagined and unreliable of recall. To build “memories” is to never be free of them. This is perhaps slightly radical but do consider this. If you live in a mish mash recollection of the past, what do you make of the present, if you even notice it all? To be bound thus, is to not experience the now.

I have used bound, shackles and manacles already in this text, emotive words of slavery and imprisonment. It is up to you to figure out if I am by metaphor over egging the pudding. Until the duvet of illusion is pulled off, there is a cosy familiarity which can seemingly be justified.

Of course, in any material society there will be people and organisations that have temporal power over the circumstances of your life. Short of going off into the wild, this will always be the case. The freedom of complete anarchy is not currently possible in large society, this need not impinge overly on your state of mind, your mental freedom. One can see it for what it is, do the minimum necessary to be a “good” citizen and not feel overly oppressed by the apparatus of state. Within this framework it is possible not to succumb to ideological power over. People will do whatever they do, they will think whatever and opine ad infinitum. None of this need impact on your own equanimity. One does not have to agree, or argue or succumb. If your own mind is clear it is not overly perturbed by the folly and behaviours of others. Unless they are directly intent on harming or manipulating you, they are not direct threats. In keeping your centre, you can rise above it. If you cannot resist the pull of hive or herd mind, then it has power over you, which means you are not yet free of it.

As you begin to see though your own façade, understand your self and get close to your true nature, you will be acquiring power in the sense of knowledge. That knowledge pertains not only to you as a being but to other beings. This knowledge then opens up choices, possibilities for you which were hitherto not available, you have more personal power and more freedom. Freedom is in your choice as to how you respond to whatever life throws at you. There will be a reduced rigidity and an enhanced flexibility of living. With more personal power comes the temptation to exploit that power and perhaps use situations and others to your “advantage”. With all growth in personal power comes temptation. In the absence there are few choices. When there is a plethora of choices available some will not be life enhancing. If you are so inclined, you may use your personal power to exert power over others. As alluded to above that way is not freedom. How can one be free if one enslaves? It is not possible.

I have briefly touched on power here. Learning to handle new found personal power is a part of the walk to freedom. Keeping oneself grounded and developing humility offsets the temptation of power, which can enslave. In this sense knowledge is power which without wisdom and discernment can be a dangerous thing.

Towards Freedom – Starting to Wake Up

So far, I have written about freedom, equanimity, talking and world version. But before you are even ready to accept that the day to day reality is incomplete and that there might be something attainable beyond the nine to five, the career and the mortgage, you have to at least stir in the slumber of routine. It is necessary to sense dissatisfaction, and a level of dissatisfaction that does not pass after a good old moan and a whinge. I am pretty sure that dissatisfaction is planetary and also relative. Many put up with their lot with more than a little moaning, life is unfair and that is that.  It takes something to go beyond a stirring and into some kind of action. Having had enough is a common sentiment, which after a rant and a rage, is partially forgotten until the next time.

Western society likes to think of itself as free and there are indeed material freedoms. These freedoms to congregate and express are fine in principle and allowed to a degree.  One can choose from a selection of allowed life templates and eke a life with these. If the selection errs from the consensual norm, woe betide. But we do have hard won material freedoms, they are relative and statutory. They only go so far, and this is perhaps understandable for someone has to govern. Of late state intervention has increased, these freedoms are eroded by legislature and in the name of practicality and safety. Too much licence can cause chaos. Not everyone is sufficiently responsible to have too much material freedom. But although these “political” freedoms are; freedom of thinking is much less common. People are not, in this context, free to think and be. What constrains them are their fellow men. They through conditions of what should be, select only those templates for life and manner of thinking which complies with the average, the mean. Only when there is recognised genius is significant errancy from norm “permitted”. Although we may profess that we are free, actually we are not. We are constrained and confined by societal consensus. This creates a world version which is of a concrete and fixed nature. To question this is heresy. And history tells much on the fate of the heretic and the apostate. Whilst legislature may allow, society does not.  In this respect we are kidding ourselves about freedom. It sounds nice, but in reality, it is more than partially absent. To see this with clarity is to go one step beyond moaning and whinging and towards some kind of action. If one is “happy” grudgingly or otherwise to accept the consensual societal world version, then there is no need to wake up. If with every fibre of your being you find this limiting, then wake up you must.

To move even partially beyond the slumber and the common dream is not easy. For it tempts one back with cosy pillows, nice pay cheques and foreign holidays. It draws one into the electronic media, the entertainment, the societal opium, the new world Sauvignon Blanc and the thumbs ups of social media. It takes some courage to pull away from the cloying and to go cold turkey from the common dream. In fact, it is not possible to go cold turkey. One has to slowly ease oneself out of constraint and towards freedom. 

That urge to wake up to the lack of freedom may not last long, the snooze button on the alarm clock beckons.  But once one has had such an urge it is never again completely forgotten, suppressed maybe, but gone altogether, no. Despite the outward projections shared in the coffee house, the plastic Instagram posts and over the dinner table; I see a quiet desperation and lack of direction. Life for many has no purpose and it is very much a going through the motions. Sure, people put on a brave face but there are cracks in the façade. If we are forever photoshopping the narrative of our lives, who are we kidding? Who buys it? If we have fake news, do we not also have fake lives?

A first step to waking up is very simple. It is called being honest. Totally radical I know but unless you are honest about where you are in life and how you feel about it, nothing is ever going to change. And despite the efforts of Hollywood and Walt Disney it is highly unlikely that you will ever meet a fairy godmother with a magic wand. If you want to wake up, then it is something that you must do by yourself and for yourself.

In this respect doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results is insanity as defined by Einstein. Yet is this not, with minor variation, what most of us do?

If it is your fate to wake up, at least a little, then it is best to get on with it. Why else would you be reading this? Should you be entirely content in the quiet desperation you would not be here today, reading.  Many need to gird their loins so to speak, to try to understand freedom from a theoretical or abstract perspective. What would it look like? What are the guarantees? Can I get my money back if I don’t like it? Even thinking about it is a good thing but it is not the same as doing it.

In this respect there are plenty of ways of approach, some tried and tested. It starts with doing something different. This is the only way to start to break the loop.

If you are sensing an urge to throw back the cosy duvet of social consensus, then the time to act is now or around now.  There may be entire other worlds, different perceptions and an expansion of consciousness awaiting. If the routine however has you, then it will not let go all on its own.

Outside the mainstream, the societal consensus world version, there is a great wealth of written knowledge. It is of varying quality. This literature can help to kick start the walk towards freedom and equanimity. The key to this is honesty. Note that honesty differs markedly from coruscating self-criticism, a form of prevalent negativity in our time. Honesty is objective and balanced, this is not easy of achievement early on. For there is something about the outward photoshopping of life which creates a negative inner counterpoise. Living a lie is very hard work, yet in one way or another many do just this. In façade world one must ever appear more shiny. In our heady times of spin and public relations it is pretty difficult to recognise truth even should it slap you in the face with a wet fish. Getting toward honesty is a step towards being real. It peels back the comforting duvet of illusion and if you are persistent, you can inhale deeply of the fresh dawn air.