I won’t kill you (wah wah) with any suspense; here’s “The Question”:
Are you here to go deeper into your awareness of total freedom or not?
Some people deepen and expand their experience of living in total freedom, of Being the Whole, of Truth, no matter what their life circumstances, and others don’t.
We either use our circumstances (our stories) to go deeper, or we use them to defend and protect our perceived sense of security; a kind of living death.
You will not necessarily see the evidence of your answer to The Question in the specifics of your life’s circumstances, nor, relatedly, in your choices of how you spend your time (whether in a monastery or in a cubicle), but in the continuing deepening of your life experience and thus your perception of the degree of freedom you experience in your life through those circumstances.
- “I’ve got a kid to take care of”
- “I have to work 3 jobs”
- “I am my father’s caretaker”
- “I don’t have any money”
- “I don’t have any free time”
These are descriptions of circumstances, they are the story. And they’re also often justifications people use to stay the same, to not go deeper. But the storyline is largely irrelevant. Whether or not we actively use those circumstances, no matter what they are, to go deeper, to find the truth of who we are and to live that, is the critical variable.
In the past I’ve certainly been the person who’s looked at other people’s lives and thought, “Geez, if I had that much money and free time I’d move to India and study meditation too…” etc. But here’s the thing I’ve discovered: it doesn’t matter how much “free” time you have, how much money you have, or what your work entails—the question is never What are the circumstances?, the question is Will I use the circumstances?
Perhaps surprisingly, while all this is related to prioritizing, it’s not about prioritizing at all. It’s about the degree we express our inherent desire for growth.
What is the impetus for what we might label “self growth”? The desire to grow is something we all are born with; it’s innate. There is nothing alive that doesn’t grow. Whether it’s a weed, a nestling, algae or a human being, part of the definition of being alive IS growth and development. But some of us become confused, whether that confusion is attributable to childhood experiences, some other kind of training or plain old enculturation; we can stifle the urge for growth until it is masked and almost deadened to our awareness. But we still feel it. We feel it in a restlessness, a dissatisfaction or a wondering, “Is this all there is?”.
Growth can be defined in many ways, and certainly the physical growth of a puppy can be differentiated from psychological and/or spiritual growth (or whatever you want to call it), but what I’m talking about here is the perhaps unique human desire to expand our awareness of what is true, to test perceived limits and to discover who we really are under all of our beliefs, training and learning (or unlearning).
I notice that no matter how much I think I want to stay in a space of of perceived security, I can’t. Moving outside of and challenging the concept of security might mean an outward change, or it may simply involve a minute internal shift. Either way, I’ve got to see what’s under the thing I thought meant safety. Because my underlying commitment is in favor of growth and I know that the concept of “safety” itself is a lie (I’m talking psychological safety, not seatbelts). I can’t count the times someone has said to me, “You’ve got the perfect setup here—why would you _______?” (fill in the blank with move, change jobs, buy that, sell that, take that on, give that up etc.). Inherent. Desire. For. Growth. This is not simply getting bored and addictively seeking new entertainment, this is the deep inner desire for Truth. While some people may appear more “adventurous” than others, I think it’s primarily just all a matter of how much we’re invested in keeping things the same so that we retain some perceived level of “security” (although this is difficult to determine from the outside, from circumstances; some people’s perceived sense of security lies in the actions of constant change or of defying conventional outward signs of security).
At some point, most of us aren’t able to get around the obvious fact that we all die (or the human form dies, in any case), no matter what we do. It’s from that understanding that we can, if we’re willing to, realize there IS no ultimate security, which is an ideal and fertile expanse for the innate “growth and development” instinct to come through, or rather to be acted upon rather than resisted.
Will we hold on? Or will we let go into space and grow? Sometimes growth is not a conscious choice. Sometimes it’s forced upon us. Often it’s forced upon us. Losing a job, divorce, the death of a loved one… something we would never have consciously chosen enters our lives and we must disassociate our perception of ourselves from what we thought was keeping us safe or happy or even alive, and we discover our belief was false, that we can not only survive in circumstances we previously thought meant death, but we can thrive, expand, develop and grow.
In the last year, I’ve moved from working several jobs, constantly auditioning and teaching classes, having almost zero “free time” to, well, none of that. I still do lots of things, but anyone observing my life would recognize the slowing down in pace and decrease in the number of activities I’m committed to daily that’s evolved over the seven months or so; in summary, I now have a lot more “free time”. And guess what I’ve noticed? Nothing’s changed in the growth department. Even though I potentially have a lot more “time” to go deeper, to study, to meditate and do all of the things that can indeed support spiritual awakening and increasing conscious awareness, this continues to happen at the same fairly consistent rate as when I was extremely busy. Why? Because for a very long time I have utilized and now simply continued to utilize whatever circumstances are there, no matter what they are, to go deeper. “Free time” (or any other circumstance), I can assure you, is not the X factor; willingness, often in the face of fear, to acknowledge and act on the inherent desire for growth IS.
I never really parsed this out before, and I don’t think I could say “using my circumstances for growth” was a conscious decision per say, it just seems to me to be a natural result of the realization of the futility of the search for security (or the subsequent maintenance of that security) that freed my inherent desire for growth to become active in every area of my life, in every moment. While it’s sometimes a three steps back and one step forward process, as I often “forget” that I don’t need to shield myself when my ego goes into “red alert protect” mode, I always come back to the awareness that I’m here to expand my awareness and live in more and more freedom.
Let’s be clear though: the only expansion or growth that ever happens is in conscious awareness and thus can only be a type of ego expansion. Total freedom—which always means psychological freedom—inherently exists and is available to us in every moment, whether we are aware of it or not.
But this is the game we are here to play: how free can I be in this life?
How much awareness of freedom can I experience and thus live? What we do with that awareness of freedom is express (truthfully, we express either way, and on a very basic level, we are always expressing either life/growth—love—or fear). We express what comes through us in the moment, which, if we are realizing our ultimate freedom, is “who we really are”. There is no “self”, in a concrete way, the concept of self only exists in time, in a compilation of stacked moments and habits, like the crazy-house of the caddisfly, who creates a shell-home from detritus it finds in its environment.
Do we free our inclination toward growth or do we inhibit it? Will we express fear? Or life and growth? The expression of life and growth, of love, that happens through our form in every moment is the only true “us” there is. Whatever we express, we do so within the circumstances of our lives, not because of or in spite of them. Which means that expansion of our awareness of inherent freedom is always available to us, no matter what the circumstances. LiveLove&BU friends.
Image credit thisiscollosal.com