Freedom is a powerful word. It is perhaps one of the most cherished words in the English language. Certainly it is so here in America, where we value our freedom more than anything. Yet what does it mean, to be free?
At the level most people relate to the notion of freedom, it means the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we wish: to choose our work or career, our friends, our politics, our religion, to choose where we live.
Yet based on my life experience, I have a very different understanding of freedom. At its most vital level, it means the freedom to be, to be the beautiful, conscious person you are. It is to be inwardly free, not restricted or bound by any mental or emotional limitation, not subject to any emotional reactivity. Being free means feeling relaxed, at peace, and open in each and every moment. This was the experience of the woman at Esalen during her moment of awakening.
So, how do you get to this state of inner freedom, the freedom simply to be? The quickest path I know of, and the subject of this book, is to undergo the shift in perception which leads directly to inner freedom. It is seeing, like the woman at Esalen, that you are not your story. You are not any story. You are not your psychological and emotional history, nor are you your self-image. You are not your cultural, ethnic, national, social, or religious story.
And what is a story? It is anything we think or say to ourselves or others to describe what has happened, is happening, or is going to happen in the future. Some stories are true, and some are fictional, but either way they are still just stories, a collection of words inside our heads.
Problems arise and our freedom is hindered when the story defines us, when we derive our identity, our sense of meaning from it, as in: "Things shouldn't be this way," "That person is a bad person," "I am totally alone, loved by no one," "I was abandoned/abused as a child," or "I fear God's judgment."
All your stories, memories, experiences, have shaped your personality but they are still only that: your stories. They may have been real once, or seemed real, but are definitely not real now. They are an illusory world existing between your ears, in the form of fleeting thoughts, beliefs, pictures, and ideas of "self," with corresponding feelings and emotions in your body.
When conflict or suffering arises, or when your buttons are pushed, it is because a person or an event, real or imagined, contradicts your view or expectation--your "story"--about the way things should be, or ought to be. The conflict is experienced as a disturbing feeling or emotion, whether of anxiety, anger, fear, or something else in your body.
However, the upsetting feelings and emotions only exist because of the stories feeding them, keeping them alive. And the stories, thoughts, and beliefs are always changing. They come and they go. However, when you are not holding onto any story in your mind, but are simply very aware and relaxed in the present, your emotional state is always one of ease, harmony, and flow. This is a very important point to understand if you are interested in finding true inner peace.
To know this, to find your identity not in stories, not in your body, mind, or personality, but in the moment-by-moment flow of being itself, is true freedom. Then we feel inspired to write a new, conscious story for ourselves, a story which works by supporting our own and others' well-being. We begin, literally, to infuse our lives, relationships, and work with this ever-new consciousness and the positive, creative stories flowing from it. As a result, our power to manifest what we truly need and want is greatly magnified, and living itself becomes a lot more fun.
(from The Introduction)
The teaching itself is simple. It is to grasp that while we are a story-telling people, the stories we tell come and go, they change, but we
, in our essence, are always here... (Introduction)
Many people assume that awakening is synonymous with freedom from desire, but it is actually not being attached to desire. People who are awake are still living, breathing, feeling human beings. They still have desires and preferences, but the difference is they are not attached to them... (Chapter Three)
Some spiritual teachings support the idea of getting rid of the ego, even "annihilating" it to become enlightened or free. Yet, upon awakening, we find that the ego is still here. Indeed, in terms of conscious creation, your ego will become your ally... (Chapter Four)
Money is the number-one issue people fight about in their relationships. In the face of the marketplace of daily life, it requires nothing less than awakening to be able to let go of worrying about money... (Chapter Seven)