The Path to Liberation is Love




Hey there,

The Buddha once said, "My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience. My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship. My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation."

I was contemplating what The Buddha meant by liberation. I think he was talking abou the type of freedom that we can only touch through our own experience. The freedom from added suffering, that comes from grasping on to what makes us feel something positive, and from pushing away what is uncomfortable, painful. Freedom from wanting the reality of this moment to be different than it is, and from believing that we need to be anything other than who we are. That another place, another time, and other relationships and circumstances would make everything better.

I know it sounds easier said than done. And it is. One can only experience this type of freedom through personal practice of inner work. And inner work is hard work. It is messy and dark, and at times it will bring us face to face with parts of ourselves that we have worked hard to keep out of sight. But making space for them, and exploring new ways of relating to them is also freeing. And that is worth the pain.

The practice of meditation involves sitting on our cushions and breathing consciously, but that is just the beginning. The most transformational part of it might be choosing to remain aware day after day, moment after moment, incorporating into our lives what we discover through practice. A healthy meditation practice translates into aligning each action with our deepest values, with the persons we are or wish to become, acknowledging the impact that we have in the world and the lives of others.

It is in this practice that we can free ourselves from unskillful behavior. That we can train our minds to stop the clinging and the pushing away, as we choose to stay with the experience of each moment as is - be it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. By observing the true nature of impermanence of all inner and outer phenomena, we learn to accept and allow all experience to complete its cycle, liberating ourselves from the resistance that gives rise to so much suffering.

I find particularly helpful when I am experiencing resistance or unwise desire to ask myself, "what can this situation (or feeling/emotion/challenge/person) reveal to me?"; rather than assigning judgments of good and bad, likes, and dislikes. When we realize that everything that we go through carries a lesson and that we can use them in favor of our growth, there's very little space left for resistance, self-pity, self-flagellation, blaming, and regret.

To be truly free, we also need to become aware of conceptual truths that permeate our narratives - both personal and collective. We must challenge these said truths and ask ourselves how they might be leading us to constructed beliefs that are limiting, imprisoning, and destructive. Uncovering one's Self from these constructs leads to the path of radical acceptance of who we are whole. When we can fully accept ourselves, we are able to extend that openness to others. And that - the freedom to be just as they are - is the most precious gift that we can give to another. That is the highest form of love.

"You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free."

- Thich Nhat Hanh


We uncover freedom not because Buddha, God, or someone else told us what that is about, but because we have experienced it ourselves - what, in truth, is precisely what Buddha told us to do: to practice and experience it ourselves. So, in your journey of crossing the river, can you let go of the weight of the narratives you've learned to carry? Can you explore your own ideas of success, wealth, abundance? Can you reassess your relationship with your feelings and emotions, and ask yourself what you are not welcoming in for fear of being unworthy or shameful? And what is it that you are seeking to feel?

Today, I encourage you to think about freedom in this way. I invite you to offer this type of love to the people in your life, to strangers, and to yourself. Love freely, and love fully.

Love,

Ana Liz

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