By Kim Weeber.
Freedom. Independence or interdependence? Has anybody been reflecting on these concepts over the last few days? I have been visiting family in Pennsylvania where we watched the annual Fourth of July parade, followed by a delightful family picnic gathering.
I could feel the stirrings of “patriotism” as people around me clapped for the World War II veterans and fire department members, as well as the scout troops. This is how I was socialized when I was young. This is how my family of origin is still socialized.
What does freedom mean to me now? Certainly there are relative aspects of freedom and lack of freedom which are part of our human society. I have been in the fortunate position to experience more freedom in many ways than other people have, and I am grateful for what I have had.
But what about a deeper freedom? A deeper freedom from suffering which has nothing to do with the political climate or my childhood Fourth of July celebration? This is the type of freedom which most interests me. The relative freedom which I have experienced as a middle-class White person in the USA is unreliable. Circumstances can change at any time, as they did for some of my ancestors, and have for many people today.
What interests me is this question of finding true freedom from suffering – how to understand it and practice with it. And I will admit that this can seem easier during a quiet meditation than during the messiness of daily life. Especially when confronted with the challenges of some family relationships!
My job is to keep noticing what is true and real about my experience in this moment. What am I sensing, and how am I reacting? Did she really just do that? Can I start to experience through my senses more directly and immediately and get less caught in my perceptions about what is happening? I noticed these particular sights, sounds, emotions and thoughts. They all arise in awareness, both pleasant and unpleasant.
Can big awareness become more of the primary experience, so that it holds all the seeming challenges? Can awareness be expansive enough to hold every experience with equanimity? Can compassion be strong enough to meet every circumstance with an open heart?
It feels like the deepest freedom is independence from needing people to act in a certain way or having circumstances happen in a certain way. It is freedom to rest with things as they are. To be fully accepting of things as they are. Even when they appear to be imperfect. It is to rest in the interdependence of the fullness of life.
It is the equanimity which allows people to be as they are, and allows life to be as it is. Each time I come back to visit my family I get a chance to see how much equanimity there is versus how much reactivity. Every year I get to practice compassion for myself for the places that I get stuck and judgmental. And every year I get to notice that my mind gradually becomes more and more open. I get to experience more of the interdependent flow of life and how “I” am carried along.
I am grateful for this practice which allows a bit more freedom each year. True freedom. Freedom from requiring life to be other than it is.
Wishing everyone peace, happiness, true freedom and equanimity.