Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It was the late, great Janis Joplin who wailed the liberating lyric: FREEDOM’S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.” I do not remember much else about the song, though I clearly remember the feeling of the singer behind it. It would be easy to dismiss her as a tragic heroine of a bygone age, and yet she left an indelible mark on a now aging generation. Though I was relatively young when “Me and Bobby Magee” commanded the airwaves, those words seemed to captivate my attention in a way that initiates an inquiry I was clearly meant to undertake. At the time I thought the statement was the forlorn sentiment of a drugged out depressive. Now I recognize the spiritual significance in a declaration I was born to embody.

The past several years of my life have been marked by losses of many kinds. The loss of a home, of a career, of a spouse, of numerous friends and family members. The loss of youth and of a certain level of physical flexibility. The loss of roles I thought I was in the world to play. I have lost a sense of being identified with many things I once clung so dearly to, including a vast number of perceptions and ideologies. With every loss there was grief and sadness, chaos and confusion. There was a deep sense of no longer knowing who I was, or who I am meant to be. That was indeed a scary place to dwell. I tried to distract myself in a myriad of ways, until I finally topped long enough and began to feel beneath the chaos a growing sense of clarity and spaciousness. I began to taste the beginnings of a freedom I had always sought to claim. I guess I erroneously thought that freedom would come from acquiring the things I sought to have, and from stabilizing the self I strove so hard to become. I thought freedom would come from addition, and yet I painfully learned that liberation actualized is the way of subtraction. The great surprise was that the more I seemed to lose, the freer I began to feel. Bondage was the baggage I myself was choosing to carry. It wasn’t so much the thing as it was the attachment to the thing. Sometimes that took the form of material possessions. Sometimes it came via the outworn relationships I tenaciously held onto. Often it came in the habitual ways in which I saw myself, and from which I interacted with my world. My own perceptions were my prison. My mental habits were my hell. In the deep recesses of my inner being there was a constant questioning of who I would be without this or that, him or her. If I no longer had this role to play, how would I show up, and what would I become? Wanting desperately to be free of who I had been, I was also too afraid to let go and to trust in the self that was longing so to be. And so loss became a relentless teacher and a strangely freeing friend.

In the ultimate sense, nothing is ever lost. It is for us humans to embrace and to embody that relative truth until it becomes an actualized experience. Everyone I have ever said goodbye to still dwell within me in a very real and intimate way. The memories I have of days and situations gone by are merely an internal glance away. The identities I no longer choose to cling to have given way to a spaciousness and a serenity that is both liberating and transformative. Those old identities are now like favored friends that took me on a sacred pathway I needed to tread, and then left me at the appropriate time and place.

And now, without a personality identified “who” to cling to, I am finally free. Without attachment, everything we fear losing is recognized as already ours. When there is nothing left to lose, we realize we are what we have tried so hard to gain. And realizing I already am what I have tried to become, I am deeply, truly, profoundly free. Freedom really is a word for nothing left to lose. I can never loose who I am, and that is all that truly matters. Every perceived loss is turned to gain when the chains of identity and attachment are loosed. And I have come to know that freedom is the most precious of all human virtues. Perhaps I would not have known that without the multiple experiences of loss I have grown through. Who can say? I only know that the freedom I feel today is a gift beyond what can be lost, and for that, I am truly grateful.


Thursday, July 1, 2010


Perhaps the best advice I ever received was delivered abruptly in two short words: STOP BITCHING.
The message was at once offending and liberating. It came from someone many years ago that I barely knew. While I have no recollection of what it was I was apparently droning on about, I have a vivid memory of what the admonition felt like. I was extremely grateful we were conversing on the phone, because the flush on my face would have certainly given me away. I had most certainly been stopped in my tracks, and even though I was shocked to be reprimanded by someone I knew so fleetingly, I also got that he was absolutely right. I recall hurriedly ending the conversation, and I must admit to avoiding this individual while we were still traveling in the same circles. Yet all these years later I am not only recalling the wisdom of this simple and somewhat salty advice, I am also sharing it with those of you who choose to hear it:
The greatest of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s own response in any given circumstance. As we celebrate this countries birth as an independent nation, I connect personally to the innate call to freedom and to the liberty that is intrinsic to not only Americans, but to all living beings. We all long to be free. While that may look different to each of us, I believe it feels much the same. The masculine principle is freedom, and the feminine quality is love. These comprise the very fabric of our being. They are the nature of our Souls and the dynamics driving our emergence. As we evolve spiritually, the ability to freely choose to respond with love to the circumstances and happenings in our human experiences grows and matures. The more we take responsibility for our own personal consciousness, with all its programming, wounding, triggers, and perceptions, the better able we are to respond to life rather than to react. We develop the capacity to remain free within, even when there may seem to be binding circumstances in the without. For all the New Thought bravado about co-creating our life experiences, there is also a great deal of complaining and blaming about things that seem to be happening to us. We really can’t have it both ways. Either we are responsible for what is occurring in our lives, if only at the level if the Soul, or we are living in a Universe of random occurrences. As much as we may try and control the externals of our lives, we are not at a collective point of evolution where we are very adept at this business of conscious co-creation. And yet we remain free as to how we respond to the situations and occurrences that comprise our days and sometimes trouble our nights. True freedom isn’t always getting our way in the world. True freedom is viewing what is happening through the lens of spiritual vision and awakened awareness. Spiritual maturity recognizes that though the personality self will always want to have its way, the Soul knows there is another way that is transcendent of our petty demands and insatiable wants. The Soul doesn’t need to wrong the antics of the self. It is the often awkward way in which we approach our autonomy. It simply takes the lead responsively as we begin to listen to the part of ourselves that is already free. This is the inner voice that instinctively blesses rather than bitches. That compassions rather than complains. That uses the power of the word constructively, rather than combatively.
Independence is the ability to stand strong in the decision to freely choose a loving response, regardless of what all those around you may be choosing. Free will is a gift of our Creation, and yet we mis-use this commodity each and every day. Though the critical mass may be joined in a chorus of how bad things are and how doomed we are yet to be, resist the temptation to join in the resistant rhetoric that only begets more of the same. Remember that the words that are descriptive are also prescriptive. Hear what you are saying, internally and in conversation. Feel the sensations in your body that let you know you are mis-using your words. Recognize when you are bound in the bondage of a false belief. Take ownership of the choices that leave you imprisoned in past perceptions. Actively court that inner call to freedom. The Universe is for us. In fact It is what we are. And yet we are forever free to choose our response in any given moment.
Perhaps you’d like to adopt a simple yet unforgettable mantra that frees the spirit and uplifts the Soul. It is a declaration of independence that liberates as well as it unites. It will undoubtedly set you free as it so often does for me. If I find myself lost in the drone of my own verbal meanderings, I hear the voice of a long ago Arab angel: