Every so often, I get asked by someone if I would help someone they know who is struggling but adamant they are not open to a spiritual approach. There are those who have been struggling for years, yet unwilling to explore a different way of finding a way out. They seem to think that spirituality is impractical and that they only want “practical” help. They belief that if they ‘go spiritual’ they would ignore their problems and then their problems would escalate – and they would end up losing everything else they have. What they fail to see is that the spiritual approach can be the most effective way of solving problems in the practical world.
Tag Archive for: Freedom
Almost everyone has had moments in their lives when they feel as if they have run out of resources, solutions, answers. This may be paired with symptoms of anxiety, depression, addictive behaviours or self-beating patterns. The bottom line is, you feel stuck, trapped in a place where you don’t want to be, and you can’t see a way out. In this state, it is easy to conclude that you have nothing left.
It is an illusion that you have exhausted everything you have. It is simply a state you find yourself in, and it is just one perspective. Depending on the angle of your perception, that can be true or that can be untrue. With a slight shift in perspective, you can shift into a whole different reality where suddenly you can see and access so much more.
During meditation a few days ago, I had a vision that left a profound impression on me. I saw a small, pitiful creature lying on its side on the ground. It looked a bit like a newborn puppy – hairless, pale, eyes barely opened, and as though it was born deformed such that it struggled to even stand up on its legs. But what struck me wasn’t its physical helplessness. I could see through into the creature’s inner world of mental anguish. It was trapped in a state of suffering, capable only of repeating a series of debilitating thoughts that reflected its limited field of perception. The thoughts were about how restricted its world was, how it could never seem to get out of this nightmare into which it was cruelly born, and how helpless it was.
One of our greatest desires is to be free and spontaneous. If you look at most personal and social problems, you will see that somewhere along the way we were striving to be free from our physical, emotional and mental constraints. To be able to express ourselves freely and spontaneously, to be freed from our fearful beliefs and the emotional pains that grip us – these desires are what sprouted the whole self-help and human potential movement.
But the desire to be free and spontaneous can become a trap. In our efforts to get unstuck, we can lead ourselves to a place of even greater stuckness. This does not mean, however, that we shouldn’t strive to be free, for I believe that freeing ourselves from feeling trapped is our spiritual purpose. The journey of unshackling ourselves is both exciting and rewarding, to be savoured throughout our lives, as every bit more freedom we gain moves us closer to becoming our ultimate self.
Someone once asked what inspired spiritual beauty for me. I replied that it is when I see vastness – i.e. a huge monument, a magnificent mountain, a sweeping horizon, a large body of water, etc. We ruminated about why seeing something huge would trigger our sense of spiritual identity. The person suggested that perhaps it reminds us of how small we are and amidst such grandness we are forced to respect the omnipotence of the higher power. I wasn’t sure if it resonated fully with me and I’ve been thinking about it since then.
In my work as well as my personal growth, I often examine how our fears entrap us in a false sense of imprisonment. We fear expressing ourselves, making courageous decisions, saying no to those who’re abusive to us, standing up for ourselves.… because we might leave ourselves exposed to judgements and rejection. The cost of asserting ourselves and exercising our freedom is the shame and embarassment of being shown that what we do is not acceptable to others.
What is it about being accepted by others that make it such a powerful drive that stop us from living a happy life? Reading this, it may sound ridiculous that we short-change ourselves so readily to gain the approval of others, yet it happens more often than we’re comfortable admitting to. This feared unacceptability can come in various forms – e.g. being told we’re not good enough, being persecuted, leaving someone unhappy.