Freedom is being able to come all the way in and go all the way out.
This is equally true for human life in general and dealing with painful emotions in particular.
True freedom comes not from doing whatever the ego/mind wants, but from following the Heart/Living Spirit.
When we follow the Heart, we are living from passion/compassion, rather from conditioning.
If we are free, we follow the Heart’s wisdom wherever it leads us.
After graduating from Princeton, rather than going to law school, which I’d been planning for years, I moved to California to pursue spiritual awakening. For the next several years, my heart led me to embrace a radical spiritual path which involved constant change and living on faith without money.
Then, my heart guided me step-by-step to come back into the mainstream culture, eventually being married, owning a home, and running a nonprofit. Since, I was following my heart, I didn’t feel any less free than when I had no structure and ongoing responsibilities.
Then, my heart’s guidance was to leave the nonprofit I’d founded and my marriage, move to Mount Shasta, and guide spiritual retreats. I am grateful that I was free and unattached enough to let everything go. Living here is an amazing place…plus I met and married the great love of my life, Alex.
I do my best to receive whatever life offers as a gift and be present for all facets of life, including challenging or boring moments.
To be free it’s important to avoid the extremes of:
- Embracing spirituality/meditation but letting fear stop us from fully engaging in human life.
- Being so immersed in human life, that we forget who we truly are and our happiness/peace become dependent on how our human life is going.
One of the most challenging aspects of this human life is dealing with painful emotions.
I spent many years doing “spiritual bypass,” using meditation and spiritual concepts to avoid feeling the massive amount of grief and self-judgment I was carrying.
Then, with the help of a wonderful counselor, I realized that the way home to my Self wasn’t by getting away from the pain; it was in going into the heart of the pain.
My realization was that it’s vital to be willing and able to meet the full range of human emotions.
But, if we’re free, we’re not lost in or identified with human suffering. We can always access our eternal Self.
Based on my experience, my recommendation is that when painful emotions are triggered to:
- Notice that an emotional reaction has been triggered
- Be grateful for the gift of awareness
- Relax as deeply as you can into the feeling of gratitude
- With grateful awareness, relax into the place in your body where the emotions are most strongly lodged.
With this approach, we are exercising our freedom to go all the way out of the emotional pain (into grateful awareness), then to bring that awareness into the heart of the pain.
Nothing is truly gained by avoiding painful emotions or any aspect of human life. When we bring our full grateful awareness into what is, things naturally move in a positive direction. And we live in freedom.