“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound. And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?” -Khalil Gibran
Freedom is not perfect control.
Imagine your perfect day. How would you wake up? What would you eat? Who would you see? What would you do? Imagine that everyday was like this - and you were but a leaf on the wind, able to pursue whatever arises with elegance and joy. Is this freedom? No. This is fantasy. The external world cannot be shaped to your liking. Moreover, the desire to shape indicates a lack of contentment with the way things are. But what if things are miserable? Should you not seek to ameliorate your conditions? Of course - but don’t make your freedom depend on it. Make your freedom unconditioned - and rise above your circumstances.
But to rise above, we need to fly - and sometimes we feel too heavy to fly. So what are the chains that Khalil says weigh us down? What beliefs have we burdened ourselves with in our youth that no longer serve us?
“The idea is, you know, you live from moment to moment...this moment decides the next step. You shouldn’t be five steps ahead, only the very next one. And if you can keep to that, you’re always alright.” -Henry Miller
The idea of being five steps ahead. The idea that life needs to be figured out before you can be content. This is a chain that will weigh you down until the grave. Figuring things out is a wonderful pursuit, but don’t attach your fundamental contentment to it. If you take it too seriously, then you forget how quickly it’s all rushing away.
"Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really.” Paul Bowles
You only feel things so many times. That route to work you’ve all but memorised, one day you’ll never step foot there again. One day your headspace will have no resemblance to what it is now. You’ll think about totally different things in totally different ways. And that’s a relief! So indeed it’s all changing - but if you can’t find freedom here and now, in this headspace - who says the next one will be any better?
“The goal is not to stay out in LaLa Land, but to get established in other planes of consciousness, and then connect fully back into life. So that you are, as Christ said, 'In the world, but not of the world,'" Ram Dass
It’s about always starting where you are now. And finding freedom in the immediate and actual. It’s not about feeling the most blissed out and calling that freedom - but of finding a freedom that is independent of how you feel. To do this, you must start by being in the world, by learning to integrate yourself. But recently, we struggle more than ever to be in the world - to even situate ourselves within actuality. Perhaps it’s because we have not glimpsed our original faces in quite some time. And this is understandable - for the modern world hides it from us. But originally, under the layers of social and emotional conditioning - what is basic humanity? After completing a multi-day hike - I felt as if I had caught a glimpse of my original self. Here are some attributes of that self:
Dirty. Smelly. Tired. Sweaty. Too hot. Too cold. Uncomfortable. Sore. Thirsty. Hungry. And happy to be alive.
You see, all of these feelings so often avoided in daily life are made super salient to you in the wild. In nature, discomfort and all of its companions assert themselves so forcefully that you have no choice but to bear them. You have no choice but to return to your original resilience - one that is deeply embedded in your DNA.
“You know, your ancestors — how many times there were opportunities for, you know, the saber-toothed tiger to strike back, or the hunt to fail, or the fever to sweep through, or the breast to go dry? How many times were there opportunities that somebody had their eye on the ball, somebody paid attention? You are the inheritor of that process.” -Terrence McKenna
You can’t live five steps ahead or even two steps ahead. You have to live each and every step. No matter how long the uphill section of the trail, as long as you take it one step at a time, it’s alright. And this is freedom. It is conditioned by nothing, in that it has neither a cause for arising, nor a cause for cessation. It is simply the basic condition of being human - to be a container for experience. And the experiences that are built into your bones are the ones you find out in nature. The ones that are found when you hold counsel with the sky, the trees, and the moon - and approach them with reverential sweat, discomfort, and thirst.
“If you are going to have an ordinary life limitation will be part of it. If you have a job and you have to be at your job on time, the watch that you live by and the diary that you live by are not the enemy. The watch is not an attack on freedom. It is just something arising.” -James Low
Your awareness has room for anything and everything to happen. Don’t let transitory things bind you.
It is as it is.