Freedom and Growth
by Diane Linsley
When I was young, I was a super-achiever in school. The other
kids were always saying rude things to me like, "You're just lucky,"
"You were born smart," or "You're the teacher's pet."
Those comments irritated me. I didn't get good grades because I
was lucky. While my friends sat around watching TV, I was busy studying. I actually enjoyed learning.
Researchers have discovered that when we learn something new, our brains release endorphins. This means that learning is its own reward. We don't need grades, money or praise to learn.
The Brain's Reward System
The human brain is a self-rewarding mechanism. It doesn't need outside motivation or coercion. Does a baby need to be forced to learn how to walk? No. The baby wants to do it because every time he takes a new step, his brain is flooded with endorphins, and he feels good about himself. Every baby learns to walk - even those babies whose parents don't praise and encourage them.
When OBE explorer Robert Monroe was asked about the purpose of life, he said that we are here to learn how to think. The Hemi-Sync technology he invented is designed to improve brain function. It's similar to my favorite brainwave entrainment program, Holosync, developed by Bill Harris. Binaural beat technology synchronizes the left and right brain hemispheres for whole brain functioning.
Since we are here to learn how to think, life is designed to fulfill that purpose. Life is a never-ending series of problems - one right after another. Boredom is torture for human beings. People who don't have enough problems end up unconsciously creating more problems for themselves and others.
Freedom and Consequences
During one of my most memorable OBE's, I asked a spirit guide what I'm supposed to be doing at this time in my life. He replied, "You need to learn about freedom." His answer surprised me. I thought I already understood freedom. But I was wrong. I'm only just beginning to understand it now.
I spent many months thinking about freedom, and I had lots of realizations. First, I realized that we have to work for what we get, whether it is physical or spiritual. Learning continues forever. But that's a good thing because learning is the source of happiness. I love new challenges and new ideas. I get a kick out of the endorphin rush that comes with each new discovery. I think of myself as an explorer - an eternal student of the universe.
I also realized that even though we can choose what to do, we cannot choose the consequences of our actions. There are always consequences. So we must try to imagine the consequences before we act. This is difficult because nobody knows the future. There are too many variables to predict consequences with total accuracy. Under these conditions, how do we make a resourceful choice?
The more awareness we have, the easier it is to imagine what the consequences might be. Meditation helps to increase awareness. But we also have to take action - experimenting to see what works. Experimentation gives us experience.
Freedom and Spiritual Guidance
Ultimately, I realized that even my spirit guides can't tell me what to do. I have to figure it out for myself because it's my responsibility. Several months after my OBE, I read the following in Luis Minero's Demystifyng the Out-of-Body Experience:
"Let us consider what would happen if we left the body and asked the helpers [spirit guides], "What is my existential program [life purpose]'?' Helpers do not and would not say what our existential program is because part of accomplishing it is figuring out what it is."
Minero continues, "Helpers want us to learn to make our own decisions and to be responsible for their results. Helpers do not want nor need us to follow them. Wanting or needing others to follow us is a sure sign of immaturity....They lead by example....Helpers do not force anything on us; they completely respect our free will....It is critical to realize that evolution comes from us, from within, by learning to evaluate what is best and carrying it out, not just following something somebody else said....However, if we do pose questions, helpers will not allow us to leave empty-handed. They will help us by providing information, perspectives, angles and ideas that we had not considered, so as for us to make the best possible decision."
Freedom and Relationships
People get into manipulative, controlling and codependent relationships when they don't understand freedom. Assertiveness training can be helpful, but manipulative people will keep showing up in your life until you learn what the universe is trying to teach you.
John Stuart Mill said, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot be rightfully compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right....The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
When I was 45 years old, I changed everything in my life that wasn't working for me. I changed my career, my religion, my home, my friends, and my marriage - all in one year. Yeah, it was extreme. But all of these things were inseparably connected, and when one went (the marriage), they all had to go. I'd been a prisoner in my own home since age 19 when I married someone who wouldn't allow me to drive a car, leave the house, or even speak to other human beings without his permission. After 7 years of meditation and personal growth work, I realized that I had to change my outer life to match my inner life. It wasn't enough to be enlightened on the inside while living as a prisoner on the outside. I stopped trying to change my husband (that never works), and I divorced him instead.
Suddenly, I was the object of disapproval by everyone who knew me. I'd broken the unspoken rule of society - You are not allowed to take control of your own life. Isn't that odd? What right did anyone have to tell me I couldn't change my life? I was the one who chose to marry that person in the first place. Why couldn't I unchoose that decision when I realized how much damage it was doing to me?
The things I chose at age 19 didn't work for me at age 45. As an older person, I could now make better choices. So why was everyone trying to stop me? Obviously, people thought that my life was their business. I soon got used to saying (in my mind or out loud), "My life is none of your business."
Freedom begins when we stop worrying about what other people think of us. I often remind myself, "What other people think of me is none of my business."
Freedom and Enlightenment
Consider these verses from the Tao Te Ching, written in China almost 2600 years ago:
The more prohibitions there are,
the poorer people become.
The more weapons there are,
the darker things become.
The more cunning and cleverness there is,
the crazier things become.
The more laws there are,
the greater the number of scoundrels.
Therefore the sage says:
I take no action,
and people transform themselves.
I love tranquility,
and people naturally do what is right.
I don't interfere,
and people prosper on their own.
I have no desires,
and people return to simplicity.
Noah Rasheta, author of Secular Buddhism says, "What is enlightenment? It's freedom. Freedom from habitual reactivity. Freedom from chasing after the approval of others. Freedom from the fear of rejection. Freedom to appreciate what we have in the present moment. What more enlightenment could one ask for?" One of my favorite books is Courage by Osho. I recommend it for anyone who wants to delve deeper into this subject. For more insights and fun, see this video about the meaning of Disney's Aladdin. This is a great way to introduce the concept of freedom to children. The path to freedom begins with awareness. Meditation is the time-tested way to increase awareness. Here's my mindfulness meditation.
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