“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” were the words of a song by Kris Kristoferson in my youth. In my depressed moods I agreed totally with these words, interpreting the word freedom to mean the opportunity to choose what I wanted in whatever circumstances I found myself in and to have that choice fulfilled. Total freedom would have been interpreted as the ability to make any choice I wanted and have the desired results delivered.
The idea that there is such a condition as freedom from choice was not an idea I had yet come across. Many years later when I did come across it, it looked like an oxymoron to me. Freedom and choice were identical twins to my mind.
Choosing by its nature implies that some things are more desirable than others. At its core is a mind set based on the assumption that meeting desires and avoiding rejections is how freedom is achieved. It presumes that we can control our lives by making the right choices. And this mind set, the ego, assumes it knows what choices to make. It even claims to have chosen the choices it makes.
And really it is not the choice making in itself that is the problem but the expectation or attachment to the outcome. What started out as a choice becomes a demand with suffering (frustration, anger, anxiety etc) attendant if the demand is not met. It shows us that we are not in control of our lives.
When we are living from the assumption that we are in control of our lives and come to see that we are not, it’s a if the rug has been pulled out from under us. Often times we simply don’t know what to think any more. If we are willing to reflect on it we may come to see that the very foundations on which our lives were built is faulty.
We assume that we are in control of our actions and choices. We have been taught to think this way and everyone around us has also been taught to think this way.
The assumption is that we are separate, self-determining individuals who control the course our lives take.
But, just consider, does anyone choose: cancer, accidents, poverty, addictions, disabilities, bad marriages, and so on? I think not. Doesn’t this illustrate that we are not in control of our lives?
It’s easy enough to think we are in control when things are going our way. It’s when things go wrong for us that we pause to reflect on what is really going on.
We don’t have to wait for things to go wrong for us personally before we start to consider the nature of life.
There is something else worth considering; it is the question of who or what we really are.
The wisdom traditions of the world say that we are not who we think we are. We are not the separate, individual, dependent creatures of the world that we assume ourselves to be. Our true identity is as our spiritual selves and that mistaking ourselves for the individual creature in the world is the root of our discontent.
The way to true freedom, the freedom that is not dependent on choice making, is in correcting the misunderstanding about who we really are. It’s freedom from falsity.
This is the process of uncovering the hidden assumptions that we live from. It is a process because there is not just one belief, there are layers upon layers of hidden beliefs which we have picked up over the course of our lives.
This uncovering is the path to freedom, the freedom to be who we really are as opposed to who we have been led to believe we are. It is the process of returning to our natural identity.
This leads to freedom beyond the idea of freedom. It is freedom from any need to try to control because when we know who we really are all ideas of control dissipate.
This is the freedom that leads to “the peace that passeth understanding”. It is the goal of spiritual seeking, seeking for our true identity.