Reflections on the Meaning of Freedom

Here are some of my thoughts on the meaning of freedom:

For the first time in 30 years, I had an inner resistance when thinking of returning home. Usually I have such longing to come home that the feeling of not wanting to, is a new sensation for me. Of course, my home is wherever my pack, Joshua and Leelou, are. Luckily, they are mobile.

I was just in Morocco and it was a game changer once again.

Sure, it is a developing country, and I certainly don't love a religion that systematically represses women. But Morocco felt remarkably tolerant and free.  

And at least it feels as though THEY ARE MOVING FORWARD, whereas we, in the States, are clearly moving backward. That is VERY painful to me, and not why I moved to the land of the supposedly free in the first place.

Driving across the country with Joshua and Leelou in our Sports Mobile, I will never forget the miles and miles of dead, manipulated, Monsanto-sprayed cornfields that we drove through in the middle of the country. The enormous amounts of enslaved and tortured land will be forever stamped in my soul. And now, we see a move to enslave more - land, animals, women, and people. It's just so unbearably painful.

In the deserts of Morocco I experienced the greatest physical and spiritual freedom I have since I ran wild as a child. I know I am strong in mind and will, but not always in body. I was very sick as a child and have to manage my physicality carefully.

In the desert, I grew wings! I slept few hours, sat up in the dunes at night gazing into the rising sun in vast silence while everyone still slept, except the camels (they don't sleep, they meditate).

I flew over the dunes with such ease and joy. I got nicknamed "razelle" by the Berbers, which means gazelle. I found this truly strange and funny, because unless on the yoga mat, I'm actually rather clumsy. Not exactly gazelle like, for sure. But in the desert, it was true and I cannot explain it.

Not many people actually go into the desert. But we went in and stayed for several days, making our camp out of nothing but sand and what the camels were carrying. 

I never wanted to come out. It is the strongest connection to a culture I have felt beside the native and, to a certain degree, the Roma connection. Being there felt completely natural to me. I quickly learned how to tie the shech, which I absolutely adored and wish I could wear always! The shech is key in the desert for protection from cold, sun, and sand. Never another bad hair day!

I'm not saying that I liked everything.

I hated how the animals were treated. The horses with the wagons; some were so thin I was afraid they would keel over. The cute donkeys (which they call the Ferrari of Marrakech), so overloaded, I wondered that they didn't get flattened like a pancake under the weight of their packs. It was hard to see the little monkeys on chains, completely at the mercy of their owners, exploiting them for the tourists. And I really didn't like the cobras on the concrete floor, mostly with their mouths sewn shut. Their lives are very short because they starve to death.

Then there was the human suffering; the invalids on the streets, and the women and children begging on the side of the road. 

I acutely felt the suffering of all of them, and cried often.

I got in the habit of carrying an entire bag with me; collecting the meat that people in my group didn't consume, so I could always feed someone. Apples for the donkeys and horses, meat for the dogs and cats, food, or some money, for the people that touched my heart.

What else to do? Like Maharaji used to say: Feed people!

I'm expanding that to: Feed beings, please.

I have been thinking a lot about freedom these days. In fact, it was the promise of freedom that led me to move to America. I realize it doesn't feel so free anymore. 

Some of you know that I have made up a new (old) melody for Lokha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu. It means: May all Beings be joyous, and free.

What does the happiness of beings really mean? To me, it means that each being is allowed to live according to its true nature. Not imprisoned. Not stifled. Not held back. Not enslaved. That includes trees. And plants. And corn. And WATER. Everything on this holy planet.

That is the world I would like to live in.

Freedom to be exactly who we are. I invite you to contemplate your authentic voice this month and follow it.

Practice gratitude. Practice compassion. It's simple

As we are moving into another Fall, in very uncertain times, I've had a couple of reflections that I wanted to share. As the seasons change, it is always good to step back and get a bigger perspective.

The importance of being present:

We desperately need to learn to simply stay in the present. We often see two camps that beckon us to join them. One camp consists of activists and also nay-sayers. They see what is clearly not working in society and tend to relentlessly point out the shadow.

In the other camp are the folks who encourage us to think positive, mostly spiritual teachers and New Agers. To see that which is good can be a good thing - unless it is used to cover up what is actually happening.

The shadow looms quite large these days - in part perhaps because most of us have been looking only at the positive for too long.

The truth is that we need to look very closely at exactly what is in front of us. If it sucks, we need to have the courage to say so, to acknowledge the bad, and the negative.

And yes, it is uncomfortable to do that, but it may be the most necessary action we can do. If we look at the bad situation for a while, without creating a story line (meaning no endless inquiry into who is to blame), then we may have an actual insight, or an idea of what could be done about it.

This staying in the present moment is the true antidote to the quandary of which camp to belong to. We will all encounter both positive and negative moments all day long and if the circumstances present themselves as positive, we can practice gratitude, and even joy that they are so. And if something is negative, instead of reacting to it and pushing it away, we can sit in the discomfort for a while and wait for that insight. It takes a lot of energy to avoid looking at the negative and we can use that energy, to practice compassion for all suffering, including our own.

I've been on a road trip across the country for the last month and had to practice that myself. Every time I saw a road kill in which another innocent little deer became the victim of a careless driver, I practiced not to look away.

Instead I did the Hawaiian prayer: I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive us.

Then I would imagine that this little soul would be guided by some good spirits back to the Creator, who would receive it in love and with open arms.

I found that when I did that, I could both face the discomfort of what is happening, as well as letting it go and find balance again.

Just dealing what is right in front of us. Practice gratitude. Practice compassion. It's simple.

Just this.

Now.

Abundance & dealing with a poisonous situation

It is beautiful here in the high desert of New Mexico, the recent rain has brought such abundance in nature and reflects the abundance I have found with essential oils - it's been such a blessing.

The eclipse today was a pretty amazing galactic occurrence. My hope is that this special occasion will give human beings some perspective - something that is sorely needed now, especially here in America. Check out Define your fears rather than your goals below.

Teaching from the Buddhist universe:

There are 3 ways of dealing with a poisonous situation when it occurs. All three are valuable in varying degrees of skill and elegance.

Say you find a tree with poisonous fruit in your back yard. What will you do? 

  • You can cut the tree down and be assured that nobody will die as a result of eating the fruit
  • You can put a fence around the tree and put up a warning sign
  • You respect and utilize the tree and fruit and make a medicinal potion that cures certain illnesses 

The first strategy can be appropriate when we try to let go of an unwanted addiction or behavior. To cut it down and conquer it may be a necessary step on our evolving path to living wisely. 

It is also how cancer and other illnesses are frequently treated, especially if they defy our understanding. We simply try to eradicate them out of existence. Whilst this approach may work sometimes, it often does not. 

In some ways, it is a rather blunt way to dealing with the problem.

Also, the problem may persist, meaning that out of the seeds of that tree, a new poisonous tree might grow.

The second level is considered more refined and more compassionate. Instead of killing the problem, we acknowledge the danger, and will warn anyone approaching the tree that there is danger - including to remind ourselves. We approach with respect, what we do not understand.

The third way is the way of the shaman or the yogi. Not only do we respect the poisonous tree and seek to understand it, but furthermore we will be able to transform the poison into medicine.  

It takes a courageous heart to transform the poison - thus the need for spiritual practices. 

I encourage you to look at your experiences - what would you need, to move towards the yogi's way?