Three Foundations for Freedom

Meditative work sheds light on the blind spots that keep us reacting to what we imagine to be happening in our lives. These blind spots are old, dark patterns of thinking about ourselves and about others. These patterns don’t correspond to how things really are and so when we act out of them, we act out of accord with reality. No wonder such actions cause so much suffering. And every time that action happens out of one of these patterns, the pattern is reinforced and becomes stronger and blinder.

Miraculously, there is the possibility at any moment that a pattern becomes visible, noticeable, for what it is. In such a moment the actual truth of a situation might also be seen. This is an instant of freedom from blind reaction and suffering.

I’m considering the question now of what facilitates this kind of seeing, this freedom. Because our usual life is so dominated by blind patterns, we can’t shed light on the moment through these same old patterns of thinking, emoting, reacting. When we are thinking in these ways, we project our blind patterns onto spiritual work itself, making up paths, practices, goals, hopes, divine forces that we turn to for support.

This is why solitary spiritual activities can easily become blind dead ends that one can pursue for an entire lifetime. So the person who “wants to do it themselves” and doesn’t want to be disturbed by the feedback or questioning of others may be digging a very deep hole for themselves. The hallmark of a blind pattern is that it doesn’t want to be disturbed or questioned. It wants to do things its own way.

Relying too much on group support or an outside “guide” can also be a projection of blind patterns but it maybe it goes in a more hopeful direction. Because the dark habits that keep us in erroneous reaction are blind, we usually cannot see them at all. They are our very assumptions about ourselves, our lives, others, and spiritual work. For them to become visible, the space of agendaless looking needs to open up. This is a stepping outside of the box. It is a stepping out of all of our spiritual efforts and perspectives.This may be facilitated by engaging with others.

What facilitates this, in my experience? First, extended retreat time. This is the primary way that this still, agendaless being and seeing can begin to wake up in a person. If I had to make a recommendation to someone who deeply feels the need to wake up to this blind reactive living, I would say at least one or two seven day retreats a year. In setting aside our usual activities and being in a supportive open space with others doing the same, we drift without knowing it into moments of simple, free being. These moments are so radical in their simplicity that they transform our whole organism, shaking up the old assumptions and drawing us more powerfully into presence.

Second, group dialogue is a relatively safe yet powerful way to have our assumptions brought to light, perhaps questioned or shaken, by listening to others and by speaking out in public, exposing oneself deliberately (nervously, bravely?). Without the reflection of hearing others in a group, it is easy and probably inevitable that habits will forever fool themselves that they are “making progress”. Group dialogue exposes us bare naked to the human mind in ourselves and others.

Third, one-on-one meeting has much the same function as group dialogue but reaches a much deeper level of intimacy. One-on-one meeting is with someone who is able to listen in sustained agendaless presence. This is the most intimate way in which undivided presence comes alive and in which the deep blind patterns that usually dominate who we are may come to light, so that we don’t fool ourselves. This intimacy of being is bottomless, growing ever deeper, in meeting together, not separate.

Blind patterns direct all the available life energy into preventing themselves from being seen. This is what dominates nearly all humanity nearly all the time. Can we come together in extended silence, meeting face to face in a group and one on one vulnerably, with a willingness to let be seen that which needs to be seen, no matter how scary or humiliating the prospect?

Actual seeing is not scary or humiliating. It is just seeing. It is open, free, full of love and understanding. It is the end – for this moment – of personal concern. It is love that embraces everything.

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