“And an orator said, ‘Speak to us of Freedom.’
And he answered: ‘At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.
Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.” – Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran ‘s wisdom cautions us, as we contemplate the concept of Freedom, to realize that we may well ask, Freedom from what and Freedom for what? I approach life as an artist. It is my deepest orientation. Artists know that in order to be truly free to create, one must train, and relinquish one’s concepts of free expression while that technique is being learned. In order to join the actors’ unions, it was traditionally required for an aspirant to work first as an apprentice, then become a journeyman, and finally a master. I was a great faker of dancing during the years of my professional career, but because I did not really have the years of technique required to support my efforts, I ended up having some physical consequences to my “freedom.”
I asked my dance partner, who was and no doubt still is, a master dancer/ choreographer, how he thought I was doing, just before our show opened on Broadway and he paused and said, “You could have been a great dancer.” Ouch. That’s the kind of honesty a real teacher will transmit, so thank you Guru Longbottom, for pointing me in the direction of Truth.
After I studied some more, and sweated some of my “freedom” away, I was able to actually dance in a couple of shows and feel the support of the technique. I also wished then that I had thought to do those classes earlier in life, as the benefits of technique are cumulative. So maybe in my next life…
The truth is, that there can be no true freedom without discipline. And discipline requires focus.And it also requires choosing for one thing, and not for other things. This is where Intention comes in. We have so many people living with attention deficit but I would suggest that we really are suffering more from INTENTION deficit! Intention brings forth attention!
There can be no freedom without some understanding of responsibility. Freedom of speech is an astonishing right and privilege. And the rules which necessarily amend that, like not crying “fire” falsely in a public space, have to do with the social contract to be able to live without chaos. The unfortunate thing about many of the formal religious structures is that they seek to control for the sake of control our individual relationships with God. This is antithetical to the notion of attaining God consciousness.
The discipline of a Path, “any path,” as Paramahansa Yogananda reminds us, requires us to go deeper.
And this is where our teachers appear: Miraculously, just as a true frustration arises, the next part of the journey unfolds before us. It never fails. I am so fortunate to have found my teacher in this life. I have actually had many wonderful teachers, but when your teacher appears, both the teacher and the student recognize the karmic connection. My teacher is an African Methodist Episcopal minister, which was probably as much a surprise to him as to me!
The many spiritual paths of the world all have one thing in common. There is a beginning level, in which the joy and freedom of cosmic consciousness infuses the aspirant with a sense of utter freedom, and then the work begins. This is when our teachers appear to guide us inward. Ultimately, we realize the guru is found within.
Soon we will be starting a study group to look deeper into the wisdom of Yogananda’s search for his guru, by reading together his seminal text, “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
I will also be starting a class to familiarize the students with the mystic path of some of the major world religious traditions. I look forward to your feedback about when the best times are for these classes in your busy weeks. Options are Sunday after service, Wednesday or Thursday evenings. Please let me know your pleasure. We will also look at the five steps of Affirmative Prayer again.
I am looking forward to seeing you Sunday at 2 pm at West Park Presbyterian on 86th and Amsterdam.
With love and many blessings,