Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life, Liberty, and How to Pursue Happiness

I struggle to understand responsibility. I get that it can be broken down into Latin roots that mean 'the ability to respond,' and that it differs from reaction in that reaction means 'to act again' usually in the same manner as before. But there has always been some part of the equation missing for me. In my meditation yesterday, I had an experience that I think may fill in the blank.

Someone told me once that responsibility leads to freedom. But I never quite understood what that meant. To me, responsibility just meant that there were more things that I had to live up to, had to take care of, be responsible for... and that just sounded like a lot of work, or even a burden. How could taking on more stuff possibly be freeing?

The thing is, responsibility also has to do with what you let go of.

As I already mentioned, I had an experience in meditation. Part of the meditation I've been practicing involves mantra. The same abstract syllable mentally repeated as a focal point for my attention. Whenever I find that my attention has wandered down a path of thought, I simply return my attention to its focus on the mantra. Thus, I train my will and cultivate inner silence. Yesterday, I found my attention wandering as it usually does, consumed by some emotion or another, but for some reason when I returned to the mantra, I was stricken by the awareness of the freedom I had just created for myself. The feeling I had had was a rather heavy one and not at all enjoyable, but with a simple exercise of my will, my attention was placed back at a neutral focus. I was now free from that emotion.

Now, of course, I could return to it. I didn't defeat it or stave it off forever. What I realized, though, was that it is just so simple to apply the will and create freedom for oneself. The nagging emotion and the heavy feeling are what had enslaved me, and to entertain them would be succumbing to them, and to do it continually would be reaction. Yet I had learned to respond. Not only that, I recognized its value. This was the lesson I had been praying for.

All too often do I let myself fall into the trap of feeling worthless, feeling like I'll never make anything of myself, or feeling guilty or not good enough. I have these thoughts and feelings so often that I've nearly paralyzed myself by the fear that I could be different, that I could perhaps be better. I have made them part of my identity in a way that I find it hard to separate myself from them. I have altered my ego into one of paralyzation, of fear, of worthlessness, of being unworthy, and just plain being less than what I am.

It's funny how fear manifests itself in ridiculous ways. My fear is of changing. I've become so used to these self-defeating feelings, the self-loathing, that I am afraid to feel otherwise. Who would I be? What would happen?

And I know from experience that whatever thoughts you dwell upon are the ones that manifest. Situations in life are made from your deepest thoughts. When you direct your attention to them, you give them power, you give them energy, and slowly that energy begins to coalesce and solidify, and eventually it is made manifest by your feeding it--it becomes reality.

What I have discovered is how to apply my will. And with practice it will turn into will power. And through responding to these emotions and feelings and thoughts and physical life experiences, I can alter my reality. I create freedom for myself. I no longer have to be a slave to my thoughts or emotions. I can choose to be different and to let go of negative thoughts. All I have to do is respond by placing my attention on the stillness. In that way, I can purify my mind. The more stillness I can hold in my mind, then all the more stillness will there be made manifest in my physical existence. And when I place my attention on positive thoughts, my ego can be changed. It can be molded into a construct of positivity, and it will reflect my innermost being, my highest Self, and my Creator.

Truly, responsibility is the path to freedom. And I embrace it, for all humankind.

What patterns do you let yourself be enslaved by? What situations do you allow to recur and feel powerless to change? What sort of image do you keep of yourself? Do you dwell on the negative more than the positive? You can change the thought instantly with your will, and continually changing it with will power makes the new thought permanent, bringing you change. Once you realize you can do this whenever you want to, you are free. You no longer have to be a slave to your faults, to your pet peaves, or to your emotional outbursts and reactions.

Many misunderstand responsibility. It just takes a new perspective and you can be free.


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