i’m reading victor frankl’s man’s search for meaning alongside howard thurman, alongside richard rohr, alongside ram dass, alongside gloría anzaldúa (cause, always). yeah, there’s quite a conversation going on inside my heart-mind! and as it always is, i’m spiraling around a question.
the relationship between freedom and form.
a while ago i wrote about a lesson from one of my teachers, jerry granelli. the teaching was “freedom is in the form”. my take away at the time was that form mattered. a lot.
the thing is, what i’m figuring out is that it’s not really about the form, per se. it’s about connecting with the sacred within us and around us so deeply that we can exist within the form–whatever that form is!–in service to the common good/life source/love/the Divine.
in my earlier post, i reflected on an exercise jerry led around a collective blues song in which the only way i knew how to be in service to our song was to close my eyes, shut it all out, and focus all my attention on the form. yeah…well. this was an important lesson for me at the time and also falls short. after all, i missed everyone’s song.
what i’m learning is that the spiritual path of liberation invites us to experience freedom within and through the forms we occupy. not in spite of them. through them.
victor frankl writes of his experience in auschwitz. the horrors he faced. the unspeakable suffering. and the profound love and sacredness that he experienced there, too. strangely, as many warriors have shared over thousands of years, it is often in times of darkness that we find light.
as i’ve continued on my spiritual path, the meaning i had once assigned to forms in my life has dulled. i’m experiencing meaning in my life differently, in different ways. i long for silence, solitude, the in-between conversations and happenings that evidence magic and mystery. the cracks in our structured days that allow a brighter light to spill out.
liberation is not determined by the form. and pulling away from one form to find liberation in another is not necessarily the answer, either. in fact, if my life experience tells me anything, it’s that i’ll replace that form with another form. and repeat.
i am learning that the deeper invitation is remembering that the source of meaning and connection and life and love resides within us, already. without condition. and to allow our attachment to the external world and all its forms and labels dissolve away.
when i put this truth in words, two pieces of resistance come up. (hello, ego! have a cup o’ tea)
first: how privileged! it’s easy to allow our attachments to the external world dissolve when we have food on the table, a roof over our heads, a sense of security/stability. yes. and the suffering that comes when these are called into question invites an inner-source of power building that gets forgotten when things are comfortable. there’s a another source of power that has nothing to do with privilege (actually, the fact that “power and privilege” has become a buzz-phrase is limiting to our understanding of power; the two do not necessarily go hand in hand).
second: to consider dissolving attachment from forms that have defined how we understand ourselves and our worlds is terrifying. on one hand, it feels like apathy, like the richness of a world that once carried so much meaning and beauty fades away. on the other hand, there is a level of dying/death that follows. who am i if i’m not (fill-in-the-blank)?
i become nobody and everybody.
and the richness unfolds in sustaining and surprising ways. the bird signaling to his friends there’s feed in the bird feeder. a friend on a job search and feeling purpose beyond it, pulling dead leaves off my fig tree, wendell. my child’s existential questioning of whether to play football (god, help me!).
i love how ram dass speaks to this! he refers to life as “somebody training” and shares his process of moving beyond “somebody”, giving up forms. AND he speaks to the importance of ALSO staying in the form. how else can we be human but to feel the pain and suffering and joy of the world?
he echoes jerry, “freedom is in the form”.
being in service to the world, we must be both in the world and not of the world.
this is what god did in taking human form in jesus. and what jerry was teaching us when he taught us the blues. bless my heart; it wasn’t about holding onto the blues’ form, as i tried so desperately to do. it was about being the blues.
practically, this meandering takes me here: how do i live a spiritually liberated life, in communion with the Divine while also an embodied white woman, mother, daughter, friend, sister, partner, justice-maker who operates in the waters of patriarchy, a never-ending pile-up of laundry, white supremacy, and a good doss of teenage attitude? how do i work for racial justice as spiritual liberation and as a white woman? how do i hold the forms that don’t mean anything and yet mean everything in shaping my humanity?
as i stumble along with these small questions, i’m grateful that ram dass also reminded me of don juan’s lesson to practice “controlled folly”, a wise guidance to do everything in the world as it is all that matters, all the while knowing it doesn’t matter at all.
yeah. i’m sittin’ with that.
because i sense that in holding both of these at once, i might taste the juiciness of liberation.
One thought on “freedom”
Amy, these are not “small” questions. Your search is invigorating. I will have to read this over and contemplate more on all the content you have touched on. Thanks for being so brave.
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