The First Freedom

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Our Sense of Freedom

Take a moment to consider, even write out on a piece of paper, freestyle and spontaneously, what comes up for you when you hear the word “freedom.” Notice the various emotions, questions, enthusiasms, ideas, beliefs, doubts and histories that get elicited when you hear “freedom.” How do you see the word “freedom” being used in your world? How do you use it?

If you write it out on a sheet of paper or make a mind map of it, you’ll discover something interesting from your experience which is the groundwork for your learning. Deep Freedom Now is not for promoting ideas. It is an invitation to attention, something vastly different.

Recently someone asked what I meant by “freedom.” It is a word whose sense can easily escape us. It’s been used repeatedly as the “brand name” for every form of tyranny and stupidity known to man. Those countries where the word “freedom” is used the most are often places where it is under direct assault, all in the name of “freedom.” How can we regain the sense of what this word points to as something truly worthy of our humanity?

Freedom: a Way of Relating

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John William Godward (1861–1922) The Old, Old Story

Freedom comes from the Germanic frei: “free, to court, to woo, to love” + dom: “condition of, state of.” “Freedom” means “the condition of the free and the beloved,” in contrast to the condition of the unfree and unloved, which is to say, of slaves. “Freedom” is not some abstract value floating around in some philosophical ether that never touches reality.

Freedom, or the condition of free and beloved people, is a way of relating among people who treat themselves and each other as beloved people, as people who are free. The free are in possession of their will, awareness and responsibilities; as people for whom and to whom we do good, not as some abstract moral value of “good,” but as a way of relating that enhances, rather than frustrates, Aliveness and Well-Being. We don’t do this because we have to, or out of any kind of obligation. Beloved People are Known, Trusted and Respected People. They are not a faceless crowd of “everyone” and “everybody.” They are a community of Related Individuals and Families with whom the quality of “People” emerges in genuine connection, something that has been mostly shattered among modern folks.

Treating our People well is the very Nature of being free and beloved to each other and to ourselves. A free people are a beloved people whose way of living is a courtship, a wooing of the Aliveness of those whom we love and live with, in the knowing and caring fully for the Nature of our People.

Freedom happens in the presence of people initiated into adulthood, where there’s a clear transition from the demands, needs and getting of childhood to the response-ability, capacity, conscious consequence and giving of adulthood. The care-free existence of the child matures into the care-full contributions of the adult.

What Do We Do With Those Whom We Love?

The term “beloved” or “to love” is tricky in our culture. Why do I say that? I encourage you to notice what you, and the people in your Life, do in the name of “love” and with “loved ones.”

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Photo: Roberto Trm

Think about all of the people in your life who claimed they “loved” you. How often does our “love” become a claim upon another person?

Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Without justification or accusation, write down the ranges of what the people who claim to “love” you did and do to you and for you, how they talk to you, touch you, act toward you in the left-hand column. Are you free? Are you in possession of your will or is the person who claims to “love” you making a claim on your will as well? Do you feel beloved? Tune into your body and write down the bodily sensations in as descriptive of terms and precise locations in your body, with your senses, of what you FEEL, bodily rather than with a bunch of emotional drama, when you are related to this way. After each description, notice if you felt more Alive or less so and the kind of changes you went through.

Consider all of the people you say you “love” and, on another piece of paper, write down all of the ways you relate to those you say you “love.” Consider as full a range of experiences with your “loved ones.” What do you do with someone you “love” that you would NOT do with someone you don’t? How do you talk with someone you “love” that you wouldn’t talk with someone you don’t “love”? How do you impose yourself with someone you “love”? What do you do to someone you say you “love”? What would those people be free to do, before you “loved” them, that they are no longer free to do now that you do?

This is not an exercise in judging. It’s an exercise in noticing and becoming curious.

Are your “loved ones” freer with you or away from you? Do you impose your will upon them “because you love them”? Do you claim “rights” to mold them to your will and purposes, to “make them better”?

These questions invite noticing, not evaluating, explaining, condemning or justifying. Deep Freedom Now starts with the questions we avoid asking, especially of ourselves. We respond with Awareness, with Attention instead of those rapid-fire, ready-made answers we often have at-the-ready for the moments when Truth rubs us in our raw spots, the parts that could still feel , if we would allow ourselves to.

As Free and Beloved People we go to the Heart of our issues by allowing ourselves to Feel and to Know Bodily. There are no detours, no “ideas” to adopt like a new costume. Attention Awakens the Wisdom that is Inherent to our Aliveness. We can Notice. Reading words cannot do for us what Noticing can.

Conquest is Consequent

There’s an edge here that’s very prominent in the ways relationships have been institutionalized in Western cultures for thousands of years. European peoples got conquered and enslaved, then acculturated to conquest and enslavement as a “way of life.” That way of relating infected our “intimacy,” starting with ourselves and our own “loved ones.” Conquest is not chosen, it is imposed.

Few of us make the connection between imperialism – the kind of culture which overruns other Peoples with other ways of life – and imposes another way of being on them, a way of imposition.

Once imposition, as a way of relating, has been imposed on the family structure, it begins to affect all our ways of relating. We relate by imposing ourselves. This makes the alteration in our way of relating permanent and self-perpetuating. We go from freedom to imposition, and our very own parents begin to train us to ignore the awareness of other choices, and desires.

There is a very different way that truly free and truly beloved people relate to each other than how displaced, uprooted people relate to each other.

A Presumption of Intelligence, Sociability and Responsibility

I didn’t realize this until I began spending time with Peoples where men don’t tell women what to do, women don’t tell men what to do, adults don’t tell children what to do and children don’t tell adults what to do. I found this surprising. This way of relating presumes that children are naturally sociable, and so is everybody else who belongs to a People who know and love each other, and any behavior to the contrary amounts to one person manifesting a general disturbance that they are responding to – because everyone has been related to as naturally sociable for their entire lives.

I spent three years with a Guajira woman from Venezuela, a world-class scientist and fully-contemporary woman. Nobody told anybody what to do in her extended family. They enjoyed each other without interfering with or dominating each other. They did express, as individuals, what they did and did not want for themselves. Their boundaries were clear but they rarely had to affirm them, as mutually-sensitive and sociable people.

My Guajira friend’s sisters’ families would come visit for a month, or more, at a time, with teenagers. Because nobody related to young people as “needing to be controlled” they grew up self-guided and response-able, from their earliest years. Their parents’ presumption was that children are intelligent, capable, sociable and responsible, by Nature and that’s how they were. They lived in Caracas, a dangerous city, yet trusted their children to navigate the city, and its dangers, on their own, at night, at a pretty young age. Their children were gorgeous, fun, funny, bright people to be around.

A Way of BEING

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The Eyes can Re-Cognize Qualities of BEING that emerge among People Who Grow Up in Coherent Connection, in Relatedness to Aliveness, to Intelligence, to Wisdom. What are the flavors of YOUR Qualities of BEING? Hopi Maidens 1922, Photo Edward S. Curtis

They didn’t tell each other “I love you” all the time. Their way of being with each other was the perfect confirmation of what being free and beloved WITH their People is. Curiously, the people with whom I have felt most loved and welcome, like some of my Lakota friends, have no way of saying “I love you.” “I love you” is not something they say. To be Lakota is to be that. Their traditional way of Being does good, respects and cultivates People as free and beloved beings. This emerges naturally among People who still offer themselves and each other the freedom to BE.

Being that way, for many of us who descend from conquered peoples acculturated to “command and control, punish and reward, draw near and then cut off” dynamics, all the way down to our most intimate relationships, can be a challenge. Many of us had our natural ability to develop autonomy, connection and capability thwarted by the constant interference of insecure yet dominating controllers, from our first moments of Life. As adults, a lack of self-control and social awareness, along with emotional confusion disrupt our relating and generate much pain. At the same time, we affirm our “right to do it our way,” our “autonomy,”and resist anyone pointing out what it is that we are doing. Often we are challenged to lead ourselves capably and autonomously.

We, too, descend from People who once knew ourselves as Most-Welcome to BE in our World and with People who Do Us Good. That experience may or may not be known to us but we are designed for it, by Nature. If we venture far enough inside of our True Desire for Connection and recognize how Aliveness lives in us, Aliveness reconnects.

Family Dynamics of Displaced Peoples

Aspiring to being a “free and beloved people” can easily become another idea of one more thing we “should” be, but aren’t. What are we supposed to do; read about some other people’s way of life and try imitating them? Is that the point?

Traveling around the world and teaching for six years and with twenty-five years of Critical Care Nursing under my belt, working with families of patients going through all kinds of hard times, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the greatest source of suffering for most people I know are their families; the people who claim to “love” them and what those people do that they call “love.”

Freedom is not some fantasy or ideal. It is our Natural condition to be people who treat each other well, who raise children in deep connection and on into adult capacity and generosity instead of lifelong dependency, demand and striving to control their lives by controlling others.

The conditions of a free and beloved people is not what the imperial monoculture is spreading worldwide. It is certainly not the culture I grew up in.

If we get clear on that and contextualize what we are in, then we discover other creative and connective options right at the cultural limits of our awareness.

Learning From Others

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Connected As Most-Welcome. Assiniboin mother and child. Photo: Edward S. Curtis, 1928

Living with people who relate to each other in a way that has their babies calm and in constant connection with their mothers and people who live with their children as Most-Welcome has been a source of profound healing for me. It revived my Natural, Life-Logical Sense of how good it can be to Be Human, naturally.

It also revealed my challenges and called me to grow in the Art of Receiving and Offering a “love” that does and feels good.

The Rub

That’s the rub facing many of us who have grown up and necessarily adapted to “command/ control/ punish/ reward” relational dynamics. We have to be willing to Notice if our way of being supports being mutually free and mutually beloved, truly intimate and response-ably People. It’s not always a pleasant rub: it can be raw and revealing in ways that many of us have learned to ignore and avoid while subjecting our “intimates” to our confused ways constantly.

Many of us have not only grown up in the confusion of our childhoods, but have also recreated that confusion with those whom we claim to “love” and who have claimed to “love” us. We bring children into a way of “loving” that can be fraught with confusion, yelling, tantrums, displays of affection interspersed with threats of separation, isolation and withdrawal in relationships of constantly renegotiating our “claims” in other peoples’ lives. It is amazing to me how exhausting “family life” is among so many displaced people, in sharp contrast to the relaxed, sensible welcome I have known over years with people still connecting to their Natural Knowing How to Relate WELL.

Yet the gifts Noticing brings are amazing, the growth lasting, the transformation profound, the Wisdom Real and Connected. Each one of us can take the ancestry we are back to connection.

The keys to my Aliveness are not hidden in the lives of my Lakota, Cheyenne, Guajira friends or any other people. My friends reflected something hidden in my relationship to my Aliveness and the Aliveness around me, in my way of treating myself and others as free and beloved people and of my challenges in doing so.

But I hid the keys from myself. I learned to shut down my heart at age seven and only feel “good” feelings in order to weather the “love” of people whose love, quite simply, hurt and confused. How often do children get attacked and demeaned any time they display the hurt and confusion that the ones who say “they love them” are provoking inside of them?

In modern culture operates this way: we pretend that it’s “good” to not say anything “bad” about people who are inflicting suffering on others. That’s what we get rewarded for and this destroys something very fundamental in us and in our relationships. We become a “people” without a true People.

We protect adults and parents from any feelings of responsibility and guilt – god forbid! – and we expose children to those feelings almost constantly.

Every day we stand in front of the mirror. What is reflected in the mirror we stand before daily? What can I SEE? Do I only look at who I imagine myself to be, with a lifetime measured in years and decades, subject to my “plans” for “my destiny” in a command/ control/ punish/ reward/ direct/ change paradigm?

If I ask myself the question truthfully then I’m challenged by the rub of recognition that most days my invitation to the Aliveness reflected in my mirror is sense-less. I look, but I don’t SEE. I do, but I don’t FEEL.

There’s a profound difference in “spirituality” among a people post-conquest and the direct connection to Aliveness of a People still nourished by and nourishing Aliveness.

Conquest is a Way of Relating Too

The Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix surrendering his arms to Julius Caesar at the Battle of Alesia (52 B.C.E.)
The Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix surrendering his arms to Julius Caesar at the Battle of Alesia (52 B.C.E.)

“Conquest” didn’t just happen to my Belgian ancestors in 51 B.C.E. when Julius Caesar finally conquered my People who wanted to Live in Their Way. It didn’t just happen in 782 C.E. when Charlemagne slaughtered 4500 of my Saxon relatives who

A memorial of 4500 Stones to the 4500 slaughtered Saxons in Sachsenhain in Halsmühlen, Ortsteil Dauelsen, Verden (Aller), Germany Photo: Gestaltenohneverstand
A memorial of 4500 Stones to the 4500 slaughtered Saxons in Sachsenhain in Halsmühlen, Ortsteil Dauelsen, Verden (Aller), Germany Photo: Gestaltenohneverstand

refused to bow down to the image of a bloodied and crucified man as the emblem of their spiritual destiny, nor when the Christians proceeded to chop down the sacred Igdrasil tree that in-formed us of the Nature of Rootedness, Relatedness, Seeding and Fruitfulness in the

The Slavic Vityaz at the crossroads marked by a menhir stating: "If you go left, you will lose your horse. If you go right, you will lose your head." Painting by Viktor Vasnetsov
The Slavic Vityaz at the crossroads marked by a menhir stating: “If you go left, you will lose your horse. If you go right, you will lose your head.” Painting by Viktor Vasnetsov

Simple, Whole and Real Presence of Natural Aliveness. It didn’t just happen in the 1030’s as my tribal and nomadic Slavic ancestors rose up as pagans, a Latin word that means “country people,” before the indignity of serfdom and feudalism and the pretense of capturing our Peoples and labeling them as “Russian” and “Polish” subjects of “kings” imposed upon us along with Christian names that were not our own.

These events are where this relationship of conquest started in my ancestral lineages. It’s where my Peoples learned to teach their children a way of being that is quite distinct from the Ways of a Free and Beloved People; a way that hurts, rather than enlivens; a way that divides us from ourselves, rather than showing us how to become whole; a way that commits, excuses and forgives abuse rather than correcting it.

Several years ago, as I was commenting to a very learned friend that we were “going back to feudalism,” he asked me why I said “back to feudalism” and encouraged me to read about the reality of feudalism. I’m sorry.

We are not going back to feudalism. Serfs under feudalism had rights and guarantees that no modern “citizen” enjoys.

Conquest happens in my Life every time I relate to my Aliveness sense-less-ly. That is precisely the state imposed upon a conquered human: sense-less, numb, unconscious, un-feeling, cowardly, preferring to ignore rather than re-cognize (literally “to bring back to gnosis – experiential knowing”), pretending to be “positive” while ignoring anything we don’t like, and allowing it to grow as our children’s inheritance from our moral cowardice.

Awakening is NOT “Spiritual” Escapism

“Spirituality” is sold these days as something that’s going to make everything “pleasant.” That’s the bait: another exit hatch from Reality, from how things really are. But Awakening to Aliveness in a culture that is a full-on assault on Aliveness-itself also means waking up to, instead of numbing, what that assault feels like and how it operates in us, as willing and numbed participants.

To Awaken means to wake up to and inside of What-Is, ALL of it. The vitality and connection we discover in Awakening has no comparison to childish “spiritual pleasantries.” We become truly adult and we know what that means from inside our Very Nature.

What of this “Deep Freedom Now”? To what depths must I dare venture now to rekindle my connection to the sense of what it means to Live as a Free and Beloved Person – even if that means simply acknowledging how remote that is for me? What Raw Rub of Re-cognition must I dare be willing to Feel, in my own Relationship to my Aliveness and to the Aliveness of those whom I claim to love, to rekindle a Way that Offers Aliveness to Aliveness?

An Invitation to Mastery

In the measure that I expand my awareness of the human experience among different peoples, I also discover that there’s a profound Invitation inherent in Aliveness: the Invitation to Attention, to Capacity and Mastery.

I could just live out my life in the automatism of my familial and cultural programming, with cosmetic “personal” adjustments, or I can embrace the Journey of Learning and Apprenticeship with Aliveness-Itself, THIS Aliveness I’m woven of and surrounded by, THIS Aliveness my flesh and bones are nourished by and spring forth from, THIS Aliveness they will, in turn, nourish and spring forth from again, as Aliveness. I discover that the sense I do or don’t discover in Living is in direct proportion to the sense-ability I awaken to Aliveness, literally.

Wisdom can seem remote because it’s so close at hand. We are made of it. Yet our ideas of ourselves and everything else obscure our attention to What-Is and What-We-Are. We are so caught up in our projection of a self-image into a world woven of our ideas of it that it’s easy to spend a lifetime without ever touching the Ground, of our Being, of What-Is and What-We-ARE.

So we begin to simply pay attention to What-Is. It can be very, very simple, like just noticing the different shades of the grass, or our partner or child’s breathing pattern, or the song of birds. To notice. To connect to LIFE, to REALITY, with our senses – to MAKE SENSE of the world, literally.

The First Freedom

Challenge yourself to bring these lessons close to home, right to your dining room table.

This article is entitled “The First Freedom.” What is the First Freedom, before we rush off in hot pursuit of the latest promise of some fantastic “freedom” magic pill that’s going to “make it all better” and the endless promises and variations of “change” that this inexorable imperial anti-culture is premised on? What is the hard, slow, beautiful, Alive, adult work of freedom that many Europeans, for example, have mostly avoided for 1500+ years? Deep Freedom Now starts here: in noticing how much we’d like to get “free” while we avoid giving it and planting it and caring for it, like a seed, in our most intimate relationships.

Notice and you plant the seed. Notice some more and it starts sprouting and growing. It is far more simple and powerful than we imagine, and profoundly healing as we discover our wholeness again.

The word “inexorable” comes from the Latin in: “not, negation” + ex: “out of” + orare: “to pray, to beseech” + habile: “able.” The progress of this anti-culture empire is inexorable: we are not going to be able to pray or beg or protest our way out of it. European peoples have already done this for over 2000 years. It’s going to take a different kind of courage and attention. The empire isn’t just “out there,” it’s also “in here.” That’s the rub.

What is the First Freedom before we try to change anything about what happens at our dinner table or our preference to eat in cozy and mutual alienation in front of the television set? What could possibly be the first step to a “condition of free and beloved People” in the company of folks with whom we have woven an “intimacy” that, perhaps, is not so free and not so loving?

The First Freedom is to Notice.

Bring it Home to Your Relationships

How? As simply as you can. Record a conversation with someone you “love” and then listen to it together and Notice how you talk to each other and what claims you make upon the other. Notice. Then start Noticing with more people in your life.

Stop and Notice and You Will Find Your Way.
It takes Honesty and Humility to Recognize When You Are Lost.  If you get lost, first STOP! Then Notice, Get Centered, Get Comfortable and Pay Attention Until You Get Oriented. Then You Will Find Your Way.

If we get lost in a remote mountain forest the first step to finding our Way is to STOP and Notice that we are Lost. That is the first crucial step to survival. It takes honesty and humility. We then begin to Notice exactly where we are, not with the aim of going somewhere else but in order to First Get Oriented Here, to Find Out Where We Are, then Get Well in that Place, finding water, food, rest, shelter. Once we are Oriented To Where We Are then our Orientation begins to Connect to greater dimensions of Where We Are and the Ways We Can Go. This happens from Noticing. Noticing requires STOPPING. This is true not only in a forest of trees but also in a thicket of Ancestral Consequences.

The one who stands before the mirror lives because s/he breathes and pulses. That pulse beats from pulse to pulse to pulse, uninterruptedly, codifying and in-forming the entirety of our Ancestral Sojourn into our pulse now. The whole or interrupted and truncated pattern of our breathing informs us exactly of the Nature of that Sojourn and how our Bio-Logical (Life Logical) Nature has been welcomed or frustrated. Life is fractal and emergent. Its qualities are reflected in the qualities of any of its aspects, if we but Notice.

S/He who stands before the mirror is of an Aliveness that cannot be measured in years or decades. S/He is both fruit and seed, consequence and consequent, from the Very Beginning and the Heart of what Pulses in and as us. Being makes an invitation of Aliveness to each one of us? What Invitation do we make back to Being, the verb of it, the Aliveness of it?

Transformation is NOT Change

It is easy to try to “change” how we are. Most of us spend our lives doing just that, donning new “attitudes, ideas and resolutions” like a change of clothes. It takes another dimension of courage to Notice Deeply and Transform.

Transformation and change are profoundly different. Whereas change tries to sidestep how we are right now, Transformation happens through what we so readily avoid and want to escape in ourselves, our way of being. We stop and begin noticing how we ARE and that which we are so eager to change, with respect, a word which comes from the Latin re: again + specere: “to look.” When we respect ourselves we look again.

Is the Aliveness reflected in your mirror still being held hostage to who you think you are? Look again, with your eyes, in your eyes and Notice: what is it that you invite yourself into, in relationship to Aliveness? What is it that the Aliveness in you Desires or doesn’t even dare Desire any longer? Notice.

As we respect the integrity of who and how we are, right now, BEFORE trying to change anything, then Aliveness orients toward Aliveness, Naturally.

Transformation happens as Life orients toward Aliveness by the very Nature of the Life-Logical Intelligence we are woven of. Conquered peoples are forcibly acculturated to not allow or notice this. THAT is what conquest is all about, changing a human being into a human resource, a tool, a programmed and predictable, machined person on auto-pilot, traumatized without knowing it, hypnotized in a thought world that never really connects to the ground. Most of us treat ourselves and everything around us as ideas to “think,” not as Living Natures to Notice. This is not accusatory. Notice. When we Notice we begin to SEE. Then True Intelligence Awakens and guides us. It is SIMPLE.

The Caterpillar Transforms into a Butterfly, not because it tries to become what it's not, but because it dares to discover what it IS. Photo: Charlesjsharp
The Caterpillar Transforms into a Butterfly, not because it tries to become what it is not, but because it dares to Encounter and  Be Undone by What It Is, and to be made anew in his Undoing. Photo: Charlesjsharp

The caterpillar does not transform by trying to become what he is not. He transforms by spinning a Sacred Space for meeting what he Is, and Journeying so deeply as to be Undone by his own Being. It is the Undoing itself that births New Beingness.

These words only reveal their value in the measure that one looks beyond them, to What Is, to What YOU Are. The Chinese say:

When the wise point at the moon, fools study the finger.

The depth of our Noticing determines the depth of Transformation in which our Re-spect allows Aliveness to grow in us. This is a natural process. Life orients toward Life as we Notice Life deeply, richly and in our bodies. We are Aliveness, moving toward sensible Aliveness in the measure we reawaken our capacity to sense again, literally, bodily, bio-logically (in the logic of LIFE and not the reductionist nonsense that passes as “biology” these days), from what we ARE, not just what we think we are and exist in. We and the world we inhabit are woven of Profound Connection.

Inviting Ourselves into the Freedom of Noticing

Do we or don’t we treat ourselves, our “loved ones,” and our World as Free to Operate Under its Natural Intelligence and as a Beloved? How? The First Freedom is the Freedom to Notice our actual experience and ways of relating, just as they are, right now.

When we replace our reactive efforts to “change” with sustained, patient, curious Noticing, we discover the Nature of Deep Transformation. It’s Natural. It’s an essential Quality of all Aliveness, if we would just Notice.

Recently, a man in his sixties asked me, “Why do I love people who hurt me?” I was touched by his courage in simply asking the question, and offering me that question. I said to him: “Yes. That is a powerful question. Why do we love people who hurt us? Hmmm… Thank you.”

Every single one of us has questions that await our asking, more than our answering. Ask them. Notice them. Live them. Then your living will be their Living Answer.

Only You Can Invite Yourself to the First Freedom: to Notice! Enjoy!

Gather Seeds

Of Wisdom, of Way-Finding,

That We May LIVE the Life We Love

And Love the Life We Are,

in the Wisdom of Aliveness.

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