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Fly Free

by David Truman

Doing self-improvement work in the spirit of compensation

The compatibility of discipline and freedom

The eagle's way: how freedom expresses itself as liberating work

Only the free work to live free

Always remember your freedom

We're free, as God made us be. But because we don't live free, it's one of the primary goals of spiritual life to realize and express our freedom. And that's where people often run into inner conflict. We think, "If I'm free, why should I work at becoming free? And if I'm working at it, how can I possibly be free?"

In this way, people set self-discipline and freedom against one another, as if they were opposites. But listen, friends: freedom and discipline are not opposites; they are perfectly compatible. When it comes to freedom and liberation, here is the paradoxical truth:

You ARE already free, but you must learn to EXPRESS your freedom -- just as every eagle had to learn to fly.

To realize our freedom, we must accept that freedom and discipline are compatible! Otherwise, from time to time, we are bound to throw ourselves into efforts to transcend ego and live differently, only to hit a wall. We find that it takes effort -- even ongoing effort -- to work through what needs to be worked through. Seeing that, we are tempted to conclude that we are not free, and we give up trying for liberation. (Or else we tell ourselves that we shouldn't have to work for liberation if we are already free -- and, again, give up).

Liberation from ego and suffering is crucial -- and yes, it takes effort. We need discipline to gain the ability to live as we are. So let's not misuse the idea of freedom so as to support continued bondage. Instead, let's use our sense of freedom to support effective efforts toward liberation. That's right -- we're free to liberate ourselves!

Doing self-improvement work in the spirit of compensation

Sometimes people make another kind of mistake: putting too much on progress and effort and not enough on freedom. But when you work for liberation or self-improvement without faith in your freedom, your efforts become merely compensatory. In that case, the work that you do for the sake of liberation will tend to reinforce your notion that you are not free. You think, "Why am I doing this? I must not be free." Then the more you work, the more you are reminded that you are not free.

Compensation is working as an unfree person, compensating for the belief that you're not free. In that sense, subjectively, you are trying to become free -- as if the achievement of freedom required an essential change in one's nature.

You can't set to work as a non-free person and make yourself free. That doesn't work. You're trying to create freedom, when actually you are free. The effort to create what already exists is destructive: "If you try to build a wall where there already is a wall, you necessarily have to destroy the existing wall." Likewise, if you try to build freedom where freedom is, you have to destroy freedom -- or at least your awareness of freedom.

So, one cannot work in a compensatory spirit and get good results. Compensatory work only reinforces the egoic sense of self-limitation, bondage, and failure. And yet, the understanding of that pitfall can also be misused. An over-emphasis on the dangers of compensation leads to giving up, either in the name of failure, or in the name of freedom.

The compatibility of discipline and freedom

The simple truth is, liberation from ego takes some work. The truth is, you are free, and you need to work for your freedom. People need to do the work and have faith in their freedom -- all at once. The work is not to create freedom, or to become free, but only to make it possible to express freedom (the freedom which already exists). Working to be free works if you remember freedom in the process of working to be free.

The eagle's way: how freedom expresses itself as liberating work

This will make it easy to understand, and easy to remember:

An eagle chick in the nest works at learning to fly. It practices, and eventually, it flies. But why does it flap its tiny wings? Why does it exercise with the goal of flying? BECAUSE IT KNOWS ITSELF TO BE A FLYER. You see? Freedom is the nature of the eagle. It would be free, it would soar, because it knows, somewhere in its DNA, "I am a flyer. I soar."

But for the moment, it's only a little chick, working its wings. Trying to learn to fly. Planning for that. Working toward that.

Only the free work to live free

We are citing the facts that the eagle hungers for freedom, that it wants to fly free, that it yearns to soar, as proof that it is naturally free. Likewise, a person who yearns to be free does so because he or she is naturally free. And a person who rebels against the life of ego-styled limitation, who is repulsed and horrified with many of the conventions of human bondage, of human stupidity, of human aberrance, that person is God's child. If you are unhappy with conditions that are in fact unhappy, then perhaps what that means is, that is not your natural condition. And if you wish to work for freedom from all those limitations, it is not a proof of your bondage, but a proof of your freedom. It is a proof of your nature that you would work to be what you are. You are not working to be different than you are, you see. Only to be the free spirit you already are.

The reason you would do the work is you know you are free. You are free, so you have to be free -- just like the little eagle chick. You see? The eagle has to be free because it is free. So you see that it is actually your own freedom-nature that moves you to do this work.

Only the free work to be free. And, only by remembering the fact of their freedom does their effort to be free succeed. That's because, if you're not working as a free person, you're reinforcing illusions of bondage. So, the work of self-liberation can only succeed for you if, as you are doing that work, you already know you are free.

Always remember your freedom

Since an effective freedom bid starts with the awareness that one is free, people have to retrieve the awareness that they're free. To do that, remember the example of the little eagle -- flapping its wings, knowing that it's a flyer and that it wants to fly. This image helps you retrieve the knowing that you are free. It proves the possibility that you could in fact be free, even though you do not feel free right now, just as that little eagle could in fact be free, even though it can't yet fly.

Remember:

Only the FREE work to live free.

It is precisely because you ARE free
-- and because you know it --
that you work to be free.


by David Truman

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