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Suffering and the Call to Freedom

BY Parvati

The ability to turn on your computer, surf the internet, express what you wish and even read this blog is a form of freedom that most of us take for granted. But it should not be overlooked. There are millions in our world today who are brutally tortured, even murdered, for simple freedoms we know to be our human right.
I recently saw an extremely powerful video recounting life in North Korea by a courageous young woman who, at thirteen, fled the brutal dictatorship there and bravely traveled to freedom through China, across the Gobi Desert and into Mongolia. A witness to murder, rape and torture, she shares the pressing need for us to become more informed about the state of her people, who are executed for actions as simple as an unauthorized long-distance phone call. I share the video here:

This video came to my attention at the same time that my teacher Amma was in the Vatican with the Pope and ten other world faith leaders to sign a universal declaration to end human trafficking and slavery by 2020. At the signing, Amma said:
“People from all nations and religions become victims to the ravaging effects of human enslavement and experience extreme abuse and suffering. Their physical and mental pain does not differentiate between language, race or skin colour. These victims are just a single group of humans, struggling against the clutches of endless sorrow and emotional suppression. The human mind has created many divisions in the name of religion, caste, language and national boundaries. Let us try to create a bridge of all-encompassing pure love to break down these self-created walls.”
The Buddha provided us with The Four Noble Truths, four aphorisms that express the nature of reality. The first and most popular is the reality of suffering. Most of us don’t have far to go to find the experience of suffering in our life. Whether we are unhappy at work, with our life partner, without a life partner, with our wardrobe, our bodies, or the food we eat… our mind finds ways to resist what is. In the other noble truths, the Buddha explains the path to freedom. When we clearly understand the ways we become attached to our limited perceptions and perpetual wanting, we are no longer bound by them.
Without diminishing the intensity of global suffering and the very real call to action to help alleviate it, we must also be aware of the way slavery is present in less visible forms within each one of us. This week, I have become more aware of my own sources of suffering. I have seen how there are aspects of the self that seek to diminish the experience of our true nature. The way we capture ourselves, the way we limit ourselves, is not nearly as overt as the brutal violence experienced by my One Earth brothers and sisters in North Korea or elsewhere, or those enslaved by human trafficking. Yet, it too needs to be addressed, quite simply because we are all connected.
I have seen with greater clarity the way I play small, pull myself back from opening to this moment, resist the beauty of what is, doubt my own nature and fear the now. This reminds me of a quote from the ancient sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita “You alone are your best friend and your own worst enemy”. Though I am truly blessed with physical freedom, having enough food, water, shelter and people who love me, I still am a captive of my ego. No one but me allows this to take place. So I can set myself free.
I came back from the expansive experience of being with Amma recently in Detroit, with a heart blossoming, and energy in my body/being flowing like a river. I felt Amma-zing! Then, a couple of days back into my Toronto life, I bumped up against a part of me that said: “Oh yeah? Who do you think you are to shine so bright, to be so happy, to feel so free?” Giving that thought power by doubting my self, my energy collapsed and became constricted and I started to feel symptoms of a cold. I slid quickly into a blob of flu-ish goop, which then triggered feelings of having failed at not truly meeting the opportunity with Amma.
But all that is just a story – a way my mind twists things into making this moment somehow against me so I pull the blinds down on my own inner light. Off the tail of an intensive few weeks integrating the “unstoppable force” that has been moving through me with accompanied five-hour-a-day meditation sits prior to seeing Amma, I had built up inner resources to see this shadow dance with greater clarity. I saw the goop arise, and witnessed it. I saw the tendency for a cold come, and witnessed it. As I went deep in meditation, eventually I saw the whole sorry story of “not good enough” as a darkened bubble floating in space in front of me. It was not who I am. I could step into it, wear it around and feel really sorry for myself for feeling sick. Or I could notice what was going on, come back to witnessing, and once again, experience freedom from being a captive of this dark bubble. The flu symptoms would lesson and my vitality would return.
This process has been a true gift. Still a little throat scratchy and less than full of the ample vitality I usually feel, I welcome the opportunity to see the ways in which I keep myself captive, the way I allow my ego-driven perceptions to imprison my spirit and silence my soul.
As we create and perpetuate suffering within ourselves, we create and perpetuate suffering on the planet. As we choose to set ourselves free, we support the freedom of all beings everywhere. In our commitment to freedom, we courageously choose to let go of co-creating with darkened unseen energies that float through the atmosphere around the world at this time. When we are not clear about our true nature, we tend to allow these pollutants, like dark clouds, to seep into our minds, distort our thoughts, affect our actions and turn us away from our true potential. By choosing not to co-create with them, we stop giving them power and step into our magnificence.
I had a palpable experience this week of the way we are all interconnected I had the grace of going for a session with my bio-dynamic osteopath as taught by Dr. James Jealous. As my body relaxed, energy flowed, waves undulated, I felt like an essential particle with the universe, floating, dancing, grounded, supported and free. Then my body became the blue whale – the totem animal that was essential in guiding me on my North Pole journey, and through the subsequent spinal healing. I was the whale. There was no separation. As my body moved with freedom through ripples of rolling waves, it felt as though somewhere in the ocean, a whale, a pod of whales or the whales as a whole also were also freed. I watched inwardly as this interconnection danced through me. In humble awe, I was left feeling radiant and whole.
I come away from the experiences of the past week paying closer attention to the ways in which I close myself off from the moment, make assumptions about what is – in short, choose to be less than I am.
After reading this, I invite you to consider in which ways you hide, keep yourself small, buy into your sorry stories and cut yourself off from the richness of who you are, the magnificence of the now, the fullness of possibilities. Go deep. Have courage. And above all, be compassionate as you see the ways in which you limit yourself. They dissipate as we embrace them with love rather than judgment. Everyone and everything in this universe is healed by returning to our true nature, which is love. The part of you that believes yourself as small and squashes your soul needs love, just as your soul needs love to flower.
I also ask that you please look into the situation in North Korea and do all you can to help end the suffering there. Please pray that flowers of love, peace and joy shower the dark clouds in the atmosphere around the world at this time with effulgent light.