To be truly free means to live without even one rule to guide you as you express your life. This can only be done by acting from a love free of conditions and conditioning for you can only love all other as you love yourself and you can only act from that love. Such are the paradoxes of true freedom; that it can never be believed yet is completely expressible.
When I was fifteen, I had a conversation with God about what it might mean to be truly free. I must admit, I was actually tired of algebra homework and this seemed a better use of that moment. I started by asking what sort of way might lead to successful freedom. Well, I was making many assumptions that I did not realize until I got the answer, “To be truly free, you can not be bound by any rules.” “But how am I to lead a life in a world of rules that way? Can’t here be at least one simple rule to guide me”, I asked. Then I heard an echoing, “Not even one rule to guide you?” So, I asked, “How is that possible that I could live in a world of rules without even one rule to guide me?”, and the answer was more shocking than I could have ever imagined.
First I was told to love without rules first and foremost. I tried to argue that that was a rule and I got, “Love without even one rule to guide you.” At this point, the line started feeling a bit like a ruler on the knuckles. What came next was a lesson on virtue though I did not get that at the time.
To begin with, I was told that nothing and no one can stand apart from me. This left me in a questioning state and as if to answer the question I could remember to ask, “Be neither above nor below; to the left or the right; in front nor behind anyone nor anything.” I was still a bit befuddled and then I got it when I heard, “The humble can never be humiliated for they stand apart from no one and nothing.” I argued about what I had been told about humility and I was corrected with the next virtue.
I was shown the many quirks of my mind and heart at that time, in both habits and nature. The light shone beautifully on myself and I knew the value of self honesty. I was given many reminders of the power of this virtue over the years but in that moment, the significance was to realize that it is not self-honest to call being self-honest, humility when humility is about something else, expressed just prior.
So I had to ask how I was suppose to keep balance in a sea of rules with only humility and self honesty and I was told that balance comes from temperance. At the time, temperance seemed like a sea of rules of not going into excess and as all those thoughts arose a piercing thought emerged that shattered the rest. I thought, “What do you mean, a temperance so tempered it is not even extreme in its temperance?” In that moment I was faced with two impossibilities. First, what was that thought in response to as it came out of nowhere but was clearly my ego speaking. Second, I released myself just revealed an idea I had never heard or thought of. So I wondered for a moment, “What are thoughts that they can think something I didn’t know anything about before and who am I if I am not my thoughts?”
“How am I supposed to be if I am not my thoughts? How much of me is not who I am?”, I continued to wonder. “You are not yourself but trust and be patient and you will discover who you are.”, words that would tease me for another decade before I really began to understand them. I wondered how I was supposed to know how to trust and I remembered a saying I made up in fourth grade, “When it is true, there is no doubt.” “But how am I to know what to look to when everywhere I look, looks like doubt?”, I begged, maybe a bit of a whine. “Be still, and remember who who are.” “What?”, it seemed like nonsense but then I remembered how I was still a year ago and experienced infinity to test something a math teacher had said. (The details of this story are for a post called “How to Contemplate” as it makes a very innocent yet complete guide to beginning contemplation.)
I contemplated all of knew of myself as I clearly did not yet know myself and it quickly lead to an invitation to trust and just enter into freedom. I tried to trust but couldn’t do it. I tried with all my might and with all my surrender and all in between but it was not accessible to me at that time. When I looked to myself to see why, I saw that all my beliefs and the behavior they support stood as a barrier between me and my freedom. That was the first time I noticed that belief shows a lack of trust but that too would take a decade to mature in my life. “What can I do about this impossible wall, I can’t seem to let go of enough belief nor trust enough to cross?”, I pleaded in resignation rather than whining. “You will have to forgive the conditions of your love away?’, I heard and remembered that the new NIV Bible I had, showed that in most of the Old Testament, that the word used for forgive often also meant ‘to understand’. And so I left this conversation with one last choice.
I was left with seven impossible skills that are not rules to learn. I had been shown that virtue has nothing to do with moral or ethic and was tasked to understand and express seven of them in particular, Humility (non-separateness/non-resistant), Self-Honesty (Discernment/Truth), Temperance (Equanimity/Detachment), Trust(Gratitude/Faith), Patience(Momentum/Serendipity), Stillness (Silence/Knowing), and Forgiveness (Surrender/Understanding). Each had been presented in an impossible way so I had to decide how I wanted to interpret this. Instead of seeing true freedom as impossible in some way, I chose to learn these impossible skills somehow. As I made this choice, I knew, with all my being, that the truly free love all of existence and life unconditionally and that the skills of what virtue they cultivate are how they get by without even one rule to guide them.
Many people think they or some other person is power hungry but on that day, I actually became power hungry. However, I did not make any significant progress with my hunger until I disconnected power from control and let go of control. It was in this process of letting go of control that I allowed my skills of virtue begin to work on their own without even one rule to guide them. If most who believe they seek power where to have power revealed to them, they would run for they can not let go of control enough to accept power. Freedom expressed accumulates and flows power in continual expansion of expression. The rhythms of freedom are uniquely same for all of us and completely accessible but not to yourself. Just know who you are and be ever more free evermore.
True freedom begins with begins with just one virtue for even the smallest virtue expressed reveals the rest. And as virtue grows, so does your ability to express love ever more unconditionally evermore.