So let’s go back to that moment when someone is acting in a frustrating way, and we just want to get away from them, to peace and freedom …
In this situation, we can absolutely create freedom for ourselves by getting out of the situation, going for a walk, finding the freedom of nature. And in fact, I highly recommend it in most cases.
But I want to use this scenario to show that freedom can be had even without walking away. Simply an illustration of the principle, not a recommendation to stay in a frustrating situation.
So how can we find freedom? Here’s a simple method that can be practiced:
- Recognize that you’re frustrated (or stressed, disappointed, lonely, etc). Let yourself feel the feelings, as sensations in your body. There’s nothing wrong with how you’re feeling.
- Then bring awareness to your view. The view that is causing the frustration: “They shouldn’t act this way” or “They always criticize me, I don’t know why they have to be so critical” or “I shouldn’t be such a procrastinator, I suck!” We’re not criticizing the view, not even saying it’s wrong … we’re just bringing awareness to the view that’s causing the lack of freedom.
- Ask if the view is helping you or serving you. If you’re feeling frustration or hurt, it’s probably not. Ask whether you’re committed to staying this way, or if you’d like to change. If you’d like to change, move on to the next step.
- Loosen your grip on the view. For example: Do you really know someone shouldn’t act the way they should? Have you walked in their shoes? Do you know how everyone should act? I personally don’t even know how I should act, let alone how others should act. This kind of inquiry is not to tell ourselves that our view is wrong — it’s simply to loosen our attachment to the view, to show that there might be other possibilities. Is it possible there are other perspectives? Other things you don’t know?
- Experience the world free of views. In any moment, we can simply let go of our views and see the world just as it is. See the objects, the light, the colors and textures, the space of the world around us. See the other person simply as a collection of matter and energy. Just experience the moment as direct experience, not as part of a narrative that we have in our heads. This is true freedom, and it’s simply being in the moment free of views, just experiencing. It’s like when you’ve been out in nature, fully immersed in the experience without really thinking anything, lazily lying in the grass staring up at the trees and sky, floating in the ocean feeling one with the water, on vacation in a hammock fully relaxed and without any worries. This is the freedom available to us in any moment.
- Bonus: Bring in a new, helpful perspective. First of all, you don’t need a new perspective — the freedom is experiencing the moment without views. That said, sometimes it can be helpful to try out new perspectives! For example … can we find gratitude for this person, or for ourselves? Can we see the gift that they are, or that we are? Can we feel a connection to them, or find compassion for the fear and pain they’re feeling? Could we bring curiosity or a sense of exploration to the situation? This kind of thing isn’t always helpful (for example, if you’re in danger or in an abusive situation, get away!), but can very often be worth trying out.
This all takes practice, obviously. You can’t do the last few steps until you start practicing the first few steps. The last few steps can be a struggle when we’re really strongly holding our views. Don’t worry too much about that, just keep practicing!