What Is Liberation?
What is liberation? Oh, it’s just a word, isn’t it? There are so many words that seem to point to something beyond our direct experience of life as it is happening right now. Words like “divine,” “enlightenment,” “God,” “happiness,” “Oneness.” That’s the short list. Where are these things? Where is liberation? It sounds like a far away place with bright blue skies, fluffy clouds, positive feelings and maybe even a gold lining.
But what is it really? Is it more than just a concept? It is a realization? For me, to be liberated means to be curious and loving towards what is – whatever that is. The moment liberation is placed outside present experience, it becomes like a dream – a fantasy not unlike any other fantasy of the ego.
Today, I was watching with pure curiosity bubbles in a hot tub, amazed at how they form, how they float in groups for a while, and then how they disappear suddenly. Then I was watching with the same curiosity how sensations form, float in space for a while, group together with other sensations, and then disappear.
Everything is already flowing within the movement of liberation naturally. I cannot bring about liberation. I can only notice that it is already here, woven into the fabric of life. All that it takes is a simple stopping and noticing. Everything that forms is in the process of dissolving at the same time. Even our lives, which seem to have such solidity and permanency are a lot like those bubbles or sensations. The body and mind forms, it wanders around for a while, then it disintegrates, leaving no trace. It is only the idea of a self that is afraid of the disintegration of itself. The fear of death is built into the idea of a self, including a self that can somehow become liberated and maybe even avoid physical death. What a fool’s game, for the self is just another bubble of thought forming, floating for a while, then disappearing.
A great way to suffer is to imagine liberation as being something fixed and permanent, a far away place to keep seeking and seeking. In that way, liberation feels solid, out of reach, always somewhere else. When liberation is reduced to a concept like that, there is a longing towards it and a turning away from what is arising now within awareness. Liberation as a concept always mirrors back a present self that is just not there yet. But in that moment of seeing it as a concept, complete with images and sensations and an utter longing towards it, there is the possibility of becoming curious about it, in the same way one might become curious about bubbles or sensations. Imagine watching the concept form, float around for a while, then disappear into thin air. That is the liberation. To see that liberation is just a concept that creates suffering is to see the emptiness of liberation. And in that seeing, what is left is what is. This moment, exactly as it is. And as this moment is seen, felt, embraced in every way, one is immersed in liberation constantly. Life just keeps showing how it it liberating itself in each moment, with the arising and falling of everything naturally. The only thing to do on the pathless path to liberation or happiness or whatever you are seeking is to notice that this is what is happening. Little dreams are arising and when we are not aware of them, they pull us into a blinding search for a far away place.
When liberation is taken out of the realm of concept and an imagined future and instead is taken to be an attitude of openness towards what is arising now, there is no longer a seeking towards liberation. Liberation then becomes the bubble floating on water, the sensation arising and falling, the pain stinging in the stomach, the current thought coming and going, the sound piercing through the air and then vanishing into silence, and the space between and within everything that is happening.
If I have one wish, it is to never be fooled into thinking that liberation is anything other than a love and curiosity towards whatever is happening right now. It’s ok if you don’t have that same wish. But I do encourage you to look. Look at the idea of liberation or whatever you are chasing. See it as a bubble that is about to die if you just keep watching. Enter liberation from there.