It’s our expectations that keep us trapped. The moment you expect something like respect, praise, being right, finding something fulfilling in the future, there you are—a prisoner to that expectation.
When you see an expectation arise, let it pass. Just be for one moment without that expectation. That is where freedom lies. Right here in this moment, without the expectation that something else should happen, something more than what is already happening.
It’s the constant rehashing of the past that keeps us trapped. If you tell stories about how certain events led you to this moment, that’s great. But what does it have to do with right now? Nothing. What does your name, or your story or your job title have to do with sitting on a chair right now, reading this? Nothing. They are just stories. Little boxes we put ourselves in. We become prisoners to these boxes. When you see the past arise as a thought, let it pass. Just be for one moment without that thought. That is where freedom lies.
It’s our constant belief that we know how reality or life really is that keeps us trapped. This is where all human conflict comes from. It comes from the belief that the world you see is an objective world. So if you meet someone today and you get into some conflict, it means you believe that you know how it really is.
But how is it really? Do you see that the world is nothing more than a set of thoughts appearing right now? Did you come out of the womb knowing any of these thoughts? If not, they are all learned. So you are regurgitating learned ideas and calling it "reality." Then fighting with the guy next to you because his reality doesn't agree with yours. Neither one of you has a choice. We are conditioned to see whatever world we see. Our only choice is to wake up from this.
Isn’t it amazing that the person next to you can have a totally different set of thoughts and therefore see a totally different world than you see? There may be some overlap. In other words, you and a friend may agree that the earth is round. You agree on that concept. But keep talking. Eventually you will run into a conflict about what else is here, what reality really is. And the moment you find conflict, it just means you are buying into thoughts arising right now. You are believing that thought is delivering reality. It isn’t. What you take to be reality is really a set of thoughts, infused with a personal or cultural interpretation. A Democrat sees a different world than a Republican. Which one sees it the way it really is? Neither one. Neither person really exists. The person is like a projector of concepts. The “person” is one of those concepts. The more you believe that your concepts are delivering an objective world the more you live in delusion. The more you find conflict. Conflict is a wake up call. Let it show you what you are defending and protecting—a sense of self invested in ideas.
See that the very ideas that you cling to keep you trapped. And ultimately, the idea that keeps you trapped the most is the idea that there is a separate you. When you see thoughts arise that tell you “this is how life really is,” or "this is how I really am," let them pass. Just be for one moment without those thoughts. That is where freedom lies.
It is our ideas about freedom, about enlightenment, happiness, truth, and spirituality, that keep us trapped. They are just ideas. Ideas are great. But when they are treated as truth, we really live in delusion. When you see your favorite ideas about enlightenment, happiness, spirituality, and truth arise, let them pass.
The notion that there is no self is a great insight that can happen along the way to freedom. The insight, in most cases where people spout it as truth, has left an imprint of belief, which can only belong to a self. Be free of it. You don't need it.
In just being without thought, you are stripped naked. You have no expectation, no hope, no past, no future, no story, no other, and no object. It takes thoughts to have all those things. In just resting right here, you find the doorway to freedom. You find that, before any of these thoughts arise, presence is here. Presence is like home. It is what you really are. Relax into it completely. And when it dawns on you that freedom is here and that it lies at the very core of our existence, you are then free to entertain thoughts, have expectations, tell stories and even talk of objects “out there” in the world. But now you know what is really happening. Now you will never take your thoughts to be delivering reality.
This freedom is available to all. All it takes is the desire to not emphasize the past, the future, your hope, your beliefs, your positions, and your expectations. To just be in a state of not knowing has a profound effect on us, as humans. Take this leap into the unknown. Just rest in not-knowing throughout the day, as often as possible. Find the freedom that is already here. And in that unknowing, thoughts will arise. You will find that you can know a billion things through thinking. But every one of those thoughts must and does come to rest, back into the unknowing. You can scream at the top of your lungs and think all you want. Yet nothing that you say or think will have the capacity to destroy or threaten the basic unknowing that you've found at the core of your experience.