True freedom can only be found within yourself.
So often do we receive messages from all around us telling us that we are not enough. That we need more. More money, newer stuff, a better job, a different body, the seemingly perfect relationship or family life. We are born beautiful, whole and complete just as we are and then through our external conditioning, we forget. And only through mindfulness and conscious moment-to-moment choice can we empower ourselves to wake up and get free again.
Here I'll explain a little background on the yogic philosophy of liberation through inner freedom and then the path to get you there.
The Yoga Sutras
In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers us a map for the path of self-realization through the practices of yoga. The first book of the Sutras gives us the aims of yoga and a promise of liberation through earnest dedication and study. The second book offers the practices that will help to get us there. In the third book, Patanjali tells of the gifts and powers that can be attained through the practices of yoga. And finally in book four, we learn about the final shift in consciousness from the small egoic "I" self to becoming a jivanmukta, or a liberated being, a person who bears unconditional witness to their experience and resides within the purusha, or the true Self that is eternal and unaffected by the ever-changing nature of life.
(Read on about The Foundation of the Yoga Sutras.)
First, Ask Yourself
If we truly desire to be free from the inside out, we must be willing to ask ourselves: Are we choosing to be in resistance or in flow of our lives? Are we choosing to be ruled by pressures of the external world or are we making a conscious effort to accept ourselves just as we are and know our "enough-ness?"
The Path to Freedom
Awareness of Our Interconnectedness
Through mindful awareness of our own citta vritti, our own mental chatter and projections, we are able to cultivate our inner witness, the true self that knows the interconnected-ness of all life and all beings. As we peel back the illusion of a separate self, and the obstacles and fears that stand in the way of truly opening our hearts to love and presence in the moment, we realize our connectivity to all of life. When we realize that our soul self, our essence of divinity and love, is eternal and unaffected by the ebbs and flows of life around us, the illusion of separateness from others dissolves and we discover our vast inner freedom.
The simple practice of mindfulness can be our pathway to this sense of inner spaciousness and freedom. As you sit, I invite you to slow down and notice your present moment experience:
What sensations are you feeling in your body? How is energy moving through you in this moment? Notice the mood, vibration, color or texture of this energy. What emotions are showing up for you? What memories or past conditioning are these emotions connected to? What are you believing about yourself, about life, about the world?
(To help, try RAIN: A Technique for Mindfulness.)
Non-Judgment and Non-Attachment
Take this time to notice your experience without needing to judge, fix, or have anything be different than how it is. See if you can observe these inner happenings without identifying with the experience and allowing it to consume you. If we attach to our experience whether positive or negative, expectation and clinging happen, which ultimately causes us to suffer. Remember that you are not limited to your physical sensations. You are not slave to your emotions. You are not trapped within the confines of your mind if you don't want to be. Know that whatever is present for you is valid and real, and whether we like it or not, it won't last forever.
In order to experience the deep blissful peace of contentment and taste liberation, we must commit to our practice both on and off the mat. It's relatively easy to concentrate, feel our bodies, be kind to ourselves, and let go of the hum of the world when we're on our mats in a peaceful space. The practice only deepens when we step off our mats and back into the bustle of our lives. The lessons learned on our yoga mats must continue in our relationships, at work, with our families, and within ourselves.
If you can practice this mindfulness with attention, care and consistency, it becomes like a muscle that you can train. This witnessing awareness then becomes part of your inner landscape.
Choose to Be Free
If we can acknowledge our experience as it is happening and allow it to move through us, we become free. When we can fully honor our moment-to-moment experience as it is happening and allow it to be just that, temporary, intense, beautiful, and fully felt in the present moment, we in turn are able to become more present with the changes of moment-to-moment life. We come home to the love that is always available within ourselves. And in that space of unconditional inner presence, we find our liberation.