Having come to the decision that freedom is what I value most, the next step according to Adyashanti is adopt unconditional follow-through. “Life unfolds along the lines of what you value most.” That instruction is what sealed the deal on “freedom” being my core value. It’s a big concept and can be applied to most anything - political freedom, freedom to move about the world without fear, also freedom of expression. Free time has been a biggie and ultimately got me to leave a pretty enviable career position for a lot less money in academia. For me, as I mentioned to Kim, describing my ‘spiritual’ aspiration as seeking freedom from the feedback loops of judgements and emotional triggers and the subsequent emotional reactions of anxiety or depression or anger - this aspect of freedom hits my resonate frequency. It even makes sense relative to my enneagram personality type (7/8 wing) described as the “enthusiast” who seeks excitement and enjoys a wide variety of experiences.
Adya’s next step on this path to liberation is to consider what I’m willing to do or let go of doing. If I look at the low hanging fruit and just consider giving up classic vices I don’t get the sense this will be difficult. A glass of wine or two a week, the occasional front-porch cigarette watching the moon (same pack of cigs in the freezer for a year), I’ve been able to quit caffeine for long periods of time. I come back to them because they feel medicinal and in moderation and they don’t seem cause any suffering. To the contrary, I’ve found them helpful. I haven’t found the morning nasty-mouth dehydration from wine so awful that it offsets last night’s sweet buzz. But if I became convinced these were impeding my path, they’re gone.
I think the higher fruit, the deeper more systemic type of behaviors like hurrying through the activities of my day, not being fully present in activities or conversations, being self-critical….OF COURSE I’m willing to give those up. I’m dying to give those up but they don’t seem entirely voluntary. So either I need help identifying what I need to be willing to give up, or instead I should focus on what I’m willing to do.
If I’m confident that it will help, there aren’t many things that won’t make this list of things I’m willing to do. My morning practice is really helpful and seems to be paramount to remaining the least bit easeful and focussed. I’m willing to expand that. I’m willing to tighten up my diet which is pretty good already. At home mostly I eat rice and steamed veggies, raw fruit and veggie smoothies, fruit, nuts, the occasional cookies or multigrain english muffin with honey. I enjoy an occasional sashimi or chicken or beef on the increasingly rare occasion that I can trust it’s not pumped full of in-bred nastiness hormones, antibiotics or GMO’s. Eat more often? Sure, I’m willing. I’m nice to people. I recycle and drive a prius. I think most of my DOING is pretty helpful.
What am I willing to do or let go of doing?
Maybe the intent is for these two considerations to be coupled together - I may need to be willing to give something up to be able to do what I need to do. This thought occurred when I considered selfishness and independence. I’m single, living alone, have no direct reports at work (aside from students) and don’t really report to a supervisor. I could hardly have a more independent life. My time is generally spent working on my house, working through my practice, working on my music, loving on Kim, and doing things for me. Perhaps adopting the sense that it’s not for me but for God would help. That’s what Bhakti Yoga is all about, that’s what I’ve SAID I’m into. Intellectually I totally get everything is for God….and from God, and within God, and through God. Is making things FOR him like saying the wind is for the air or the waves are for the ocean? That’s a head answer to a heart question. When I think about God my heart feels warmer. When I bow my head and chant to Durga my mind becomes more still. When I’m at kirtan or doing pranayama or sitting or any other ‘awareness’ practice I’ve been drawn to, I generally feel the sense that it’s for and about God, about raising the vibration or tapping into a universal consciousness. But when I’m cleaning out my gutters he’s generally not at the forefront.
Karma yogis are all about service to others. Am I willing to commit my life to serving? Am I willing to invite Aunt Martha to leave her independent living apartment and move in with me? Oh my, I’m don’t feel willing to do that. I’m certainly not eager for such a change. Fortunately I don’t think she wants or needs to. Man, I wouldn’t be able to do many of the things I’m drawn to, not to mention having to give up space and time. This isn’t the least bit comfortable - considering giving up some free time or independence - I must be on the right track. So far this step feels like it’s more about what I’m NOT willing to do : )
Story from Atmaram:
There was a great musician in Akbar's Court known as Thansen. He used to sing night and day and the music was mellifluous. It was perfect music but there was no deep feeling in his singing. One day Akbar and Thansen were going round the city. Akbar found an old man singing to himself songs in praise of God. Akbar stopped his chariot and went on listening to the song of the devotee and even without his knowing it, tears started flowing from his eyes. His heart was deeply moved. He went some distance and told Thansen: "You have been singing for a long time before me and I have always found your music very sweet to the ears but it has never moved my heart, but the music of this devotee has melted my heart. I wish to know the difference between your singing and the singing of this devotee!" Thansen replied, "Maharaja I have been singing to please you, but this devotee is singing to please God, that is the difference."