Freedom. As an American, I am schooled to believe that freedom is inherent to all humans. As a yogi, I believe in freedom as deeply and passionately as Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin did. I believe in freedom from the bevy of sins that steal the soul as well as the life that we see done with such numbing regularity.
But, I have serious doubts as to what the American idea of freedom is. We are often claiming freedom and love the taste of freedom to do what we do, even as we don chain after chain of debt, because we have to have the latest and greatest thing. New cell phone, check. New car, check. Hot new threads, check. Then we have to pay – the car note, the house note, the cell phone bill. We have to work that job that numbs the mind and soul to keep up with what we want. Then we tie one on during the weekend, recover the next day, and then make our social appearance at church… the list is endless, and we end up trapped, chained to the same stupid cycle week after week, month after month, and year after year, til we retire, look at the stranger next to us, and wonder what the hell happened.
So, what brought us from being free and loving our freedom down? Attachment. We are attached to so many things, each other, our image, our social standing, our fashion sense. We have to live in the right place, and wear the right clothes, and do what that social status tells us is the right things, even if you hate the activity and have to raise a glass with people you find vacuous and boring.
Attachment. You suffer through what you hate in order to get what you think you want, which isn’t really what you thought it was in the first place.
Does this mean that you should chuck it all, be homeless and glory in the absolute freedom on living freegan on the world? Not at all, unless you feel your personal path calls for it. As a yogi in a householder’s tradition, I believe that you have a duty to your progeny, to yourself, to maintain yourself as you think you need to do. But, we can take some of the chains we have and remove them.
Our lives were meant to be lived free and in a state of harmony. Chains clanking do not harmonize well.
So, how do we get out of this? We minimize our chains to maximize our freedom. I try my best to live with this credo, so this is what I have come up with:
1. I buy durable, classic fashion. I have one suit in my closet that I never wear, a couple of match-everything dress shirts, and one set of dress shoes. The rest are cargo pants, jeans, and pullovers. Wash and wear, mix and match, permanent press. I have one set of brown motorcycle boots, and one set of black ones. One belt. My closet fits into one suitcase.
2. I can do most of the repairs on my own motorcycle. I have the gear to ride it most days, notwithstanding extreme cold days. The only thing that keeps me from riding my motorcycle 100% of the time is creature comfort. On cold, wet days, its nice to ride in my wifes’ Chrysler Pacifica and be warm and dry.
3. My job is deeply fulfilling and pays ok. I teach motorcycle safety courses and I substitute teach. I can walk into any classroom and have good control of the class and get the content taught. I engage the kids well because I genuinely believe that I am helping them.
4. I budget and try to stay in there. Extra gets stashed for days that I need extra.
5. If I don’t have the cash for it, I don’t get it, plain and simple. I had planned on contacts this month, but my budget did not cover it. thus, no contacts.
Attachments are things that limit your freedom. Think of the 20 year old who is paying for an apartment, food, and a good time. S/he is as free as it gets in American society. S/he can pick up and go if s/he chooses, or stay and work. S/he can drink and play, or s/he can be cool and keep to him- or herself. Either way, s/he is free to move and do as s/he chooses.
The first attachment comes with the would ‘should.’ I should have that new car. I should make more money. I should settle down. I should have this and that or the other… and this goes on and on.
Does this mean you should not care, get married, have kids? Those are decisions between you and your partner, not me. I’m just a yogi. I love and care deeply for my kids. Each of them is like a precious gem, unique and perfect to me. I chose to have kids, and I take my commitment to them deeply.
In Star Wars, the Jedi are the ultimate in Justice. They are superpowered people schooled to emotionless objectivity. Jedi say that they cannot do their work and be attached, that having emotional attachments leads to the dark side, often with tragic consequences. we saw how well that works out, because hiding attachment adds another chain that weighs down.
I have to disagree with the idea that not having an attachment is ideal – its not the attachment that leads to the dark side, it’s the craven need to protect what is ‘ours’, which is really not, because when phones break, clothes tear, and cars die, we discard them. They were never ‘ours’ because they pass in and out of our lives with nary another thought than to get another. If it can be upgraded, traded, or discarded, what was so important about it in the first place?
Be free, take that chains that hold you down and cast them off. Keep the attachments that mean something and hold them, and let the rest go. Be mindful of that each time you want something new, upgraded, or updated.
Be at peace. Sat Nam.