Chapter 1:

The Roots of Our Restriction

 

The movement toward freedom is a journey upon which humans have been traveling since the dawn of time. We are all voyagers on that journey. Some of us are seeking to discover the great universal truths that will further the conditions of all beings. Some hope to find a better life for their children. Others yet, seek their peace only in what is most immediately gratifying. In all ways, from the temporal to the universal, all people in all ages have sought to bring into their experience some greater freedom.

The journey toward greater freedom is different from most other kinds of voyages. Ordinarily, the making of any journey includes an awareness of one’s ultimate destination. However, with the journey toward greater freedom this is not usually the case. In fact, the journey towards greater freedom is most often taken only as a diversion from some unpleasant condition. The truth is, this journey is most frequently made because of a desire to reduce one’s discomforts, rather than for the intent of realizing some lofty goal or vision.

In this situation, where a voyager is not entirely sure of the destination for his or her journey, that individual might most accurately be considered an explorer, rather than merely a traveler. And in such a case, his or her journey could truly be considered more of an adventure, rather than just a distracting excursion.

We’ll begin our journey, then, as explorers together on a voyage of adventure. Though we may not be very sure of what we’ll find or where we will end up, we can start our travels with the intention that we aim to put some distance between ourselves and all the things which restrict and limit our lives.

In starting our journey as a movement away from the discomfort of our limitations, I would like to suggest for the present that we avoid getting tangled up in the details of any specific restriction. Like many of the courageous explorers who have gone before us, we could easily spend lifetimes struggling to overcome the specifics of any one of the myriad limitations we could name from our experiences.

Rather, I suggest that we begin by simply observing our restrictions with an eye toward learning everything we can about them. This approach makes sense if we aim to put the greatest possible distance between ourselves and all of our discomforts. For in truth, we can’t navigate to any place that might satisfy our concerns until we accurately identify the place from which we are beginning.

Let’s begin our exploration with a look at the many restrictions under which humans currently operate. Restrictions to freedom actually exist in every place we can look, including unfavorable political conditions, racial discord, economic inequality, disease, psychological trauma, physical limitations, excessive laws and regulations, limited resources and limited time. From one point of view, it may appear the only thing that is unlimited is the number and type of our restrictions.

Any one of these conditions is a worthy focus for a life dedicated to the cause of realizing greater freedom. Indeed, people throughout the ages have endeavored to overcome each of these restrictions and too many more to mention.

However, specifically focusing upon any of our limitations is a bit like being a gardener who only considers the flowers and leaves of his plants, ignoring the roots and soil. There is a source that our restrictions grow from—a framework or system which supports and feeds our many limitations. Taking a larger view of our restrictions allows us to see that all of them are related to one common source, a condition we can call scarcity.

Scarcity is a set of ideas that say, “There will always be a limit to what we can accomplish and how satisfied we will become.” There is only so much under this view of things. Only so much food is available, therefore, not everyone can eat; some will go hungry. Only so much economic activity is possible, so, human worth is measured from a couple of pennies to a few dollars per day; some aspirations will always go unfulfilled due to lack of money. Only so much land and affordable housing are available, therefore, not everyone can have a home. Only so much life, freedom, and joy are possible, so naturally, some people will suffer.

The ideas of scarcity keep people always worried about what they believe they lack. It keeps them focused upon what seems necessary for their basic survival. At the same time, scarcity constantly suggests that, even with great effort, our chances are low to achieve fulfillment of our needs. This sense of lack can become an absorbing, handicapping, uncomfortable state through which people endlessly engage in futile struggles to obtain satisfaction that constantly eludes them.

As explained by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human psychological needs, concerns with security and survival are the lowest, or most basic, of all human needs. The potentials for true happiness, and all the needs higher than mere survival, come into one’s awareness only after the more basic needs are fulfilled. With this in mind, let’s examine how scarcity might snag our anchor on the journey toward greater freedom.

Scarcity is more than just the common source of our restrictions. When we struggle with our limitations, scarcity becomes the soil and container in which the roots of our awareness sit. For a very long time, scarcity has been the dominant framework through which most humans view the world, and operate in it. This restrictive set of ideas is so often accepted as the basic condition of life by so many that we can accurately think of it as a dominant state of consciousness. We’ll call this condition scarcity consciousness, or just as appropriately, survival consciousness.

The primary effect of a mass focus upon scarcity and survival is that humans are mainly motivated into action by their discomfort related to what they feel they lack. When scarcity consciousness is a dominant influence, a person’s perspective of life will become focused upon concerns with his or her restrictions. Avoiding the pain and discomfort of those restrictions then becomes the primary motivation for that person's behavior.

Under extreme conditions, like those in a war zone, it is easy to imagine how survival consciousness operates. However, similar processes are at work in less hostile environments, only on more subtle levels. For example, consider the fact that the most frequent applications of western medicine look at health mainly in terms of fighting illness—the focus is on overcoming or avoiding disease through invasive measures (rather than working to support the natural systems of the body to regain or maintain health). A key indicator of behavior motivated by scarcity is that consciously, or unconsciously, there is a movement away from, or an effort to subdue, some distressing stimulus. Whenever the fight-or-flight reaction is operating, so is scarcity consciousness.

With scarcity consciousness, freedom becomes defined in terms of not having to experience the things that one finds unpleasant. For example, people generally don’t like poverty, so they seek to maintain paying jobs. People generally don’t like to be lonely, so they learn and adhere to accepted social norms and expectations. Operating in scarcity consciousness requires people to strike a balance between their survival needs and the restrictions they face in their environment. This takes a lot of energy and attention. With scarcity, freedom is always defined relative to what people want most to avoid.

The greater their discomfort, the more people want to make a change from their current conditions. With scarcity consciousness, as the level of one’s pain increases, so does one’s openness to whatever means or influences available that promise a path to relief. This is well exemplified in the conditions of Germany in the 1930s. The end of the first world war, and the decisions which followed, put the economy, infrastructure, and morale of Germany into a most miserable state. Conditions were so bad in that time, that the German people became willing to embrace even the views of Adolf Hitler, because he offered to lead a direct route away from the suffering of their circumstances. Making no excuses for the heinous acts of the second world war, understanding the dynamics of survival consciousness helps to explain the seemingly irrational behavior of that period.

Similar dynamics were at work only a few years ago when riots broke out in south Los Angeles and many other low income areas in cities across the United States. The verdict in the original Rodney King beating trial was not the cause of that unrest, but only the trigger for the violence that followed. The pain of not having enough food, shelter, dignity, or any other basic resource in life, can become bad enough that people are willing to take any opportunity to fight against, or flee from, the conditions which seem to oppress them. With scarcity consciousness there is little or no concern with the end result of one’s behavior, so long as it offers even a small distraction from the pain of a survivalistic life.

In a less dramatic way, this pattern also works to help politicians get elected who merely talk about “change” from the difficulties of our present conditions, even if they provide few details about their intended new directions. Remember, that behavior motivated by scarcity is always a movement away from something discomforting. Scarcity consciousness is not very optimistic. The view of scarcity is very limited; it can’t see, nor is it concerned with, any possibilities larger than mere survival.

As mentioned at the beginning of this section, our relationship with restriction can allow scarcity to become “the soil and container in which the roots of our awareness sit.” It seems appropriate that at some point in our voyage we may want to transplant the sapling of our awareness to a new home.

Seeking to flee from, or fight against, what one doesn’t like is not the same as choosing to move toward the fulfillment of a dream, or the satisfaction of one’s own personal goals. Instead of always acting to avoid some unpleasant stimulus, there actually exists a completely different approach to creating happiness—an approach that occurs when a person makes choices and takes action based upon what one knows to be best in his or her own heart.

This alternate approach is based upon a completely different way of viewing the circumstances of life. It is a different perspective that brings with it a completely new way of defining freedom. This "different perspective" and the kind of freedom it will create can only be experienced by a person who has moved beyond the limiting ideas of scarcity consciousness. This "different perspective" of life and liberty create for us a new frontier of possibilities to explore—a new world that might well become the best destination for our journey to greater freedom.

 

The "Different Perspective"

With scarcity, movement toward greater freedom is almost always expressed as a movement away from, or against, some unpleasant condition. This type of liberty will always be limited and superficial, because its entire focus is upon external conditions. In contrast, we could elect a "different perspective" which would shift our awareness away from an emphasis upon restriction and survival, instead placing our focus upon what it means to be fully alive and deeply fulfilled. From this alternate view, true freedom would mean acting only according to the sense of correctness found deep in the core of one’s being. For now, let’s refer to this alternate view as the different perspective. The alternate experience of freedom it leads to we’ll name Deep Freedom.

A widely respected authority on the subject of freedom, Rudolf Steiner, said that a being is not truly free, unless it acts only according to its own essence. With true free will, no extraneous influence may work to effect any action, only the expression of that being’s essence may operate; otherwise one’s action is not truly free. Extraneous influences include social pressures, the expectations of family and friends, laws of state, laws of religion, environmental factors, etc. These things are all indications of what others, or some institution, or external conditions, might generally dictate in a situation. However, the individual that is truly free ultimately acts only according to what his or her heart indicates as the correct choice in each present moment.

Steiner explained, this is not to say that a truly free being ignores all social standards. To the contrary, the truly free being understands that all laws, mores, and ethics are external expressions of the same internal source of wisdom that guides all free actions. The free being always takes all such things into consideration, and acts not just according to laws or rules, but according to his or her own inner sense of what is most correct for each new situation, as it occurs.

Further, Steiner revealed that this internal sense of wisdom goes beyond any biological instinct. Free actions are not ruled, or restricted, by any biological impulse which would cause a certain reaction to a certain stimulus. One’s inner wisdom includes a knowledge of his or her biological nature. However, a free action is chosen in light of an awareness which is deeper than any need to act by instinct, or because of any extraneous influence.
Deep Freedom, then, is a state of being which only occurs when a person lives with a great sense of connection to his or her essence—a connection to what is most true in the depths of his or her own heart.

This connection is one which seems non-existent when life is experienced from a perspective dominated by the ideas of scarcity. Scarcity consciousness says, “I don’t know about any mysterious connections; life seems too demanding to spend time on introspection when I’ve got so many concerns to handle. Besides, I’m really not so sure I’m wise enough to be that all-knowing and self-reliant.” As you might suspect, survival consciousness affects not only how a person views the world, but also, how one views the self.

This condition is well illustrated by a story. This tale was a favorite of Joseph Campbell, a man who was very familiar with the fuller aspects of freedom. The story begins with a pregnant tigress, who was very hungry and nearly ready to give birth. Her state of impending motherhood served only to slow her down, so much so she couldn’t catch anything to eat. Nearly starved, she came upon a flock of grazing goats. With all the energy she had left, she sprang upon the goats with such an effort that it brought on the birth of her cub. In her weakened state, she died immediately after her baby was born.

The goats had scattered in horror when the tigress pounced upon them. When they recovered and saw what had happened, they found the helpless tiger cub and chose to adopt it. The tiger cub survived with his surrogate family, and grew up among the goats always believing he, too, was a goat.

Then one day, another tiger attacked the flock. Again all the goats scattered, except for the adopted child. (After all, he was a tiger and didn’t scare as easily as a goat, even if he had an identity problem.) The big tiger was very confused. He asked the little tiger why he was living with a bunch of goats. But the little tiger didn’t understand and could answer only by saying, “Baaa, Baaaaaaaa.” The big tiger was aghast!

The big tiger grabbed the little one and dragged him immediately to a nearby pond. The big tiger made the little one stare at the water until it became still. In the mirroring surface of the pond the little tiger saw his own image reflected back at him. Only then, and for the very first time, did the little one realize that he was a tiger, not a goat. With that revelation, the little tiger went off with his new mentor to learn of what it is to be more
truly himself.

The lesson: life’s conditions can appear to dictate certain actions and ideas necessary for our survival; however, it is very beneficial to realize that our survivalistic roles and definitions are not the ultimate truth of who we are. To some degree, all of us are tigers living as goats. This is a key to understanding "the different perspective", namely, that there is much more at work in ourselves and our world than what scarcity consciousness allows us to see.

The View of Self

With scarcity consciousness, the self becomes viewed in terms of its most obvious and external qualities. Its beauty is measured only in terms of physical appearances. Its vitality in terms of muscle tone. Its wisdom in terms of who it can outsmart. Its worth in terms of how profitably the individual can manipulate the conditions of survival.

With scarcity, the self is most often seen as limited and dependent. Scarcity suggests that qualities like strength, integrity, and goodness are very rare commodities, and they can only be obtained through arduous efforts against the restrictions and vices of the world. Believing they don’t have the time, patience, or resources to overcome such challenges, people find ways to compensate. In such circumstances, humans learn to emphasize the roles and characteristics which seem most necessary for survival within the challenging restrictions of their environment.

Scarcity sees human nature as flawed. With scarcity, there is often a strong attachment to a belief in the stain of an original sin that forever disables a being from the attainment of goodness, unless he or she has a lot of outside help. Such a perspective derides the value of self-exploration, supporting the attitude that any insight gained from oneself should always be questioned and measured against external standards. Within survival consciousness, a human being not only defines oneself in terms of only his or her most limited abilities, and the most superficial of characteristics, but a person may even come to believe that one should not trust his or her very own perceptions of the world.

Being mindful, however, that scarcity is not the only possible view of things, let’s consider a contrast between scarcity and "the different perspective" using the following illustration. Imagine for a moment that we could visually inspect the sum total of some particular individual’s consciousness—that at a glance we could examine the shape of everything this human being has ever known, including all of his or her beliefs, and all the unseen things that make this person what he or she is. Imagine that this consciousness has a distinct shape and it looks just like a large, infinitely beautiful, cut diamond. The shape of this gem being exquisite and unique, sparkling as it catches the light in the most magnificent way.

Now, realize that this particular human being cannot see his or her consciousness as we see it. Imagine that this person has only ever experienced this gem of consciousness through a microscope that is tightly focused upon one small facet of the stone. The view through the microscope focuses only upon the tiniest flaws and specks of dust on the surface of the stone. This person doesn’t realize that he or she could look at the gem from any other perspective; such an alternative has never been considered. With one’s attention so tightly focused upon tiny imperfections, he or she could never experience the gem’s brilliant sparkle—the light of his or her own essence.

The "microscope" in this illustration represents the way in which one's awareness or mind is focused with a scarcity-oriented point of view. Scarcity likes to focus on what is most observable and superficially obvious, and takes that alone to be the greater part of identity and reality. We can think of the mind, in part, as the apparatus which allows us to make sense of, and interact with, our world. In this way we realize the mind is a tool. Of course, every tool can be used in many different ways; the microscope of mind is no exception. In order to see the "essence of the gem" a different focus is necessary. A change of mind is required to obtain the perspective needed to see the true brilliance of one’s own consciousness.

"The different perspective" allows a view of the self such that its essence may be appreciated. This view of self recognizes the beauty, strength, virtue, and intelligence that are intrinsic qualities of every human being. It recognizes the great potentials of every individual. It sees that, although humans continually face challenging situations in life, great resources are always available within each individual to create optimal solutions.
"The different perspective" pictures the self’s place in the world not as a tenuous, unfortunate condition where a person must struggle to survive. Rather, "the different perspective" reveals how the proper awareness of one’s circumstances will open a person to an endless stream of opportunities specifically designed to unfold one’s own deepest potentials. This view is one that sees the self, and its situation, as always being in a potentially virtuous state—the possible goodness is abundant, and continually waiting to be realized.

Now that we have been thoroughly introduced to "the different perspective" the time has come to designate it with a more appropriate name. We’ll call it abundance consciousness.

Abundance and Deep Freedom

The abundance perspective sees that there is no lack in the individual, or in the environment, of what is needed to live the most happy and free life. When this perspective is operating, the individual is capable of using one’s abundantly available resources to know, and live according to, one’s sense of what is most proper in his or her own heart. Deep Freedom is a condition which develops as a person comes to know the greater dimensions of one’s own being. In that process, one comes to know a source of profound wisdom that exists in every person—a
Larger Self than what is ordinarily apparent with a non-abundant perspective.

This process involves a shift in priorities that places the highest value upon internal reality, where everything external is considered subject to the deepest knowing of one’s heart. Abundance consciousness transcends a need to be survivalistically concerned with the external factors of life. In Deep Freedom, people choose to experience the things they most deeply love, rather than seek to avoid what is most painful. Then, the meager existence of scarcity consciousness becomes obsolete, and gives way to living a completely fulfilled, abundant life.

If anyone has concerns about this process sounding too selfish, or self-centered, we can acknowledge that it is self-oriented, but not selfish. The work of truly knowing one’s heart is one of the most challenging adventures that a person can undertake. It is a journey made through vigorous honesty. It requires the greatest integrity and self-responsibility to be embodied.

The source of wisdom that becomes known, in this process, is far beyond any temporally-oriented, self-serving consciousness. It is a source of wisdom that is universal, and yet, so subtle that it is mostly taken for granted. It is the same part of human consciousness which allows the body to heal a wound, or to properly digest one’s dinner, or to construct a living form in the quiet of a mother’s womb. It is the same thing that allows a person to appreciate beauty, or to feel awe in beholding a wonder, or to know the ecstasy of love.

The process of realizing Deep Freedom is the process of realizing and honoring the truth of all that we are. As this path unfolds, every aspect of one’s being eventually becomes known, made whole, and integrated. At times, this journey can be extremely demanding; its rigors are directly related to one’s attachment to beliefs and feelings about the restrictions of life. The objective is not to suppress or destroy such attachments, but to carefully and gently acknowledge each one, and thereby learn from them the conditions which necessitated them. By embracing the personal truth of what each aspect of consciousness offers to teach, a person becomes that much more aware, whole, and free.

Human awareness is like a tender young tree planted in a clay pot. The container, which has been a suitable home for the earliest stages of growth, is now showing signs of being too small. The roots have become cramped, and the soil begins to lack the nutrients required to support the growth of the sapling. The time has come when the little tree must be transplanted to a proper new home. However, great care must be taken. The tree must be handled gently; the old soil and pot cannot be rudely shaken away without damaging the fragile roots.
In the same way, a being cannot move toward Deep Freedom without considering where the roots of one’s own awareness are still attached to the old soil of scarcity. All such attachments must be carefully acknowledged, that they may be properly transformed. Only with such a mindful approach may each being thrive and grow to its own full, abundant potential.

The Journey Has Begun

Chapter one has been an introduction to the concepts and perspectives necessary to begin the journey to Deep Freedom. The focus of chapter one has included material related to the concept of selfhood. Selfhood and one’s connection to the physical world are important issues of the first of the seven major energy centers in the human body. The first center, or chakra, is located at the base of the spine (the sacrum). This center serves in forming one’s energetic connection with Planet Earth, this place of our physical existence.
In this next part of our journey we will explore relationships. In chapter two, the focus will be upon relationships to family, friends, and the significant other. Chapter three, will discuss the individual’s relationship to the world. These next two chapters will contrast the implications of scarcity and abundance as they relate to human interactions.
Please do not try to push yourself through the material at a rate which is too quick to be comfortable. It is important and very valuable to listen to your feelings and intuition about the speed and direction of your personal journey. Honor what your awareness tells you about your own process, it will take you exactly where you need to go. Blessings.


Exercises

Exercises are provided throughout the book as an experiential illustration of the material. Some of the exercises are intended for the beginner level, while others may challenge even those with much experience in the exploration of their own consciousness. Sometimes you may experience the intended effects after only one or two repetitions of a particular exercise. Other exercises may require more practice. According to one’s own unique process some of these exercises may be useful only for a single brief moment, and others may continue to be useful long after one has finished reading this book.

Please examine each exercise to determine for yourself if the experience will be helpful. If in doubt, I recommend you try it and form your opinion in light of how you feel afterwards. A proper intention for using these exercises is to see them as short adventures in the exploration of your awareness—with that aim a person will likely avail oneself of the greatest possible benefit.

Exercise 1 Finding a Still Place Inside

The wisdom of one’s heart cannot be perceived until the mind is stilled from the distractions of life. A little bit of quiet goes a long way toward helping a person to know the important things that are going on in the depths of his or her being. One of the very best ways to accomplish this is by mindfully focusing your attention upon something that you have been doing all your life—breathing.*

By paying attention to the activity and sensations of the body while breathing, a person can become very focused, relaxed, and open to the subtle feelings that communicate the wisdom of one’s heart. Not only that, but this exercise is a wonderful stress reduction technique! Therefore, it would be very improbable that anyone would not experience a benefit by practicing this exercise.

To begin, find a quiet, pleasant place to sit or lay for a couple of minutes. Get into a comfortable position and be at rest. Begin with three slow, deep breaths. Then, continue by breathing normally as you relax all your muscles from your toes to the top of your head. Pay special attention to the areas where your body may hold tension, like shoulders, jaw, and forehead.

When you are relaxed, begin to pay attention to your bodily sensations, especially those related to your breathing. The object is to be an excellent observer of what is going on in your body. This is an exercise in paying attention. If it helps, repeat silently to yourself, “As I breathe in, I pay attention to my body. As I breathe out, I pay attention to my body.” Continue the process for about twenty cycles of breath.

You will probably notice thoughts float through your mind. Don’t wrestle with them or allow them to seize your attention. Acknowledge any distraction, then gently bring your attention back to the awareness of your breathing. This practice can help a person develop greater facility in utilizing the apparatus of one’s mind. Remember that your mind exists as a tool to be used for your benefit; you do not exist for the benefit of your mental activity.
When finished, take three more deep breaths. Don’t rush. Get up slowly. Allow yourself to gently transition back to normal activity.

Repeat the exercise as often as you like. I recommend using it from one to three times a day until you really feel you have mastered it. The state of focused awareness that this exercise cultivates will be very beneficial further along in our journey, and especially with later exercises in this book. As you get better at maintaining your focus you may wish to lengthen the time of each session. Sessions lasting up to 20 minutes are often beneficial.

* My experience with this exercise extends all the way back to my childhood practice of prayer. Besides sharing my thoughts with the Divine, I learned to spend time in silence listening for anything God had to share with me. Though I never heard God’s voice with my ears, I often felt a great sense of strength and peace while I listened in quiet. My life-long practice of listening to the silence was greatly enhanced by a book called The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh. To that book I owe credit for the technique of mindfully focusing upon the breath. It is my experience that this technique is so profoundly powerful, if a person learned only how to practice it well, nothing else would be required for one’s fullest development.

 

Go to Chapter 2: Dancing to the Many Songs

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Original text of Journey to Deep Freedom

 

Copyright 1993-2008 AJ McGettigan