How can we live with a sense of inner freedom? To feel like life isn’t an uphill struggle with foes to vanquish at every turn. The truth is, you often stand in your shadow, and you just need to get out of your own way. But, the mind is a tricky customer that loves to complicate matters.
Wash your bowls
This reminds me of an old koan where a student earnestly asks a Zen master for instruction. The master replies by asking the student if he has eaten yet, and when the student says that he has, the master simply responds with, “then wash your bowls”, and goes away.
This Koan points to how ordinary, everyday experience, itself, is where inner freedom is found. Hence the instruction to simply wash your bowls. Inner freedom is not some pinnacle of self-improvement with superhuman experience. Our everyday experience that naturally arises is full of freedom already. It is our ego mind that interferes and brings anxiety, which takes away the natural freedom already present. Just look at how free a cat is.
Yet, we aren’t cats. We’ve got far more cognitive machinery to juggle! This is the nature of the human mind.
Ego stifles inner freedom that is already there
If the mind dissects and delineates, it is the ego mind that meddles and worries. Almost as if it were an annoying person constantly interfering in everything. Of course, they are one and the same and not two separate things. For, the ego mind is born out of the mind. It is an artefact or patten of the mind. An artefact that perpetuates further patterns, generally of anxiety and fear!
The mind has great power in differentiating between things — this and that, up and down, X and Y. These cognitive capabilities have helped our species tremendously — we’ve even sent rockets to the moon and what not! Yet, our ‘powers’ have also made us crave unhealthy levels of control and certainty in how we live. To want to be so certain that we are not ‘failures’ that we cling to all manner of things to confirm it —be it success or self-improvement.
Our insecurity leads to endless striving
We are so insecure about the inherent validity of our own being that we desperately try to prove it. Prove it through the achievement of all manner of pre-defined benchmarks. But, trying to find inner freedom through the achievement of ANYTHING pre-ordained is tantamount to being a machine. A machine that only copies and replicates.
Because remember, nature makes no identical copies. Nada. Even identical twins have differing fingerprints and of course different personalities. Yet, the ego mind is obsessed with copying and replicating, rather than with the wonder of direct unfolding experience in its infinite variety. It seems to prefer the safety of chasing after some pre-defined vision of future success and future freedom, rather than experiencing it, now. All this, because we doubt our self-worth so much. Because we doubt that the ordinary every day is enough.
Inner freedom is inherent
But, there is nothing more to be achieved than the experience of each unfolding moment. And, the next one thereafter — no matter what you may find yourself doing!
And, if in doubt, well…just remember that you can simply wash your bowls : )
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.