It’s surprising the frequency with which we refer to the concept of ‘breaking’ during the course of day-to-day life. The idea of something being broken tends to have a negative connotation. But not always! You break the back of a task; you are sadly thinking of breaking up with someone; the horse was wild but now it’s tame after it’s been broken in; you won the tennis match because you broke the serve of the other; it seems you got the breakthrough that you wanted; we broke off our negotiations; there are many break away groups; them’s ‘the breaks’… as they say, in not very good English!
Generally, when something in the world around us is broken it’s a cue for some sadness and perhaps a few tears. That’s what we learn as we emerge from our cots and stumble into childhood. It often starts with the first ‘broken’ toy! It signifies a perception of a loss of wholeness, of completeness, a loss of integration. And so it is that we grow up fearing that things, relationships, even our spirit, will in some way, be ‘broken’.
However, within our consciousness, within our ‘self’, some breaking is necessary if we are to be truly free! It seems paradoxical but it’s only when we start the ‘breaking process’ can we restore our wholeness, become aware of our completeness and rediscover our integrity. Only when we start ‘breaking apart’ what we have learned and assimilated can we set our self free of the illusions that sustain our feelings stress and suffering and the delusions that sit at the heart of our many moments of ‘emotional disintegration’. Lurking behind all the disjointed fragments of the learning and conditioning that we assimilate during our journey into adulthood lies an awareness of our wholeness and completeness of being. It is from this awareness that the deepest happiness that we call contentment arises.
But to restore and reconnect with that wholeness we need to be like one of those ice breaker ships that carves its way through the frozen seas of the artic. We need to cut through and break up all those illusions and delusions that stand in the way of our seeing and knowing our self as the whole and complete being that we are. That process takes place entirely within our consciousness.
We hate it when the car breaks down. Yet everyday we have many little personal emotional breakdowns. These are moments when we stop functioning, not completely, but efficiently and positively! These are the low points of our day when we believe, and therefore feel, that we have been affected by some event or person, or perhaps by some news that comes our way. One brief email can do the trick… sometimes! Such moments can range from feelings of a quiet anxiety at one end of the spectrum to utter devastation or monumental rage, down the other end! In between are all the various forms of breakdowns what we call ‘stress’. We can tolerate these moments for so long. But if they grow in frequency and intensity then our many little breakdowns tend to become both visible and tangible and they may grow into a somewhat traumatic big breakdown!
While this kind of breakdown seems to be a negative event it usually contains both a message and an opportunity to look closely at how we are living our life. It invites us to ‘break down’, as in ‘examine closely’, all the thought patterns and behaviours, beliefs and tendencies, that are causing us to suffer, and to find the ones which are causing us to…break down!
For many of us it’s usually a significant breakdown, nervous or otherwise, that forces us into reflection and a self-analyses of all the internal factors which are causing our mental and emotional unhappiness. Even if it’s only for a few moments here and a few moments there, eventually we will turn to examine our emotional exhaustion. We are likely to notice that the root cause of ALL such moments of stress, sorrow or suffering, regardless of their depth or intensity, is some form of attachment. It may become obvious to some, but not everyone, that all our stressful feelings contain one or other of the three emotional families – sadness, anger or fear, and sometimes a combination of all three. Each of these emotions, and their respective family members, can always be traced back to a common cause, which is always something we are attached to, clinging to, grasping tightly, in our own minds.
Just as we sometimes ‘break up’ with someone, so we will need to ‘break up’ with all the things we are attached to if we want to restore calm, strength and wellness to our being. Unsurprisingly few of us realize this, because it’s hard to see that to be attached to anyone or anything is actually an attempt to fragment ones self! Which is ultimately impossible. But it’s what we all learn to do and, as a consequence, we find it hard to see the connection between that and our stress/unhappiness.
Being non-attached can also seem hard because we have learned that detachment also implies some kind of loss. Just thinking about it can even trigger the creation of sadness! But in reality detachment means setting ones self free internally. There is no loss. On the contrary there is an increase in both our availability and our capacity to care. It simply means changing our relationship with our…attachments! It’s a shift from ‘this/they’ are MINE to ‘this’ comes into my life for use, and ‘they’ come into my life to give me an opportunity to give of my self’. Both ‘this’ and ‘they’ will, like everything and anyone, come to pass. And pass they do!
It’s also in the process of restoring this inner freedom that we are likely to notice how attachment underpins dependency. It’s almost the same. It is both revealing and liberating when we see how all our desires and expectations arise from our ‘learned dependencies’. Once we see and realize that it’s our own desires and expectations that are causing our moments of unhappiness, and not what others and the world are doing, then almost all the dots are joined.
Seeing this connection between our stress (unhappiness), our attachment and our dependencies, triggers the big realizations that we need in order to remain internally free. Realizations like, “It’s not them it’s me that’s making me upset and unhappy”. Insights like, “I am not a victim if I so choose”. Break through moments like, “I already have everything I need”. Every such AHA moment is another ‘breakthrough’ to what is true. Each ‘breakthrough’ signals another step towards our liberation from our self created fragmentation and the stress that arises.
This process of ‘waking up’ requires moments of introversion and introspection. Only then do we ‘break out’ of our habit of living IN what’s ON our mind. Only then can we ‘break in’ to our deeper states of being that are prior to the mind and thinking. These states include our inner peace, our capacity to be love itself and to know the joy of our own heart. Relearning how to ‘feel’ these states is only possible when we stop allowing our feelings i.e. our emotions, to be shaped and dictated by our attachments and our dependencies. We previously believed that the emotions that arose from those attachments/dependencies were ALL that we could feel. But once you ‘let go’, once you ‘break through’ the layers of attachment and ‘break in’ to those deeper levels of being, you rediscover your capacity to ‘feel’ the true and deeper nature of your self in your liberated state. That is, and always has been, the purpose of meditation; to ‘break in’ to a higher level of energy, a more enlightened state of being.
One ‘pay off’ from ‘breaking in’ and restoring the awareness and the feelings of our true nature, is the ‘breaking open’ of our heart. Where before we were closed around the things, people, ideas and beliefs, that we were attached to, fearing loss or damage, we become open again. Where before we may have felt our heart was broken at the loss of something or someone that we deemed to be precious, we are now able to respond with the gifts of a quiet acceptance and serenity in the knowledge that everything and everyone comes to…pass! This is only possible when the chains of attachment that we placed around our own heart have been broken, melted down and refashioned into such gifts!
An truly open heart is the result of realising, “I am attached to and dependent on no one!”. With that realization comes the ability to be truly generous and kind, loving and embracing, unconditionally accepting and respecting of everyone! Where before you may have felt vulnerable and therefore fearful of the loss or the withdrawal of another’s approval or affections, now you have the strength of your unneedy heart back. You become invulnerable to others moods and inclinations, others reactions and intentions. It becomes much easier to maintain your inner stability in the face of ever changing relationships and situations.
It obviously requires some form of courage to ‘break out’ of any prison or penitentiary. The authorities will have to be defied. The rules of the institution will have to be broken. New alliances may have to be formed. Clever strategies to break out of ones cell and then out of the building, will need to be created. Patience, determination, discipline and flexibility will rise to the top of the list of character traits required to ensure the whole ‘break out’ process is successful.
Such are the ingredients of any film or TV series about inmates breaking out of their enclosure! They also provide us with the perfect metaphors for our own spiritual liberation.
First however, there is one missing ingredient in the above scenario. And that is accepting that we are in a ‘self made’ prison. That we are entirely responsible for our own incarceration! We are responsible for the imprisonment of our self behind the bars of our attachment to our beliefs, perceptions and habits to which we ‘hold on’ and therefore hold in place. We are responsible for the cage of dependencies and addictions, many of which we sustain and strengthen every day in various ways. We are each responsible for forfeiting the freedom of our spirit! If we don’t realize this then it is likely we will spend large chunks of our time and energy raging against the world around us. As many do! And that not only kills our happiness it destroys both our strength and our capacity to be creative.
So lets explore those metaphors. Within our consciousness the ‘authorities’ will have to be defied. These are the voices of our parents, teachers and sometimes society, recorded within our consciousness. In other words our conditioning will need to be challenged, exposed and discredited. It was ‘they’ who led us into illusions such as love is attachment, happiness is dependent on others, peace of mind is only possible when our bank balance has the right amount..etc.! But ‘they’ are not to blame. They only led us into the same illusions within which they had spent their life unknowingly imprisoning themselves. We chose to follow. A few don’t and never did. They are often known as mavericks!
We will need to break some of the so-called rules. Not the laws of society however necessary or misguided they may be. But the subtle, often unstated rules and expectations that define culture. Rules that sound like collective norms, that sound like the things you ‘have to’ do to ‘fit in’. You don’t ‘have to’ do anything. You don’t ‘have to’ talk in a certain way about certain things. You don’t ‘have to’ follow the norms and conventions that you see around you. Tradition and culture ‘can be’ more like the heavy chains of an anchor than the string that flies the kite. However it’s not a collective rebellion we are attempting ferment, simply the breaking out of some of the strictures of tradition.
New alliances will have to be made which, in a spiritual context, i.e. the context of our consciousness, means we will need to stop hanging out with those old beliefs and habits that constituted our comfort zones. We will need to consciously seek out and keep the inner company of deeper truths. And then cultivate the patience to allow those truths to come through consistently into action. That may mean some discomfort is inevitable when we ‘break out’ of our comfort zones defined by these old beliefs.
‘Clever’ also means being clever enough to ‘create’ a strategic plan, an exit strategy, in order to free our self. This means we will need to learn some method of meditation and spend time in contemplation in order to induce our own insights and realizations. These are necessary in order to fully dispel the illusions and delusions that keep us trapped. It could also involve consulting those who are already internally free, the ones who have done their inner work, broken the chains of attachment and dependency, and broken out of their old mindsets! What did they do, what have they realized, what did they encounter as they broke down, broke up, broke through and broke out, on the way to their own authentic freedom. They are likely to have a map of where all the tunnels are…so to speak!
All of which will require the ability to be disciplined and flexible as each bar of our self created cell i.e. each attachment, dependency and addiction that keeps us trapped, is clearly seen and permanently removed.
Where do most prisoners go once they are released from their prison? Very often back to the same place, the same relationships, the same influences, the same context within which they went off the rails in the first place. Breaking away from such external influences can help us maintain our inner freedom. That’s not to say other people should be ignored or avoided. But perhaps it will help to spend a little less ‘hang out’ time with those who would draw us back into the old mindsets that contain the old habits of attachment to belief and the emotional dependencies which for so long felt so comfy! So it is that we give our self the best chance to be free of old influences that easily trigger old habits.
So how will we know we have done enough ‘breaking’ down, up, through, in, out and away? What will we feel when we have ‘broken’ through all that would keep us trapped and unhappy? What will we notice when we have ‘broken’ in to the deeper levels of our own being? What will the spiritual air of freedom feel like when our ‘break out’ is complete?
To imagine it, is to see it, to see it, is to realize it, to realize it is to be it, and to be it is to do it! Perhaps this is why Einstein said imagination is much more powerful than knowledge.
It will certainly require a patience that recognizes ‘true freedom’ is not just something you see, it is not even something you feel, it is not something you achieve. It is something you are! It’s the natural state of every being when we are simply being our self.
Are you ready to ‘break through’ and be your self?
Question: Why do the things, ideas, people and places to which we become attached become our prison?
Reflection: What are the specific bars you have built around your ‘self’ that keep you trapped?
Action: Seek out the wisdom and the experience of others that may help you to see for your self why you are not truly free and how to break out of your own self created incarceration!
Por Mike George