Freedom as False Autonomy versus True Freedom : Spiritual Guidance Blog
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Freedom as False Autonomy versus True Freedom

by Robert Meagher on 07/05/21

Photo Credit: - Mikhail Nilov

It is cycling season again in my city, and I relish every opportunity I can to get out for my day-long bike rides. I have written about this joy before. I get up about 4:30am, have my breakfast, pack my panier bags with food and water for the day, and head out for an adventure.

My trips will often take me to and through villages and towns. I will almost always visit forests, hills, lakes and rivers along the way. Many times, I will have the joy of cycling beside vast farmer’s fields. There is never any shortage of splendid scenery to captivate and caress the senses.

I am also blessed to encounter much wildlife. Birds and water fowl of all kinds, deer, bears, fox, reptiles, squirrels, chipmunks, racoons,…just to name a few. I am never alone. There is always someone or something that accompanies me on the ride.

There is always a great sense of freedom I experience on these day trips. To get out in nature, peddling to my heart’s content, is often blissful for me. I forget about the world, my life as I experience it, leave my self-imposed worries behind and immerse myself in a hypnotic-like, almost poetic expression of my physical being. The hotter and more humid it is, the better! I have never met a hot and humid day I have not adored!

This freedom I mention above is an interesting experience. This freedom is peaceful and even blissful. It is full of joy. It is rapturous at times. This freedom will often give me a sense of being carried away to another time and space. I can easily lose track of time, especially if it’s a gloriously-sunny-and-hot day. But is this freedom?

The freedom I speak of above is a freedom born out of a sense of self that is tethered to this world. It is a freedom born out of a sense of separateness. It is a freedom that thinks it is autonomous and self-sufficient. But this autonomy is a false autonomy.

The freedom I experience on my bicycle day trips is rooted in my sense of me doing something and experiencing something. The experience always brings awareness of another thing or body, in relation or comparison to me.

There is another freedom I aspire to. This other freedom is a true freedom. It is a freedom from the very bindings that gives me the freedom-as-false-autonomy experience described above. This true freedom is freedom from my mind.

True freedom for me is an absence of a sense of self. With no sense of something or someone separate and distinct from anything or anyone else, I experience ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’. My bicycle trips are ‘doing’ in the very real sense, with the occasional glimpse of being. When I lose track of time on my bicycle trips, I am only just beginning to enter a state of being.

Freedom from my mind allows me to look on everything and everyone with equanimity. There are no judgements. There is not even any perception. There is total acceptance of everything and everyone—of all that is. That is freedom!

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

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Rev. Robert Meagher