Freedom

Freedom

I think we all know how conditioning works.  Conditioning is how you became programed.  It is how I became programed.  Suppose for example one had parents who were incessantly driving their child to do better, to be better…for whom nothing could ever be good enough… you know the kind of parents for whom the only B on a report card ever, was the same as an F?  I expect as an adult this child will still carry within, well into adulthood, that same critical parent’s voice.  Years later this adult is caught, held captive by an internalized critic for whom nothing will ever be good enough.  Now let’s suppose as an adult this same person has a spouse and maybe even a boss who is just as critical. 

Freedom

This is how life works.

This hypothetical person may now blame their parents or their conditioning with the belief “If you only knew my life, if you knew what it’s been like, you might understand why I am such a mess regardless of all my success.  Life is just hopeless and with no way out.  No matter how hard I try.”

It is true that we have all been repeatedly conditioned.  But is conditioning the real problem?  It is here that traditional psychology can only bring us so far in our healing, in our quest for freedom.  It can help us to understand what it is that makes us tick.  It fails however to help us to comprehend that what makes us tick is not real.  Freedom is my motivation for practicing Zen.  I practice that I may free myself from my minds illusions and conditioning.

How is it that our conditioning is not the real nexus of the problem?

The nexus of our entrapment is not caused by conditioning, but by the self-images we hold as a result of our conditioning.  The human mind works on images.  As a result of our conditioning we make decisions about ourselves and these form the basis of our images of self, of our story lines and our beingness.  These images, these decisions we have made about ourselves are a joining of our thoughts and our body’s contractions, thus necessitating working with both our thinking mind and our physical body.  It is not necessary to go back into our history, although sometimes it can be useful to have cognitive understanding.  What is necessary right now is to be able to clearly see our thoughts.  First recognizing our thoughts we then feel where this thought has also become a bodily contraction.  In noticing thoughts and feeling the body’s tension the bottleneck of fear begins to lessen.  This root where thoughts and the body marry to form the nexus, is what needs to be illuminated; both in mind and body.  This is the means that enables meditation to see through and release this false self-image and identification with the limited, false self.  Little bit by little bit, we work in this way allowing this small self to begin to fade.  Meditation as a pure science, has been refined over centuries and has demonstrated itself to being the surest path to freedom from the tyranny our false selves hold over us.  Until we free ourselves we continue to behave as little more than reactive, programed machines.  Practicing in this way we allow for a more open and spacious response to life. 

I have just described what is referred to as polishing the mirror.  It is a long and arduous path to see through our false reactions to life.  The magnitude of the errors in our thinking cannot be underestimated.  We practice to keep polishing the mirror.  We polish so that we can see clearly, knowing life has a way of revealing in still deeper and deeper layers just what we thought we were done with.  Still the discipline meditation remains the only real path to lasting freedom.