From the broad perspective I see three adult stages of growth:
Partly because we lack a rite-of-passage we begin our adult journey with all the patterns and coping mechanisms we receive from childhood, unique to each childhood situation. These habituated ways of being could include being good, should and shouldn’t, withdrawal, drive, shame, pain, ego, giving self away, control, masks, and on and on.
In this initial situation we may have brief glimpses of freedom or sense the possibility of freedom but the patterns just keep crashing in and returning us to an essentially shackled state. For me it was a struggle with depression, boredom, anxiety with occasional bursts for freedom that were manic and short-lived.
For others, drive, needing to succeed, winning approval and money may be the shackles that bind them. Some of you are bound by responsibility, should, shouldn’t, and the expectations of others. These unconscious patterns make us into puppets, as long as we are running them, we are at their mercy; we are asleep at the wheel.
For many people there is a crisis, a door opening to a new possibility. It may be divorce or an affair; for some a death of someone pivotal, like a parent. This can trigger seeking; many of you at this point found The Garden Company and came to your first Mountain Experience. The Mountain Experience is an awakening. Many traditions describe this waking up as if from a dream. Waking up can be scary and/or exhilarating.
Waking up brings us to the beginning of the second stage, Freedom From…. In the Freedom From…. stage we start letting go of everything that is not us, beginning with emotional pain, we take ourselves back, we shed patterns and coping mechanisms; in this stage we may change friends, relationships, jobs, or possessions.
As we go deeper into this stage we discover and shed our identity and soften up on our ego, we become more fluid, flexible and spontaneous. As we shed our identity and ego we have less to protect, intimacy becomes easier and our relationships deeper. There are many struggles but at this point it keeps getting easier.
In the last stages of this process of shedding we discover our neediness and all of the ways we try to extract what we “need” from life. Slowly we become aware of how little we really need, life becomes more abundant and beautiful, we are more connected, serene and at ease.
Throughout the second stage being connected, serene and at ease seem to be the goal, the logical end point of Freedom From. At some point for me, this began to feel a little flat, like there was something more.
I discovered that Freedom From ends in expansive acceptance, something that overlaps with and carries into Freedom To….
Freedom To…. is the phase where we begin to see our life as a work of art. Into that expansive space we begin to express ourselves, our passions. In many ways this is the hardest stage of all; to create, we have to be able and willing to step forward with our fears, risking what we hold most dear, risking rejection and humiliation.
Many spiritual traditions stop at expansive acceptance, melding into the void or god, transcendence. For me I believe that we are here for a reason, or perhaps more accurately, we have an opportunity to express our unique selves, our unique representation, some might say express god through us.
We can stop at transcendence and stay in that place of peace and Freedom From…., or we can take the next step, perhaps with the support of others to express our unique nature in some way. We all have an Inner-Knowing, something to say, to paint, to touch, to dance, to build, to create, to love, to enhance, to serve, to enjoy. We can access this passion through our emotions. This takes the greatest courage of all.
We are not ready until we are awake and have come most of the way through Freedom From…. Once we are ready and using the tools learned in Freedom From…. we can begin to build the exhilarating and challenging context to give us Freedom To….