Find Your Freedom
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
One thing you realize when you spend enough time studying and engaging with spirituality and philosophy through the lens of Yoga is that, beyond all of its concepts, methods, teachings, and constructs, in the end, there's just one main lesson to be learnt by anyone: find your freedom. Rid yourself off yourself. 'Become nobody.' And if possible, do all of this before death in this lifetime. This is the main lesson taught to us by all the great Yogis, past and present, irrespective of the culture, tradition, rhetoric, or training they were once given.
Of course, this 'lesson of lessons' is taught to us under different names, in different guises, because it's meant to be learnt differently by different types of people. We are all at different stages in our individual and collective path(s) to freedom; which is the whole reason why, in the world of Yoga, we can engage with this lesson by means of, for example, committing to the practice of physical techniques (by practicing asana and pranayama), by means of its many methods for psychological and emotional self-exploration (as through vichara or meditation), by involving ourselves more directly with any of its numerous esoteric aspects (by learning more about the chakras, mantraing, the koshas, by practicing devotion to the divine), or by any of its myriad other rituals and practices.
We all must find the one point of entry that will enable us to receive the ultimate lesson of 'surrendering to freedom' ––whatever the form/s this may take for every single one of us in this lifetime. But, though intellectually, 'becoming nobody' still seems a somewhat approachable idea, what does it really entail to truly stop being 'someone'? Put differently: how can people like us ––like you and me–– who have been trained their entire lives to 'make it,' to 'become somebody,' to 'succeed' socially, to 'do something of ourselves,' to do something great, something unique, something long-lasting, something important, simply drop out the act of 'somebodyness' we've grown so accustomed to and rest in a whole lot of nothing? That's the complexity and the beautiful simplicity of spirituality.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Some teachers would argue that the main path to becoming nobody is to learn to disidentify ourselves with everything we've come to believe we actually stand for; that is, to disidentify with everything we've come to think we are, we have, we think, we feel, we need, we want. And yes, it can be an utterly scary and painful experience. They call it an 'ego death' for a reason. But there's also a reason why our ego (our personality) has a tendency to hold on to all the things we think we are, we have, we feel, we need, we want. That reason is called fear.
Our ego is innately attuned to maintaining the illusion of knowing 'who we are' because, when we don't know who we are, the whole illusion of the world as a cogent, reasonable, sense-full entity where we have things to hold on to falls down to pieces and everything we are left with ––it seems–– is chaos, disorder, incoherence, void. And yet, the beauty of most spiritual teachings lies in recognising that, the very notions of 'good and bad,' reasonable and unreasonable, orderly and disorderly, or coherent and incoherent that we are used to operating by are constructs of our ego. Once we drop these constructs and the safe space/box of our ego, a different, if as yet indiscernible, state and quality of being comes into fruition. That's the 'nobody' part of the whole experience. That's what many traditions call Buddhahood, Illumination, enlightenment, freedom.
Some teachers try to teach us this lesson by speaking of the importance of suffering as a door to our spiritual awakening. Suffering in either our own minds or bodies can help us better empathize with our others teaching us that grief and sadness are a necessary part of the very notion of 'happiness,' a necessary stage in the process of mourning something that once was, that used to be, and now is simply different.
This something that once was or used to be may be a past relationship, for example, or a past state of our physical condition, a past role, a past version of who we thought we were, or the experience itself of living life through the physical form we identify as 'us' even. The point is that, only when 'who,' 'how,' and 'what' we think we were, had, felt, wanted, thought, or needed starts to disappear does grief enter into the picture. And when it does, this grief can teach us how to disidentify with the somebody part provided we look it at as one more useful teacher. To observe what's happening to us at a particular point in time, to move with it and be moved by it, and yet, be able to maintain our spiritual eyes in the larger non-egoic, non-individualistic picture.
As Baba Ram Dass once said: "As long as you identify with that which dies, you fear death." And in a way, 'becoming nobody' is something of micro death: a death to our own desires, to our own fears, to our thoughts, and to our ideas. A death of the ego, but one that enables us to realize that, far beyond everything we think we know and don't know about the world and about our own existence there are still other possible, if as yet unknown, states of being, other levels of consciousness, other inroads to spiritual freedom.