Freedom Is Within You
What is Freedom?
Can We Find Freedom from Our Stories?
Come closer. Enter my world. Step into this Circle in the desert and stand with me. There is one thing above all others I want you to take from our time in the Circle ~ to deeply know the experience of self-love. If you grasp this and nothing else you have the key that unlocks the door through which everything else is revealed.
Self-love is not a thought. Because, if that is how you invoke it then you also invoke a war between an army of unloving thoughts and a peaceful corps of loving thoughts. If thinking is the problem, thinking won’t free you. The true action of self-love cannot be a thought or something you say to yourself. The essence of the Circle is to mirror self-love as an actual feeling, breathing, expansive state of presence. It’s a particular way of being present to all creation that moves within it.
Stand in the awareness of you here and now, and use your very breath as a tangible action to surrender to your own quiet, relaxed presence. The Medicine of One breath is an unbroken Circle of rhythmic flow. It’s a unified intention that begins on the in-breath and completes itself in the fullness of the out-breath. And that surrendering sigh leads you into the next in-breath. What seems like in and out is more like something swinging back and forth, the pendulum of your beingness, which delivers it into the arms of the timeless One. The expansiveness of the in-breath is born from the surrender of the out-breath. You give everything up, everything you believe, every thought, and every ounce of history and give it to what has always been there, as if in the background like the sky is to the clouds. The more connected and present you become with the breathing, which begins with intent, the less you need to intend. Just feel yourself as if being breathed. It’s like pulling back the bowstring … and letting go … and trusting that the arrow of surrender will lead you home into the mystery.
Lose everything but the feeling of here, and let that very hereness breathe you. Notice what happens to your breathing if you begin thinking. It becomes interrupted. What was unseparated appears to become separated. Return to the breath whose intention is surrender and attend to the fullness of the out-breath until even the in-breath has a quality of surrender. Stay there. Don’t move. Sit in the center of the Circle as awareness that is presence. Do this … nothing more. Come to know this spacious presence, and you come to know yourself as the love for all movements within the Circle. The true action of self-love is aligning yourself with who you really are. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of the Medicine of One.
The Medicine of One is an undifferentiated extension of compassion that ripples from the deep well of yourself through every physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual tissue without limit into the world. True compassion must begin with yourself as the liberation of a radiance that is who you really are. You can call it love if you like, but this is just another concept. The thought or the words spoken are not these vibrant ripples that hold no judgment. They are not the true action of self-love. This compassion moves in your very breath, the breath of the Circle.
The idea of self-love is an old idea. But how do you go beyond the idea or the concept? You can’t use the same mind that has been unloving to your inner life, and even hateful of some of its movements, to generate self-love. The thinking mind divides. The still mind unites.
If you get involved in all the conversations in your head that defend one side of an event then you invoke the other side. If you have regret for not having done something, then these thoughts about what you should have done will be countered with other thoughts that you did all you could. Whichever side you get involved in invokes the other side. All of them are just spins of emotions entangled with thinking in the Circle.
The mind tries to control emotional movements. So a war is set in place between mind and emotion, and you are sucked into these movements back and forth. These movements are like the spin of a mouse on a wheel, driven by unliberated emotions and beliefs, and whipped on by thoughts born from the false perceptions of what is happening in your world. This is why you must give up the majority of your thinking to free them. It is not about the complete absence of thoughts. It’s about not following them, not getting involved in them because to do so energizes the beliefs they embody and the emotions, which are driving them. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.
What needs to happen is for you to not believe what the spins think. You must give up the beliefs holding it together. But at the same time the unmoved emotions that have not been honored are gathered back into the Circle of your loving present here, and allowed to move through your body with the aid of your Honoring Breath without restriction and without force. This is the true action of self-love.
The Many Voices
Daisy had been clinically diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder). She was very functional and came to me with an earnest desire to have peace and wholeness. We walked along an area of the Verde River I call Rock Heaven because of the endless colors, texture, and types of rock. All the rocks had journeyed a long way down the river of life. But no two were same. Many of them began as bigger rocks that split apart and went on separate journeys. Imagine this splitting happening many times in the effort to survive the times when floodwaters roared through the canyons and carried those rocks great distances. Sometimes the rocks were buried at the bottom for years until massive movements of water forced them back to the surface. Each tumbled and spun until finally, swept so far from the river, they lay amongst millions of other rocks and boulders.
Imagine these broken rocks as the split off energy of a person who struggles through one trauma after another. In an effort to survive, they dissociate from the painful emotions in each experience. The person who begins the journey through life as one whole personality is divided into many parts just like pieces of broken rocks. These many voices (personalities) of the split off parts carry the charge of disowned emotions. Some of the voices rule and become dominant over the others, because they are formed in moments of survival. Other voices hold feelings that are such a threat to the survivalist controlling force they rarely get to appear and be heard. They are held captive and buried at the dark bottom of the river of life for years. Just like in real life, when people are imprisoned for beliefs, which threaten the status quo, the protector controller, the false ruler of their Circle is afraid of these unvoiced feelings until a new force of awareness begins to awaken. It is a force that does not rule, but rather blesses and honors. It is a compassionate light, which brings the lost ones to the shores of wisdom to be seen and loved.
I asked Daisy to gather all her personalities. She knew all of them because she had been in therapy for many years. She wandered along the riverbank taking her time and allowing the rocks to speak to her. My dogs Cheyenne and Shaman sat with me quietly in the shade as we waited for her. When she returned she was carrying five large rocks in her arms. I could see the weight was a strain. I asked her to put them in the truck and told her we were now going to the Circle. As we drove down the dirt road, I suggested that Daisy hold the rocks in her arms as if she were holding something fragile that needed caring attention. When I stopped the truck and turned the engine off, I handed her a leather bag to carry the rocks to the Circle, which was a ten-minute walk through scrub brush, juniper, and Palo Verde trees.
At one point we had to walk up an incline to the top of a mesa and I said to her, “I want you to feel this weight you are carrying, and have this sense as you walk that you are bringing all these children that are within to their home in the Circle. Really feel that this moment has been waiting for you and when you enter the Circle, you enter this moment.”
She nodded and smiled at me. At that moment a hawk flew over us and screeched. We both stopped and looked at it circling. Neither of us needed to say anything. A soft smile flowed between us.
Shaman and Cheyenne had already trotted ahead to the Circle after chasing a cottontail rabbit that eluded them. They were sitting in the shade of a Palo Verde tree that stood outside the Circle when we arrived.
I asked Daisy to set the bag down. There was a center rock that was about three feet in circumference and rose out of the ground five inches. In the center I had carved a small hole. In that hole a beautiful white rock that resembled both a human heart and a mother holding a child sat in an upright position. I picked it up and said, “The center of the Circle is the heart of a mother’s unconditional love. It’s vast and spreads to the horizon. There is a power and energy here. Let it support you. Bring your bag into the Circle, Daisy, and just set it down.”
Daisy did as I asked, set the bag down and said, “It feels good here. Peaceful … and so quiet.”
“Yes,” I replied. “That peace and quiet is who you really are and these children in your bag were separated from that peace because you were trying to survive. Your emotions and feelings became divided, cast into the dark but dwelling alone in different caves. From this division the many were born, and you forgot the one they all move in. You have gathered the many and they all get to be here … all of them … because nothing gets thrown out of the Circle. And remember, Daisy, you are the Circle. You are what they move in, a loving compassionate presence. Reach into your bag and trust that your hand will touch the right one to bring into this spacious love.”
Daisy slowly reached into the black leather bag and drew out a black volcanic rock the size of her fist and pitted with holes, and spoke, “It’s the me penetrated by my dad that swore vengeance. I remember the moment it came in to protect me. It was after many years of helpless abuse. When it came in it shouted, ‘Touch me again, and I will tell everybody. Touch me again and I will kill you!’”
I asked Daisy to breathe and relax, to feel that peace and quiet she had commented on when first arriving. She stood quietly for a moment. “Let it be like an affectionate awareness to that hard anger of protection. Give yourself permission to have the feeling of hate, knowing it comes from great hurt.” I put my hands on her shoulders to encourage them to drop and let go. First I asked her to lie on her back, stiff and helpless, as if her father were lying on top of her. She started to cry and shake. At first it was intense and wanted to go on forever. I said, “Be the Circle to it … sigh … relax … give your body to the earth … breathe. Love this little one.”
After ten seconds of whimpering and crying, her breathing calmed and she lay still. I asked, “How do you feel?”
“I feel less anxious, more relaxed, more like … me. Like there is a me.”
“Reach in the bag and take out this little fragile one.”
She let her hand grope in the dark as if knowing what she was searching for. She pulled out a little heart rock the size of her fingernail and started crying again.
I spoke softly, “Although the first rock you pulled out was your rage, the key to its freedom is this fragile little one. Of all these many voices in the dark it’s the one that is the most deeply buried because it is utterly defenseless and powerless. You have touched it and by letting it just move through your body without being owned by its story you have freed it with your own compassion. Remember this feeling because it is the true action of self–love and it’s the force that will unite everyone.”
I asked her to hold the rock and go back to the stiff helpless place. She did and now there were only a few tears. Then I directed her to leap to her feet and with her whole body point her finger at the perpetrator and scream, “Touch me again and I will kill you!” Then I said, “Breathe … relax … just let it go everywhere. Just be what’s aware of your tears and let them move.” The feelings trembled through her in seconds and I could see her filling up with a new strength and confidence.
“Yes,” I said. “These two were separated. We have blended them back together again by invoking these two opposite feelings.”
She laughed and cried, “I’m here, I’m back … I’m home.”
And then I said, “And that home is your own compassionate presence as the Circle of One.”
The remaining rocks in the bag were now easily brought into the Circle through honoring very specific feelings. Each rock held a different feeling. Each rock brought her another step into wholeness. Each rock liberated and served the greater Circle of who she was.
It takes no leap of the imagination to understand how Daisy’s split off energies can mirror all of us in our journey through life. In surviving we cultivate a habit of suppression and rejection, of trying to throw the undesirable ones out of the Circle. We think, if I can get rid of this I will have peace. But the opposite becomes true and the many voices clamor for attention inside of us. You can’t just set up another war between the you who wants peace and quiet and all the other members of the Circle who are voicing their chorus of wants. You can’t gag them and expect to have peace. You can’t throw them out of the Circle because if the Circle, the Medicine of One, is limitless, how could anything possibly be thrown out of it? The root of the problem is you trying to throw things out. What you resist you become.
I have used Daisy’s story as an example of the reintegration of the past experiences. What about now? What about day-to-day life that presents us with pain and challenges such as chronic physical pain, an ongoing financial problem, or a life-threatening crisis with yourself or a loved one? This is why I consider the Medicine of One a path, not a process or a method. It’s a way of moving through each moment of life as the Circle and as the true action of self-love.
My own life and challenges are my greatest teachers. I learn much from working with others, but my own intimate, immediate experience, and my earnest commitment to be present with it is by far my greatest teacher. Very often when I stand in the Circle with someone I try to share something from my own life if I can. I want us to stand on the same ground and I want them to know that just because I am in the position of helping them doesn’t mean I don’t face my own challenges.
Soft Love of the Warrior
Each day I begin by sitting in the Circle. This first Circle of the day is in front of my fireplace. I light a small fire and a candle. But this sitting is different than the do nothing/be quiet sitting in the Circles on the land, for this sitting allows me to function for a portion of the day.
When I flipped the Healy and hit the pavement, instinctual movements did everything possible to preserve my life. The coiling away from the impact entered all the tissues of my body. Six months after the accident, I began to notice pressure on the sides of my skull. Immediately upon returning to California I seemed to be in a bit of a daze. I had a cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains and I would just go out on the deck and stare at the redwood trees and sky for hours. It wasn’t until seven years later that a chiropractor pointed out that my right shoulder, the part of my body that hit the pavement with the greatest force, was significantly higher than my left. Some time later I explored other modalities and learned that my head had been driven and twisted to the middle of my back.
I began to wonder if many of the problems I was having for much of that time were the result of that defining moment on I-70. These cognitive, emotional, and physical difficulties made each day a hellish journey. I felt like Sisyphus, who was condemned for an eternity by the Greek gods and as punishment was forced to push a huge boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down.
Prior to beginning this book, I would begin each day by assuming a full lotus position, reaching out as if grabbing a ball, drawing my hands in a couple of inches from my mouth, my elbows parallel with my arm pits, feeling my skull as if it were being pulled from the base … feeling and envisioning my skull, neck, chest, and shoulders opening.
As of the writing of this new second edition of Medicine of One in 2013, that which used to work and offer a reprieve … stopped working. That which gave me the feeling of a measure of control … disappeared. So, please know that I speak from the trenches, not from the safety and comfort of the pulpit. Daily I walk this path I am sharing.
It took me a span of twenty years to discover that position. If I didn’t do it, I was fairly dysfunctional, cognitively, emotionally, and physically. More often than not, there were adverse consequences when not done perfectly right. Within this story is the dilemma ~ the balance between action and surrender. This can be one of the most difficult and delicate parts of the path to walk. This is the drawing back of the arrow, a tension that is tensionless, and releasing it to find the target rather than driving it willfully to the target.
With my physical dilemma, doing nothing would leave me almost incapacitated. But doing too much would lead to the same state of imbalance. The balance between surrender and action was to enter the form and yet surrender into it … to take the step forward, so to speak, and surrender to where it would lead me … to create without control. This kind of surrender does not give in to defeatist thoughts, but neither does it let the tough warrior take over and push. Yet, the strength of the warrior is invoked. So it’s really about rooting yourself in the soft love of the Medicine of One, where warrior and victim are honored, felt, and transformed into a mutual ground of support.
All of us face difficulties in some form or another. Some of these are the result of experiences from the past, and there are those in the present that are experienced through the past. Either one holds the potential of suffering if we are the victim, if we let them own us, drawing us into a kind of vortex of fearful thinking and emotional disturbance. But the detachment of the warrior cowboy who dusts his jeans off and walks away won’t work either. For in doing this, we are really turning our Circle over to the preservation of how we define ourselves, at any expense. The price is true peace. The Medicine is the true action of self-love.
Some days I am weary to the bone. There is a voice in the Circle mumbling softly, “I am tired, I can’t do it anymore.” There is a feeling of hopelessness. If I just ignore it and push on … push it out … harden to it … yes, I will get through to the next day. But, the habitual rejection of these weaker, sometimes helpless, movements in the Circle of Who I Am creates a kind of spinning black hole that haunts me with moments of suffering.
And so I must learn what it means to love them, to be the open spacious Circle of no judgment and allow that desperate energy to ripple through my body as a heavy dark wave that rolls forward into completion as a cycle of life that emerges as a hopeful surrender. Not a surrender to a victim’s thinking, but rather a surrender that in its spaciousness allows me to settle to my ground of being and trust. Yes, a surrender that trusts the truth of Who I Am. This is the true action of self-love.
Each day I commit myself to this and perhaps, in the eyes of the ever present critic, I fail. So let me love this critic and let me love this failure. Let me remember the infinite One that I Am in my weakest distraught moments and let the bed I lay my weary self upon be that Medicine of One.
If you can actually be the Circle to your own willful self-criticism and judgment, then its unloving appearance means nothing. It does not mean that you cannot love yourself. This true action holds no judgment, even with the force in you that might feel compelled to judge yourself and others. It is a detachment that is spaciously all-inclusive and not a detachment of moving away from your emotional being. All movements are honored. There are no rules except one ~ harmlessness. To honor something as potentially damaging as rage is not a license to behave recklessly; nor is it a license to put this energy into the world. It is to be spacious to the pain from which it was born, and transform the frozen fire into something that gifts the world with the flame of creation.
I, too, am human. I, too, forget. I, too, feel the grip of fear. I, too, in forgetting, wrap my painful emotions in robes of spiritual thought, mistaking that high thought for the Medicine. I, too, want relief from my pain. So let me just love them all, every movement in this infinite, spacious, compassionate Circle of this great mystery that I Am. Let me be this Medicine of One as the true action of self-love.