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"What does spiritual freedom mean, anyway?"


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Home » Features » Looking Toward The Future

Looking Toward The Future
by Carolyn Cooper

What feelings does the word “future” conjure up for you? What do you see in your mind’s eye? Utopia, an abyss, space travel?

A wise person who has guided me on the spiritual path of Cafh once told me that in order to walk with serenity toward the future, I need to accept the teaching I have distilled from past experience and cultivate a passion for spiritual freedom, for myself and everyone. I have found that this helps me maintain a flow of energy and keep it focused on a constructive end.

This guidance sounds simple, but it requires constant alertness. The experience several years ago of tutoring a rambunctious eight-year old brought me up short against my firmly embedded assumption that other people are somehow just minor variants of me. In the course of the tutoring, a series of tussles of will and some breakthroughs gradually wore away this assumption. Little by little I came to see that if I wanted to teach this child, I had to stand beside him, where he was. The distillation of this experience was the realization that an interaction with another person is often more productive if I am as concerned about where she is as I am to bring her around to my way of thinking. However, old constricting habits like that assumption call out to me from behind. “Stay safe and comfortable here with us in the past. Don’t stretch too far or you’ll fall on your face! Why try to help someone who doesn’t seem to want your help?” Sometimes while I’m dreaming of spiritual flights, I trip over an old attitude lying on the ground right in front of me. I didn’t see it in time because my head was in the clouds.

What does spiritual freedom mean, anyway? At a very personal level, I think it implies the capacity to put myself in someone else’s shoes, to extricate myself from old patterns of seeing life in terms of opposites–me versus them, failure versus success, guilt versus complacency–and to be willing to leave the past behind. It also means committing myself to my ideals through appropriate practices and lifestyle, even though there are no guarantees that this will bring specific benefits to me or others.

When Bertrand Russell was a very old man, he wrote that it was important for him to be passionately interested in the future. He poured his energy into work to realize the possibilities he saw for humanity, even though he well understood that he would not see the result of his efforts.


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