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Stop Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Discover Your True Nature
by Eli Jaxon-Bear
My answer was instant and deeper than any thought. Andrew Goodman, a boy from my neighborhood in New York, had been found murdered and buried in a swamp with two other SNCC workers the summer before. A white, Northern minister, Reverend James Reeb, on just such a bus had been beaten to death a few days before on the streets of Selma, Alabama. Police were turning marchers back with dogs and water hoses. People were being violently attacked and thrown into jail. This was a terrifying situation full of unknowns, and I was an upper middleclass, Jewish boy who had led a relatively sheltered life. All of my family and friends would call me mad if I got on that bus. I would be putting my life in danger; I would miss school and possibly flunk out; and I would end up on an FBI list, ruining my future career options. Yet I knew without a doubt that I was "on the bus." The gift and clarity of that choice gave me the confidence not to look back.
Gradually, my choice in favor of freedom, even in the external political way that I defined it at the time, pushed me to my limits. "Really?" freedom would ask. "What about this situation? Are you willing to compromise here? Will you hold steady there?" Inch by inch, year by year, I came to see what my life was about and where I was heading. I was forced over the cliff of the known world.
Getting on the bus represented a much deeper commitment than enduring a few weeks of dangerous adventure. Finally, I had to give my life fully to getting on the bus for freedom without a thought of ever getting off. The bus at that point embodied a commitment to walking the talk. Freedom asked, "Are you willing to risk death to stop the suffering in this world?" When the miraculous answer "Yes" appeared, the necessity of facing death opened the way for me to cross the ocean of illusion and to receive the truth of my own Self.
Getting on the bus was a choice that led me forward on the path toward freedom. Other choices I have made led in a different direction. When I followed my desires and called it freedom, I found this led to deeply painful consequences. Like me, you have faced life altering choices: whether to stay or to go, whether to have children or not, whether to follow what is in your heart or to cling to the safety of the known. You can look back now and see the results of the choices you have made. You can see the precious moments when you stayed true to yourself in the deepest way, as well as the times when you betrayed yourself and followed the norm. Each of those choices leaves a mark— sometimes in the form of a wound or a reinforcement of fear and doubt, and other times as a revelation of the deepest essence of soul. All of your choices, whether fortunate or unfortunate, are useful. Each shows you something important about yourself, and all are allies in helping you face the truth.
The essential question
Now I pose this essential question to you: What do you really want?
Surprisingly, most people have never asked themselves this question with any depth. Indeed, most people live their entire lives without really questioning what it is that they truly want. Most just make do with whatever shows up. Most are content to settle for some version, hopefully a little bit better, of what their parents had or wanted. Others may rebel and strive for something totally different from what their parents had but end up with the same results. Many people who choose to become parents say that what they most want is not to treat their children the way their parents treated them. But all these choices exist in the realm of relative slavery. These are not true choices but conditioned responses.
When we act out of conditioning, all of our choices are rooted in a ground of ignorance. Unless you know who you are, all of your choices remain the choices of a slave. Of course, slaves sometimes protest that they are in fact free and can do whatever they please. Except to be still. Slaves do not have the power of silence. Silence is the key that unlocks all of the chains of slavery. All slaves are bound to the noise of arising phenomena. In using the term slaves, I am including the roles of both master and slave, since all roles in this world are roles of relative slavery. The apparent master is as enslaved as the apparent slave. Both are addicted to sensory experience and to the voices of their egoic minds talking in their heads.
My teacher Papaji said that there is a river of thought waves, and this river is washing all beings downstream. Some rationalize that they are going with the flow, others zigzag and imagine that they are in control, while still others gather objects and people around them so that they can float down the river together. The rarest of the rare are those who give rise to the desire for freedom. Freedom is the willingness to take a stand exactly where you are, in the middle of the mind stream.