The swallows are gathering in the evenings now, and look as if they are getting ready to depart. Their natural freedom lies within us, not something outside that we need to attain or become. It is often our fears that prevent us from accessing it, and we choose to stay safe rather than risk the journey:
Look at the birds.
out of nothing.
The first sky
is inside you, my friend, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
Li Young Lee, One Heart
photo Takashi Hososhima
Something deep inside us seems always to think that the answer to life’s challenges is to do more and push harder. And modern working life encourages this, with its demands to produce more, and these messages keep the mind leaping to the next task or challenge. And so we live a lot of the time in the future, thinking that our security comes from something that will happen there. In a practical sense this means that we will spend a lot of moments today trying to get somewhere else. The different wisdom traditions tell us that mental health is related to resisting this, and to living more in the present:
Before a step is taken, the goal is reached;
Before the tongue is moved, the speech is finished.
Though each move is ahead of the next,
There is still a transcendent secret.
Mumon’s Commentary on Kempo’s One Way , in the 48-koan collection The Gateless Gate
Awake, my dear.
Be kind to your sleeping heart.
Take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe.
photo Mullaghrellan Woods Kilkea
I find hospitality to be one of the most significant and most challenging of all the monastic virtues… There is another dimension to this practice which we sometimes might be tempted to forget which is inner hospitality. Within each of us we have a multitude of feelings. experiences, and inner selves that we would prefer to close the door on. We have many inner strangers knocking at the door of your hearts. How many times have I refused to welcome grief or anger, the scary new dream, the embarrassing aspect I want to deny, or the part of myself that doesn’t seem to fit with others?
Christine Valters Paintner, Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics
True freedom is living as if you had completely chosen
whatever you feel or experience in this moment.
This inner alignment with the Now is the end of suffering
Eckhart Tolle, Silence Speaks
photo Sharada Prasad