Mindful Musings

A Meditation on Freedom During COVID-19

By: Forrest RiversSo What IS Spiritual Freedom? — Spirit Quest with LindaAs the United States begins relaxing stay at home orders it has made me reflect on the meaning of freedom in the age of COVID-19. During this period of self-quarantining and social distancing, freedom has come to mean many different things to people.

For the mostly conservative anti-shutdown protesters in the United States (and to a much lesser extent in Great Britain and Germany) freedom has meant the right to work and operate one’s own business without undue interference by government. For these protesters, it has also implied the liberty to make one’s own personal decisions free of state tyranny. Yet, for other folks, freedom has come to mean something different. For many liberal urbanites and senior citizens freedom has come to be seen as the right to be protected from the threats posed by others’ irresponsible actions. In the context of this pandemic, some shoppers’ insistence on not wearing face coverings in crowded public places is an example of such a threat.

Medical workers on the front line of fighting the virus have also arrived at their own unique understanding of freedom. My sister, who is an ER doctor, has expressed to me that she and other medical workers would just like the freedom to be able to perform their (very vital) jobs without encountering societal road blocks along the way. A prime example of such a road block, is the US Government’s colossal failure to provide an adequate number of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits for hospitals.

In an inspiring development, a growing number of spiritual seekers, too, are coming to their own profound realization of freedom. In the context of the times, seekers of truth are regarding freedom as something that extends beyond the individual AND as one’s conscious choice to use their free will to alleviate the suffering of all beings. Such an understanding of freedom is akin, in a Christian sense, to being our brother’s keeper. And, in a Buddhist sense, rising to the level of becoming a Bodhisattva or one who devotes their life to service. This perception of freedom has everything to do with right intentions and challenges us to step outside ourselves and to flow with the great river of life. In the end, this acknowledgement of the interrelation of all things (oneness) is possibly the highest truth that mystics of every faith have discovered. Very fortunately for humanity, it appears that more people are beginning to understand that true freedom springs from an awareness that we are all connected. Below, are two powerful examples of this kind of freedom in action:

Example 1: My friend Jamie

For as long as I have known him, Jamie has been passionately devoted to the path of spirit and spreading the light of love. Recently, he began a live stream on Reddit centered on the themes of positivity and personal self-improvement. In just a few months, his platform has drawn up to 500 people at once from across the world. However, it is not the number of participants that matter in this story, but how Jamie has chosen to use his vehicle of expression to uplift others in this anxiety filled time. Recently, Jamie related a touching story to me about how he has been coaching (in his terms) one of his live stream participants through a difficult period of depression and sadness. Most significantly, Jamie revealed how this individual has been finding peace and comfort through their correspondences online. Incredibly enough, this participant lives in Australia! Jamie’s inspiring story is a testament to the fact that the vibrations of love can literally transcend the barriers of both time and space!

Example 2: My friend Austin

Austin has to be one of the kindest souls I have met in my life. And, as an inspiring musician, he has always succeeded in moving others to God through his creativity. During the thick of the stay at home orders, Austin could sense that his neighbors were feeling a little down from this extended period of isolation. So, he took out his guitar and started playing soulful melodies daily with the intention to uplift everyone around him. Austin brought so much joy to the people around him, that he received humbling letters of gratitude from some of his neighbors for spreading peace and love during an otherwise dark time for many.

The examples of Jamie and Austin are powerful reminders that you can still (responsibly) respect social distancing guidelines while positively impacting other beings through your freedom of choice to acknowledge the cosmic threads that tie us all together. In these unprecedented times of suffering and hardship, shift your perspective of freedom from what is good for you to what is also good for all your brothers in sisters!

Mindful Musings

An eagle, a lion, a wolf, a deer and a bear sat around the campfire for their weekly respite from work. This week, their conversation focused on the foils of humanity.As the embodiment of freedom and the first messenger of the Creator, the Eagle was the first to speak:

“My brothers and sisters, the humans, seem to be deluded into thinking they’re free. They seem to think that one can achieve freedom through the mind’s subjugation of nature. Why, that’s preposterous! Is it not, dear friends?”

All nodded in emphatic agreement, as the Eagle continued to speak:

“Through severing itself from the sacredness of the wild, humanity has only enslaved itself. For all beings draw their physical and spiritual sustenance from the Earth. She is our direct access point to the Creator. No being can fully connect with the Supreme Consciousness without communing with the Earth.”

The Eagle paused for a moment and continued:

“So, humans can go on exploiting and desecrating the land with their towers of hubris, talking wires and toxic chemicals, but none of it will satisfy their desperate thirst for freedom.

“Man speaks much about God, but rare is the human who knows that the Great Spirit dwells within the forests, mountains, oceans, rivers and deserts. Sadly, with the exception of their wise native brethren, it seems that humans are destined to follow down their own self-inflicted paths of suffering.”

For several moments, the group grew silent as they nodded their heads in agreement with the wise and venerable Eagle. Finally, the courageous Lion rose to speak:

African lion's face

“It appears to me that freedom is not the only thing that humans are misled about. Humankind is under the mistaken assumption that true courage is to conquer through might, which by way of the Universal law, isn’t morally right.

“True courage isn’t sending young people to fight for the money and power of tyrants. Nor is it courage, to commission expeditions to far-flung corners of the world in pursuit of precious resources and minerals that should never have been dug up from the ground.

“True courage is to look within to the hallowed guides of our being for divine instruction and inspiration: The sun and the moon, the cycle of the seasons, the whispering chorus of the wind, and the ebb and flow of water’s epic journey to the ONE.”

The Lion paused briefly to clear its throat, before proceeding:

“True courage is to stand behind the divine principles of creation and to be shining examples of IT’s perfect heart in form and in spirit—even in cases in which our own moral uncertainty is present.”

Once again, all in the circle grew silent, until it was the loyal Wolf’s turn to speak:

“My brothers and sisters, it’s not just freedom and courage that humans lack. They seem not to comprehend the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty has little to do with one’s peaceful assimilation to conformist rules and structures. Nor does it have anything to do with the jealous guardianship of one’s dogmatic beliefs and lifestyle choices. True loyalty has everything to do with one’s dedication to spirited self-reflection and genuine service to others.”

The Wolf paused for dramatic effect, before completing its thought:

“In our wolf packs, we’re loyal to one another through thick and thin. We’re loyal to one another for precisely this purpose: we’re all on this same journey through the wisdom of form. As far as I can see, humans have yet to learn the depths of this kind of loyalty.”

Wolf pack in the snow

All stared adoringly at the Wolf for a few moments, until the compassionate Deer assumed the mantle of inspiration:

“Friends, it’s quite apparent to me that the two-leggeds don’t appear to have an adequate understanding of compassion, either. One can’t live freely, be courageous or extend loyalty to others if they’re unable to open their hearts.

“Why, whenever we deer are forced to bury our kin in the ground, owing to another murderous sport hunter, I cry out in vain to the Creator and ask if man has a soul. For how can one kill their earthly brethren for entertainment? “

The Deer wiped a tear from its eye and continued:

“And it’s not just the murder of its own kind! Humans plunder one another in their petty contests for power and domination. How sad and senseless, indeed! The humans fail to understand that compassion extends both inwards and outwards in all directions from the heart, and washes over all beings without exception. True compassion, then, is to see the peace within oneself reflected in all creatures.”

To a jubilant chorus of “Amen,” the majestic Deer bowed to its beloved friends in the circle before sitting back down. At last, it was the faithful Bear’s turn to speak:

“My children and fellow teachers, I have sat here in a most grateful silence and listened to all your lamentations about modern man. I must say that I think your comments are wise and accurate.

“However, I would like to add that our lost human friends are lacking a fifth quality that fully explains why their conceptions of freedom, courage, loyalty and compassion are so sorely lacking. That missing quality is faith, and without it, they can’t understand what it means to be free, courageous, loyal or compassionate. “

The Bear paused for a moment to take a puff of sacred herb from his pipe. He then passed the instrument counter-clockwise and continued:

“Faith is at the root of our being. Think of the faith that bears must have each winter! For months at a time, we go into hibernation. We have tremendous faith that the wisdom of the universe will enable us to pull through the winter and experience the bounty of another springtime in bloom.

“Though mankind may lack a similar faith in themselves, it doesn’t imply that they won’t one day find it. We must not lose faith in humans and turn a blind eye to their suffering. For, as we know all too well, the ill-fated actions of man have an impact on our own quality of life.  It’s up to us, the animals, to show them how to live. We must inspire them all to look within themselves.”

At the exact moment that the Bear finished speaking, the group heard a rustling in the forest. All turned in amazement as two human teenagers walked through the woods, with big smiles on their faces.

Two teenagers smiling in woods

To the joy of all those gathered, the boy and girl proceeded to sit down in the Lotus position, next to a large stone. Hidden from plain view, the animals watched in delighted silence as the humans recited a moving prayer to the Earth:

“Great Spirit. Mover of the Cosmos. Lover of Morning and Night. We offer you, Mother Earth, our blessings and pray that you enlighten our souls with your compassion, peace and wisdom.

“You’re the essence of beauty and the source of all clarity.  Your life-sustaining rain washes over us with all its soulful purity. Your mountain peaks make us humble and reflect the vastness of your inner presence. And in your sacred forests, we feel the truth near and have nothing to fear.

“Earth Goddess: We pray for your protection and for the illumination of our human family. Peace. Peace. Peace.”