A few days ago I watched the documentary about artist & activist Ai Weiwei. It’s called, Never Sorry. Midway in the film there is a quote that really stood out for me. Ai Weiwei was answering a journalist’s question, he said, “Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a country.” Upon hearing that, it made me think of so many types/levels of freedom I have experienced. After experiencing them, there really is no turning back.
There is one experience that stands out the most. It was the experience of ‘no thought’. Or what felt like ‘no thought’. It’s very difficult to determine, or to put into words. There really is no successful way to do it, but I will try. (A little challenging to put a ‘no thought’ or ‘no words’ experience into thought & words. Crazy of me to even try.)
As I think about this ‘no thought’ experience, the question does come to mind, “How did I know I had no thoughts unless there was a thought about having no thought?” But regardless of this question, I will explain the experience, because that is what is was. Or maybe it wasn’t an experience. I don’t know what it was. I just know what happened & how it felt in the moment.
I entered a New York city subway train, as I usually do for transportation from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I sat down. My eyes were seeing, & my ears were hearing, & my body was feeling, but there was no internal dialogue about it. There was a full train, full of people & noise, plenty of things to mentally comment on & judge critically — but there was no judgement, no commentary. I literally sat there for a period of time with absolutely no desires, or thoughts on anything. No judgements, no preferences. Not even an identification as a separate self. There was seeing & listening & feeling, but no one to take a personal interest in it.
As I sat there, there was nothing. Just a profound feeling of peace & balance. I’m not even sure I could call it a feeling. I was nothing more than openness or emptiness. And as a result of that, I could say that I (or the moment itself, I’m not sure how to identify it) was what I would imagine absolute peace to be. It was perfect. Everything was. Not a single thing was good or bad, nothing needed to change, or stay the same. There was no preference or attachment at all. No investment, no interest, nothing to gain or lose, nothing to protect, no one to pretend.
After some time, I snapped out of it. The internal dialogue, the preferences & requests, the likes & dislikes, the need for security & meaning — it all came flooding in. The thinking & processing, the obsessing & focusing, the mental babble & commentary — it was all back. But for the previous moments it was gone (I’m not sure for how long it was, because it felt timeless).
It was bliss. Not a bliss based on joy or happiness, but a bliss of absolute clarity & emptiness — which felt like prefect wholeness & balance. I will never forget it. And I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to experience it all the time, …or at least more often. But then again, there goes my mind; full of desires, creeping in constantly with a personal interest — determined to make the moment as it is, just not good enough. Having the awareness to see it do that though, is kind of charming. Like the ego-mind is an active character in a play. A very sweet & endearing character, that the viewer can easily sympathize with & be entertained by.
There are other times that I have felt an unforgettable feeling of freedom. They are pretty simple, & they might be fairly easy to duplicate: Rejecting society’s constant push to pimp people into becoming brainless consumer machines. // Ending my former career without a new career in mind. Totally taking a leap of faith. // No longer keeping photographs or keepsakes of my past. Releasing them & their significance. // Saying ‘No’ or ‘Yes’ when it’s considered unorthodox or a huge risk by most standards. // Staying clear of the media’s constant need to bombard people with drama & bad news. // Fully accepting that one may never know why, or how, but trusting life regardless. // Being ‘moved’ or effortless, allowing life-force or Universal Will to dictate every step or path.// Putting my needs second to someone else’s, that might need attention or extra care in the moment. // Donating, selling, or disposing of, almost all of my creature comforts & possessions. // Embracing life & loving unconditionally, without a second thought.
The last line is freedom to me: “Embracing life & loving unconditionally, without a second thought.” Never mind no-thoughts, or even the opposite: feeling like one has a personal sense of freedom based on anything physical (even one’s own life). Loving unconditionally, embracing all fully — to me this is freedom. In that, why would there ever be a need for an apology? Who would be sorry, or not sorry — what significance or importance would it have? There would only be love. There would only be life! As it is. In the moment. Without apologies.
That being said, continue to explore what freedom means to you. Continue to explore the depths of love. (I will continue to explore freedom & love as well. I consider it my life’s work.) See the film about Ai Weiwei by Alison Klayman. Be an artist & an activist in your own life (treating your life as your greatest statement, your greatest creative work). Share what lights you up. Share what you are passionate about. Enjoy being alive. Relish it. See it as a gift. Be grateful for all of it. Regardless of what is understood or not understood. Put unconditional love to the test. Be vulnerable. Be open. Be empty. Be the space for something great to happen. Allow spontaneity & inspiration to take over. Don’t be afraid to begin again. And again.