Liberation is tricky.
Understanding that we are conditioned means to realize that psychologically we are hinged to personal, familial, communal and cultural dynamics that, in their pleasure or disgust, have us caught in a tight web of beliefs, ideas and ways of living.
Furthermore, some of this conditioning has been rooted in or born out of traumatic encounters, conflicts in relatedness, historical atrocities/violence, ineffectual education and innumerable personal experiences that have distorted perception.
Within and causal to this matrix of distorted perception is a whole host of phenomena that has been deeply buried in the unconscious layers of consciousness, making it difficult to be aware of the many covert operations of our psychological relationship with life.
Deeper into the web we have solidified allegiances to culture, class, family and social networks that further persuade behavior into a particular track of being, thereby creating segregated ways of relating with perceived otherness and keeping wholeness at a distance.
Thus … liberation is tricky … as perception is perpetually distorted.
This aspiration towards liberation has a trickier aspect to it once we realize that no one else in the world – gurus, gods, teachers, parents, lovers – can provide us with freedom, but, at the same time, liberation can’t be achieved in isolation.
In their monumental work “Toward Psychologies of Liberation”, Mary Watkins and Helene Shulman inform us that:
We want to talk about a type of liberation that people can do with one another, but that no one can do for another; a kind of jailbreak in which we find the fullness of ourselves and our communities. One begins this participatory project with a sense of all that is still unknown in self and other. In this scenario, what is imprisoned in silence, yearning, and marginalization, will have a chance to escape into image, language, symbol, performance, and action. ‘Expertise’ will be in the negative: learning how to empty oneself of already learned identifications and specializations to create space for listening and imagining, where one can dream new scripts and alternative ways of being in the world. This space is dialogical, welcoming conversation where monologue has reigned, within oneself and between oneself and others. One does this together with others, recovering sources of creativity and power, entering community rather than standing aside as bystanders or detached reporters. This space is co-creative. The rules one has lived by, the identities one has imagined as one’s own, and the identities of others one imagined as different, begin to shift and transform in this understanding of liberation. Liberation psychologies begin at the edge of what has already been known and named. They begin with a wandering in the desert where one questions and deconstructs in dialogue the fixed compass that has been orienting one’s identifications.
What is implied here, but not explicitly stated, is that in this liberatory process of re-imagining ones life in relationship with all living things is a continual, possibly moment to moment, death process. Liberation, for all intents and purposes, requires a dying to ways of being that have corrupted consciousness (indeed the entirety of human relationship).
As our attachments to other ways of relating, thinking … being … get brought into question and exposed defensive rationalizations spring forth in their stead, putting boulders in the path toward understanding and necessary freedom from ineffective living.
Understanding the dynamic difficulties to this path of liberation we come to realize the importance of compassionate relationship. The need for compassionate spaces where rebukes are minimal and people are able to host a wild variety of corrupted behavior – to bring them in alignment with the new ways of being – is an initial indication to the fact that this work can’t be done alone.
Stepping further into this ontological praxis another piece of crucial understanding is absolutely necessary. In order to be able to host these compassionate spaces in dialogical relationship with perceived others you have to be able host them within yourself. If there is truth to the idea that the ways in which we relate to others is also how we relate to ourselves then it becomes very important to be able to integrate, as a spiritual practice, the ability to compassionately create space to observe ones own disturbed (misaligned) perceptions, liberating them and oneself simultaneously.
Using meditation as medication we can learn to compassionately observe and provide loving space for the passage of the shit that we carry. Jiddu Krishnamurti said:
Is it possible to observe the fragmentation and the identification with those fragments? To observe, not correct, not transcend, not run away from or suppress, but observe. It is not a matter of what to do about it; because if you attempt to do something about it you are then acting from a fragment and therefore cultivating further fragments and divisions. Whereas, if you can observe holistically, observe the whole movement of life as one, then conflict with its destructive energy not only ceases but also out of that observation comes a totally new approach to life.
This observational letting go (liberation/death) process is extremely difficult for that aspect of ourselves (wounded self?) that needs to control the outcome. Relinquishing control in the face of the unknown – “a totally new approach to life” – for most of us brings up a lifelong litany of fear. In this way we learn that in some ways we are attached (addicted?) to old ways of perceiving and living, simultaneously afraid of the unknown (freedom).
It could be that this fear of the unknown is intricately interwoven into the fear of death. Let us make no mistakes about it, this moving from the constrictive past is a psychological death process that allows for lived reincarnation.
For this we must come to see that death is crucial to life – dying is crucial to living. There isn’t a road map for this movement into the unknown. There may not be a cushy landing. All of your relationships may not remain intact. The person you were before will not be the person that you become. When hosting these dynamics in oneself and with others it is important that we are able to stay with an awareness that the outcome of this process is unknown and, in accord with natural life, will move toward what is needed.
For this reason and many others, it seems that we can’t run from relationship. Welcoming others is crucial to creating new ways of relating and living with difference. In this way, too … liberation is tricky. Furthermore, understanding that the microcosm mirrors the macrocosm, and that the psychological and social are in interweaving embeddedness – it becomes vital, beyond a necessity, that we embark on this movement on a familial, communal and cultural level. In liberating self, we liberate other and vice versa. Thus, this task is almost (?) a prerequisite for birthing a new order of relationship and living on/with planet earth and all living beings.