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Experiencing Intrinsic Freedom

by Peter and Penny Fenner

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According to the wisdom of Asian spirituality, our suffering and confusion is caused by becoming fixated on our experience. When we are fixated, we invest mental, emotional and physical energy in changing or maintaining our experience.

All forms of fixation can be traced to a core assessment that something is missing in our lives. What is missing can be anything from a nice cup of tea, all the way through to enlightenment. We feel that "This isn't it," where IT represents our particular version of how things should be. We are sure that something is happening that shouldn't be happening, or that something that should be happening isn't. Either view is a fixation, which throws us into emotional confusion as we struggle to gain whatever IT is. We fear not getting IT, and having got it, we fear losing it. And by all accounts IT will probably be derived from our concept of a state of enlightenment--that is, a state of limitless possibilities and unending happiness.

From time to time the experience that "something is missing" is displaced by the feeling that "This is it." For a time it seems that things are turning out as we wish. We figure that we are getting it, or have got it--this is how things should be. We might even convince ourselves that we have arrived at the long sought after goal of our spiritual endeavors. However, the belief that have got it sets up the possibility of losing it, as we reconstruct that we don't have enough of it, and that we could use more of it. We also question if this really is IT, and even if it is, whether we now want it. In one way or another, the core beliefs "this is it" and "this isn't it" underpin all our experiences of pain and pleasure. They throw us between the extremes of elation and depression, excitement and resignation.

These fixations emerge as we attempt to produce a fixed and solid view about ourselves and the world. As the Chinese yin-yang symbol shows, two opposite beliefs emerge in dependence on each other--coexisting, separating and finally dis-connecting. When they have dis-connected, the two beliefs appear to be independent of each other. Our attachment to one as valid and the other as invalid produces a fixation.

When the energy that fuels the separation and dis-connection of our conflicting beliefs is deactivated, we experience the natural clarity and ease of being present to life in a relaxed and non-judgmental way. By letting go of the energy that fractures our thinking, balance and harmony can be introduced into all areas of our lives. In place of struggle and tension, we experience freedom and openness. We learn to appreciate our thoughts, feelings and perceptions without needing to indulge or reject them.

So how can we release and blend the energy of conflicting beliefs and thought patterns? The first step is to open ourselves to the dualistic nature of beliefs. We can begin to appreciate how all sorts of beliefs and attitudes are represented in our personalities. When we reject other people's beliefs and values, we can appreciate how those beliefs and values must be present in our own psyche. Otherwise we wouldn't reject them. For example, if we dislike ungracious people, it shows we haven't fully acknowledge and accommodated our own propensity to be withholding. Similarly, we only try to convince others of the truth of our beliefs if at some level we doubt them ourselves. In this way the world becomes a mirror reflecting our own imbalances and biases.

We can also observe how we are inclined to react to our thoughts, feelings and perceptions in an extreme way. For example, we can begin to observe our tendencies to: make tasks easy or difficult; exaggerate or trivialize our own and other's experiences; dominate or acquiesce; resist or give in to our desires. If we honestly observe our tendencies to think and behave in an extreme manner, we are much less likely to manifest those behaviors. By filtering out excessive and intense responses, our lives become smoother and less complicated. As our lives become simpler and more peaceful, we can begin to feel the seed of harmony that lies at the heart of every conflict. We arrive at a "still point" in which stress, conflict and tension are automatically released the very instant they might otherwise have formed.

At this point we are not using a method. We are naturally releasing the beliefs that limit, distort and invalidate the open, unimpeded and self-refreshing nature of the present moment. In doing so we gain the ultimate freedom to be who we are, without any need for posturing, embarrassment or contrivance. Our lives become naturally joyful, spontaneously creative, powerfully discerning and complete.

Dr. Peter Fenner is the Founder of the Center for Timeless Wisdom, which offers the Intrinsic Freedom program and other courses. His practical courses translate the essential wisdom of Asian spirituality into modern, accessible frameworks. Penny Fenner is a psychologist and Director of the Center. With Peter she delivers the Intrinsic Freedom course in California, Australia and Europe.


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