Psychological Freedom

I taught yoga for 20 years. I learned that, regardless of what I intended for the student to take away from class, the fruit of the practice was out of my hands. I could be teaching a class about loosening tight hamstrings, and the student might be processing their resolution of a decades old fracture with their step-sister in Kansas. The importance of the practice was the relationship between what was happening on the student’s mat and the rest of their lives.

I’m a meditator. Sometimes I enter practice with a leading question. The majority of the time I take my seat and get still. A lot can happen in stillness. The practice is a doorway for observation and revelation. It is a gateway to psychological freedom. The toy inside the Crackerjack box of my meditation is the relationship between my practice and the flow of my life. It isn’t a box on the list of daily tasks to check off once completed. Rather, the point is mindfulness of thought and emotion. It’s an objective vantage point. It’s an opening for a glimpse into psychological freedom.

Though I’ve been spending time with friends, I’ve recently experienced intensifying loneliness. I yearned for its erasure. I was reminded of the yogic teaching of non-attachment during a recent meditation. It softened the charge that I felt around being lonely and made me a happier camper in that moment. It was psychologically freeing.

Thinking is not antithetical to mediation. Meditation is thinking’s perfect companion. Thoughts are susceptible to becoming identity guides. Meditation can help to neutralize thought encumbrance. I become my own observer, my own witness. I don’t always like what I see, but the practice can soften the hardness connected to my observations.

I’m not someone who is easily brought to tears when I’m sad. I thought I had a grieving defect. My meditation practice played a big role in shifting that perception to one of accepting that my grief is unique, that it doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s grief, and that my grief process isn’t defective. Thoughts are a difficult part of mindfulness. Once I eliminate any confusion between their appearance and their impermanence, then I’ve got a fighting chance to not drown in the revolutions of my mental skating rink.

Even though we don’t live as though it’s true, every experience changes. We’re prone to succumbing to the illusion that we will ultimately arrive at finality, at a point where the doubts and questions end. But the recognition that the doubts and questions don’t end can be clarifying. There is no arriving. I’m often asked about my quest, my destination, and when and where I’ll settle back down. My plans are subject to change, my thoughts are subject to change, and my observation of the flow is psychologically freeing.

My observer that validates impermanence isn’t in conflict with commitment. Instead, my observer itself is a commitment portal. I don’t know precisely where I’ll be, but I’m committed to going. I’m committed to my practice so that I’ll stack the odds in my favor for psychological freedom. I would abort my own psychological freedom if I went through life without admitting that I’m a work in progress. I’ll continue to step into the laboratory of my experiments where I’ll recognize and regale flux.

Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

5 thoughts on “Psychological Freedom

  1. Nice reflection. Wish I had some windshield time to reply line by line. Will keep and reread.

    Love the opening where the lesson and the student’s reflection on family are in play. Did they get what they paid for? Or more? A chance to improve their physical health, and mental, as well.

    Lots here. Thanks.

    Like

  2. Oh, Jimmy. You have such cca monumental loss. And you face it with great depth of heart and mind.
    It is of minimal comfort, but you are loved by so many, nation wide!

    Like

  3. Your posts continue to give me rich thoughts to reflect upon and as a result of those reflections, your writing inspires me to grow. Thank you! This particular post served as a timely reminder to finish some work so I can go downstairs and practice me some yoga.

    Fun thought for a chuckle: about 2 years ago I was practicing some basic yoga postures in an empty room at the fitness center, when a man I didn’t know, stuck his head in and I asked, if I was doing some Tai Chi? I laughed and said no, I was “trying” to do yoga and he immediately responded that, everyone he knows is doing that yoga thing so I guess I better do me some yoga. Then he walked away and I continued to do me some yoga…with a smile! 🙂

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  4. Thank you, Jimmy. An excellent reminder to be our own objective observer as we navigate onward buffered by our busy minds. I’m increasingly aware of how shaky are the foundations of many of my perceptions especially the negative ones.

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