Freedom, ARTICLE ON from Warriors' Journeys

  • Freedom, ARTICLE ON

What does freedom mean to you? For many people, freedom implies an absence of responsibility - a life devoted to leisure. For many others, freedom implies not having to do a specific thing - looking after one's parents or children, or working in a particular job, or perhaps not even having to work at all.

This is the category into which most people fall, for, when asked, most of us would say that we could be really free "if only we did not have to ............", or "if only we had ...........".

However, these wishes and escapisms have little to do with real freedom. In terms of the Toltec teachings, freedom is a very different concept, with many facets. This quotation from The Toltec Teachings - Volume IV by Théun Mares describes one facet; "The greatest challenge for a warrior is to love life and everything life has to offer with a passion and yet at the same time to stand free of it all."

As the quotation suggests, freedom for the warrior is more than just a concept; freedom paradoxically implies a practical commitment to the whole of life, for unless you are open enough to be fully involved in life, how can you ever bring about de-tachment in the true sense of the word?

The Toltec Teachings are also known as the Warrior's Path because, in order to bring about the necessary changes in our lives, and achieve our freedom, we need to adopt the stance of the warrior. This essentially involves approaching our lives from the angle of being a victor, rather than a victim.

As we start to take control of our circumstances, our life starts off as a strategy. We begin to develop a new way of looking at life, our relationships with others, and it ends up as the most marvellous and exhilarating adventure, in which we learn to stand free from social conditioning, free in our own knowledge, and free to experience in our own unique way the beauty and richness that are part of life.

For many people, freedom is but a dream. And the main problem with the normal day-dreams of freedom is that these leave us hooked to a specific outcome, and so we remain trapped while we wait until that outcome comes about. How many people limp along in their jobs, because they only have 5, 10, 15 years to go before their retirement, consoling themselves that they will then be able to do what they've always wanted? They put their lives on hold, but sadly, dreams have a nasty way of disappearing unless we take steps to materialise them. The warrior knows that life is unpredictable, and therefore the outcome we desire may never materialise, leaving us sad and disillusioned. Toltecs say "the power lies in the moment" and they do not postpone taking action, for they know that life gives all of us only a fleeting moment of chance, and we need to grasp it when it comes.

However, even if their dreams do eventually come to fruition people generally discover that the freedom they have sought still eludes them - as most millionaires will readily testify. Even with a million dollars in the bank, and even after retirement, they find that they still have the same hang-ups, the same fears, the same relationship problems, the same arguments with their families, and the same deep sense of regret that they could have lived life to the full, instead of having frittered it away.

There is another, equally real, way in which our dreams and hopes never get materialised. We all like to believe that we are going to be alive next week, next year, or in five years' time, but not so the warrior. He or she knows that we have no guarantees upon life, and that death can tap us on the shoulder at any moment. The warrior cultivates a keen awareness of the presence of death, and uses this to live always on the edge, where life is ever nascent, ever new.

For Toltecs, death is a warrior's best advisor, since in the presence of death each of his actions becomes imbued with a sense of awareness and poignancy that comes from the knowledge that this particular moment will never again be repeated. If you could come to regard all of your actions as possibly being your last on earth, wouldn't you always strive to do the very best that you can?

Yet, through our social conditioning we have all been taught to "live for tomorrow", and so most people spend their lives in a kind of limbo, waiting to win the "lottery of life" that is going to transform their lives from a mediocre existence into an exciting adventure. Thus the normal condition of humanity is summed up in the following Toltec aphorism:

"Life for average man is a rather vague and monotonous affair - an existence which is not completely devoid of amusement, but one in which he listlessly wanders from one type of activity to the next, only to find that the happiness he is seeking is constantly eluding him. The life of such a man becomes filled with a sense of emptiness and a dull longing to have that emptiness filled, but not knowing what it is he seeks, the man discovers instead a numbing sense of futility creeping into his heart. Then all too soon he finds his life has slipped through his fingers, spent on the meaningless trivialities of human pettiness."

We all start off life as average men and women, but this does not mean that we do not have the ability to mould our lives according to our choice. We may feel as if we are the victims of fate, and although it is true that no man can escape his destiny, we all have the capacity to rise above fate if we so choose. We are all given the opportunity at some point in our lives to decide for ourselves what we would like out of life.

For the warrior, freedom is not escaping, or waiting for life to give you a better break, but is instead an attitude of mind. This attitude of mind will enable you to rise above the belief that you are a victim, and will imbue in you the knowledge and certainty that you can take charge of your life's circumstances.

However, because such an attitude of mind is so contrary to all of our social conditioning, its cultivation is not only a long journey, but also a journey that is more akin to a constant battle than a stroll through a meadow.

If one spends just a little time observing life it becomes quite plain to see that people normally look upon their birth as having been beyond their control. They also think of their lives as being the product of their environment, social status, culture, religion, education, etc. In other words, people see themselves as nothing more than victims of their circumstances.

A warrior is never a victim. By fighting for freedom from the debilitating effects of social conditioning warriors take full responsibility for their birth, their life and their death. Although charity organisations, politicians, the legal system and the media generally do their best to promote the concept of victimhood, warriors know that there are in reality no victims. Therefore, if a warrior is crossing the road, and is then hit by a car, he knows that he is as guilty of having caused that accident as the car driver. He could very well have crossed the road somewhere else, or he could have crossed faster, or slower, or later. Although the car driver has no right to be driving recklessly, the warrior also has no right to call forth a reckless driver. This is the warrior's approach to responsibility.

Yet it is the bane of our human condition to believe that the circumstances in our lives stop us from realising our full potential. The warrior knows that whatever his or her life's circumstances, or whatever "problems" have arisen, they have not come about as a punishment, but as an opportunity for growth. Each and every one is a challenge to enable us to claim our power. We are never given something that we cannot handle, and thus the warrior knows that the greater the challenge the greater the gifts of power will be at the end of the day.

How else is the warrior expected in a practical way to go about achieving freedom? The the foundations for both the concepts, as well as the practical teachings on this are contained in The Toltec Teachings series of books by Toltec nagal Théun Mares.

The following are some of the basic tools and techniques that are taught to every apprentice on the Path of Freedom. Although they may initially seem simple, once they are understood and put into practice, they are not only very powerful, but they also yield to greater and greater depths of complexity and understanding.

Through the process of recapitulation we can learn to come to terms with our past and see our life for what it really is. In addition to gleaning every gift of power from all of our life experiences, unless we can also learn to see the folly in our behaviour patterns, we will simply continue to re-enact our folly, instead of truly living.

Words are powerful tools for a warrior, for they literally shape our world. We therefore learn how a warrior approaches the correct use of words.

We are all creatures of habit. Therefore, it is often not enough simply to achieve clarity on a particular issue. Only through the technique of not-doing can we break those destructive behaviour patterns which are ingrained, long-standing, and which always manifest in myriads of different, and obscure guises.

A hunter is a master of stalking his prey. Our biggest prey is our self-destructive behaviour, and the warrior learns first and foremost to stalk his behaviour. However, because it is easier to see the faults in other people we start by learning to stalk the behaviour of other people.

For the warrior, what we see reflected back at us in others is nothing more than a mirror of potential behaviour that exists within us, whether this is past, present or future behaviour. Therefore, by using the concept of mirrors we first learn to recognise and then we change in ourselves the damaging behaviour we see reflected, for it is by changing ourselves that we allow others to change. Naturally, with a correct application of this technique, the need to judge others also quickly falls away.

Freedom means many things, but perhaps the essence of freedom is the knowledge that whatever happens to us, we have a choice. Knowing that we have the ability to choose how to respond in any situation is the heart of freedom. Any other way is to leave us dangling like a puppet on the strings that have been set up for us by our social conditioning.

And the problem with dangling like a puppet or victim is that we not only debilitate ourselves, but also those around us, for at the end of the day, life is thoroughly interrelated, interdependent and interconnected.

Therefore the star upon which warriors fix their gaze, as they battle for freedom, carries the legend: "If you uplift yourself you automatically uplift all those around you, and if you shoot yourself in the foot, you automatically let all those other people down too".

Implicit in this motto is a fundamental facet of freedom, namely, that we cannot force other people to change - we only have the power to change ourselves. But through constantly working to uplift ourselves we can, and do, work miracles in the world around us.