4 min read

Meeting my liberated self

In recent years, after being in the presence of powerful teachers, I feel highly energized and euphoric. A journal entry from a meditation retreat with beloved Theravada-Mahayana Buddhism teachers, Kittisaro and Thanissara says, “I am like a 5-year-old, jubilant and happy, running amok in open meadows.” This energy carried into my meditation and left me unsettled when I wanted to be quiet. In my mind, meditation meant sitting unmovingly like a rock. I was irritated with this child version of me creating a nuisance when all I wanted was peace and quiet.

I received compassionate guidance from one of the assistant teachers who suggested I simply be with this child self instead of reprimanding it. As I stayed with this exuberant kid, I began to relax. I felt undiluted joy and ease for the first time in more than 25 years. I realized that my childhood was thwarted by trauma and grief. My inner child was sad and relegated to the corners of my being. I was parentified and lost my sense of unabashed happiness that comes from simple things.

During that retreat, I let my inner child run free. I watched little me do cartwheels and chase butterflies. I laughed as they* rolled around in the grass. And eventually, they were satiated. I was able to go back to meditating.

I had not felt their presence in a while. A few days ago, I sent an effusive email to one of my teachers, Lama Justin. He is a Tibetan Buddhism teacher and author. I shared with him that the chanting he did in a recent practice took me to the foothills of the Himalayas. The session was exactly what I had needed and I felt its impactful vibration in my body hours later. It was a beautiful email, and simultaneously I also felt that it was too much. I have had to tell myself repeatedly that it is okay to share my feelings authentically. I am committed to telling myself this as many times as I need. After all, there is nothing wrong with being effusive if it is genuine.

Yesterday, I went to see Lama Rod Owens. He too is a Tibetan Buddhism teacher, author, and activist. I came to Lama Justin and Lama Rod’s teachings during the Covid pandemic. It was my first time meeting him in person after spending hours weekly with him on Zoom. He led a powerful two-phase meditation practice on connecting with the Earth and resting in space. During the first part, the earth connection activated an energy shift in my body. I have been experiencing a lot of pain and stiffness in my neck and back, and I felt waves and channels of energy moving toward the ground and neutralizing. I experienced relief and grief. I felt a lot of powerful sensations as if tough mozzarella was being yanked from fossilized rocks of cheese, allowing me to understand how hard it is to let go even of pain. When we came to the space phase, I felt at ease, and everything from the mind and heart - consequential and inconsequential dissipated.

As the meditation ended, I felt that inner child come alive. I felt a light hum in my abdomen and that familiar, yet elusive euphoria began to emerge. The meditation ended and we went into a break. I got up and found myself smiling broadly. I threw Lama Rod a flying kiss. He smiled back at me in the same vein…all his teeth glittering with silver braces. My heart felt warm. Moments later, doubt began to emerge. That was inappropriate, I thought. I pushed it away.

I was not ready to say goodbye. At the end of the Q&A period, I had a chance to get my copy of Lama Rod’s Love and Rage signed. I talked to him about the meditation he had just led and my experience with it. I jabbered about my practice, and then I found myself asking if he was free after to hang out. I was respectful and said that I did not want to impose, but if we was around, it would be my privilege to spend a bit more time with him. He agreed! When I recounted this to Sid, he was surprised. He said, “Wow…that’s a first for you.” And it truly was. It was that child self!

A few others and I went for a walk and a beverage with Lama Rod. I found myself gushing and chatting happily. I was dropping I love yous and sharing my feelings candidly. As he spoke with another person, I noticed that I was sitting on the edge of my chair and I was almost bouncing off…reminiscent of the cartwheeling child from the retreat.

I immediately felt a sense of too-muchness. You are embarrassing me, I thought. Before my mind took over, I sat back in the chair, found my feet on the floor, and felt my breath for a few cycles. My voice regulated. The humming in my abdomen evened out. I was present for the rest of the conversation, but I knew I had pulled back from something. I am not sure if it was a good thing or not.

My peers told me they felt love and welcoming energy from me. They thought of me as friendly and open. I shared that it had been a journey to get here and that for a long time, I had not wanted to be around people, forget being part of a community. But lately, I feel the urge to be connected. I am often excited to meet others, even new people. I feel more ready to allow people to come into my life.

As we were leaving, I hugged Lama Rod goodbye, and he noticed my energy had changed, and he said, “You look down…” “I feel settled,” is all I could say.

What I could not tell him is that I feel a resistance to freedom and exuberance. Isn’t this what I am working towards? To suffer less, to feel more joy and love? I am working hard to be liberated and in these pristine moments of clarity and freedom, I am scared. Liberation means to be untethered to the rules and constraints of the world. And yet these very rules and constraints give us a sense of self.  I am learning that to be liberated is to lose that sense of self and to become more of oneself at once. In these moments of great joy, I am a Bodhisattva, here for collective liberation. It feels too large. Too spacious.

As I write this, I gave this duality the recognition and space it needed. What is coming up is that I will continue to hold the multitudes of this boundless love experience. After all, that is the practice of a Bodhisattva, the being that dedicates their life to the liberation of all. The “all” is not outside of me or separate from me. It encompasses my liberated and not yet liberated selves. It includes and extends through me.

If you are a fellow traveller, and you experience these realms simultaneously, my simple suggestion is to release them all. There is nothing to hold on to. Float on the raft of your Dharma in the ocean of samsara.

May we all be liberated.