November 3, 2016

Leaving isn’t always the Answer: a Buddhist Tip to get Free.

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The keen urge to roam often courses through my travel-hot veins—and I regularly follow it.

I have always been a wandering soul.

But what I have come to understand is that staying in one place is sometimes necessary—and in particular circumstances it can be quite fruitful, because freedom does not come with our ability to run away (everyone knows how to do that).

Freedom comes when we make the decision to be honest with ourselves and with others, and then live that truth as bravely as we are able.

I knew this in my soul, but I was not totally living it. I had gone through a rough patch with my health, and with my heart, and I kept feeling like I needed to leave to find clarity—as if distance from my life, and the people in it, would help me feel more empowered and less like a feral animal in too small of a cage. This was my fantasy anyway.

But the last few times, leaving had not made things better; it had actually made them worse. Each trip recently reminded me that it was actually at home where my work was needed.

Because sometimes we are called to get honest—really f*cking clear—and leaving gives us a sneaky opportunity to pretend we don’t feel what we feel.

I believe we get to points in our lives when we know. Deep in our bones, we hear a contract we made centuries ago—one where we promised that this lifetime we would wake up. And so, it’s time to switch up our habitual ways and confront ourselves—because true freedom is where we want to be headed.

In the story of Buddha, on the final night before he reached enlightenment, he sat and meditated under a Bodhi tree. He too realized that he needed to get free and that certain beliefs were keeping him stuck. It was there, coming into stillness, where he concurred his biggest enemy: that of his own delusions.

I have realized through meditation that it is possible for us to stay, even when we desperately want to go—and so, I tried to lean into this teaching, as the urge to leave was no longer getting me anywhere.

When old escape patterns no longer work, I am the first one to drag myself across the floor, hollering and screaming. However, freedom is not found in repeating the same familiar patterns.

Freedom sits deeper, it lies underneath the mastermind of our illusions—and we each have many of these.

Mara, in Buddhism, is the female demon who represents our illusions. She shows up as our desire to continue living in the fantasy of our minds. Unfortunately, fantasies often have a predictable ending: disappointment.

My fantasy has always been that something different, over there, would offer me greater peace.

But it has been said that Mara is a foggy-headed narcissist. The illusion that she weaves is self-involved and based in the desire to escape pain. Like any narcissist, our illusions are out for their own good and come with heavy shackles—so to counteract them, we must make our experience be about more then just our small selves.

The idea that we must escape this moment is Mara, and the way to pop the bubble of her illusion is to believe in something bigger, right here.

We become free when we decide to take in more then just what we traditionally see, for illusion is like looking at life through a straw. We must take off our blinders and see beyond.

The way Buddha defeated Mara was by accepting and making friends with the demons (obstacles) that were holding him back. Another way to work with these obstacles is with the Buddhist act of giving merit, which means we create goodness for all, rather than feeding our own needy, habitual patterns.

Giving Merit to Become Free.

>> First, slow down.

>> Sit for a moment—inhale and exhale.

>> Think about something we are grateful for.

>> Touch in to our heart, by placing our hand over it.

>> Ask for peace—not only for ourselves, but for all of humankind.

>> Dedicate this moment to the awakening of everyone, by repeating: “May this practice be of benefit to all beings.”

>> Focus on the breath again, and stay with this feeling of interconnectedness for another exhalation.


Merit-making is to settle, purify and cleanse our mind. This is what we can do to lift our veil of illusions.

We decide that what we want to do with our lives is no longer driven by the desire to get away, but rather, what we want to move us is the motivation to wake up, connect and be grateful.

Freedom is found in our ability to be brave, right here—and when we dedicate our experience to something bigger than just ourselves, we are building our courage to see clearly.



Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Instagram @elise_zeitgeist

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina



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