Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom.
— Nisargadatta Maharaj
The way that usually shows up for a lot of us is not as “what I like,” but “what I want.” At least in the US of A that’s pretty much the “real” American dream. Sure, I want my own home and a great-paying job (from which I will retire early with plenty of money), but that’s mostly so I can do what I want. The dream of having my own business often comes from the same place. I want to be able to do something I love, but even more than that, I want to be able to do what I do the way I want to do it.
That’s presented to us as real freedom. Be my own boss, do things my way, not have to answer to anyone. Yet for those who manage to have those circumstances, the promised happiness is often not forthcoming. True there’s no one to answer to and there’s also no one to turn to, to rely on, and perhaps most important of all, there’s no one to blame!
Those of us practicing awareness can fairly easily get to the “why” of that. When I’m working for someone else my real boss is the voice of egocentric karmic conditioning, self-hate in my head. When I’m working for myself my real boss is still the voice of egocentric karmic conditioning, self-hate in my head. Even when I’m not working, even on my “own time,” my free time, that voice in conditioned mind is usually calling the shots.
So, what about that real freedom? Freedom to do what one must, to do what’s right? How can that be freedom when the very bondage we’ve been trying to escape is that of being tied up by “have tos” and “shoulds”? That gets pretty straightforward too when we realize what we’ve been trying to free ourselves from is not the external boss, but the internal boss, the only and always boss, the haranguing, controlling, demanding, never-satisfied ego.
And what has the ego voice been using to control us? The belief that it, ego, can provide for us the happiness and well-being we seek if only we will do what it tells us to do rather than succumbing to the tyranny of the “rights” and “musts” of life.
Again, we are fortunate to be practitioners of awareness because we can quickly see the scam. The “right” is not the right/wrong of egocentric karmic conditioning, self-hate. The “right” we’re following is the right that we know to be true for us in the Heart. The “musts” are not burdensome, odious, onerous demands, they are what we choose to do when we’re HERE, aligned with Life, guided by the still, small voice of Authentic Nature. When we’re HERE we want to be responsible, do a good job, be kind, take care of the planet, appreciate and respect all of Life.
A perspective to explore: Ego is loss, lack, and deprivation. It is duality, the world of opposites, positioned to be the “no” opposed to the “yes” that is Life. That’s how it appears separate from Life. The reason we cling so desperately to having what we are told by ego we want is that we are in a conversation of deprivation with the voices of ego. We aren’t having what we have; ego has us focused on what we don’t have. Identified with ego our whole orientation is one of deprivation. We fear loss and lack. We’re not allowed to receive all we have so it appears that our life is one of impoverishment, hardship, and a resulting need.
What we will see as we continue to notice the process is that the desire for what we want is the source of the deprivation. Desire is deprivation. Without a constant focus on ego’s stories about what’s wrong and what’s not enough we live in the fullness, the abundance that is Life.
As George Bernard Shaw states in my all-time favorite quote: This is the true joy in life; the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
Good to be clear that that “mighty purpose” will never be anything more than doing what one must, what one knows to be “right” in one’s Heart.