What Does it Mean to “Be Free?”

Question: What does it mean to “be free?”

Michael Richardson-Borne: What you think of as meaning is already awash in the free – the essence of meaning is non-separation. From our pre-existing unity, “to be free” doesn’t mean anything specific – being free is simply life as you know it, life as it is presented in consciousness. To “be free” is to experience life in a way where no circumstance can knock you from your center because the center is not falsely embedded in a story or an object that does not exist.

Meaning is a product of the separate self’s imposition on the real – but, if you have clear vision, you’ll see that it is imposition on the real as the real rather than an independent operation of any kind. Can you see what I’m pointing to? Meaning is dependent on a reference point that possesses an orienting generality divided from a separated referent. What I just said is the schematic for separation and the reason concepts can be confused as being in relationship with an other.

Anything you can name is just an aspect of freedom – an aspect of “the free.” By defining something, “the free” merely remains a reflection of itself. From separation, the act of defining is taken by the mind to be an occurrence that is more significant than it actually is, something more substantial, more concrete. From non-separation, definitions are seen to be arisings that live for a moment and then drift on as the movement of life continues to be presented. Meanings happen – but without any sort of finality, just like shadows happen while remaining the slightly darkened products of light.

So, your task isn’t to slaughter or pull away from the concept of unfreedom. It’s to remember your true freedom, remember who you are, remember the light, the light of non-separation.

Q: But don’t I have to hold on to a little bit of the “unfreedom” to function in the world? If I don’t identify a little with a name and as a person in society, then wouldn’t I be helpless? How much of the separate self should I cling to in your estimation?

MR-B: As one of my favorite Zen masters stated, “Just enough to not step in front of a bus.” But even with this slight clinging, understand the mechanics of the separate self as a function of non-separation. See that it is not your choice whether or not to step in front of that bus.

Q: What is non-separation?

MR-B: Non-separation is the impersonal existence or experience of being that includes the personal.

Q: So how do I remember my freedom?

MR-B: To “be free,” that which has the possibility of being unfree must be recognized and, then, seen through. Understanding the nature of the unfree will expose what is living unfreedom as the free. What I’m saying and how I’m saying it may sound strange but pay attention because in it is the clue that the separate self needs to untangle its knot of separation. The memory of freedom, of non-separation, lives in this untangling.

Q: This makes me feel confused. How do you understand this? How do I begin?

MR-B: You create the world and then worry about it. I impersonally observe the world as a happening of the self and am free. You believe in certain stories and obsess over matching outcomes to these particularities and suffer for it. I am lived by a single story, the story of I am – and even this with the delicacy of the thinnest glass. I am free. You experience the mind as capable of presenting facts that can hold an independent truth and are thus enslaved by this minuscule truth. I experience the mind as an insignificant motion in a vast field of movement that is freedom itself.

Remember, there is no separation between us in this moment. So, begin exactly where you are. To experience freedom, you do not need to take a single step. Your question is like already being on Earth and sending yourself on a mission to the moon to find the earth. It’s a plan to put forth a tremendous amount of effort to discover the place where you already are. This kind of effort is completely unnecessary if you can hear what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. The free has been living you for as long as you can remember, even before memory itself.

Q: Why do I associate “being free” with the absence of relationship or a lack of close proximity? Why do I correlate being single with freedom and fun, but being in relationship as something less than free?

MR-B: Because you assume to be a separate self – you still see people as others and think they have something to do with what you call individual freedom. But individual freedom is a figment of your imagination, an assumption that is a symptom of your underlying assumptive condition of being a separate self. Once you see through the veil of separation into real freedom, you will notice that what you once thought of as others were just appearances of consciousness, beautiful reflections of yourself, incomprehensible actions of the free. You will notice that freedom isn’t something that can be willfully stymied, sculpted into a granite trait of a separative dream – you will notice that any thought or feeling that tells you you’ve successfully captured personal freedom is a deceptive joke told to you by the nationally recognized comedian that you call unfreedom.

Let’s approach relationship as a condition of the free. From here, is there any experience you would consider the presence or the absence of relationship? From here, is there anything that would qualify as close proximity? From here, isn’t the Sphinx, the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and every human being on the planet already closer to you than your own heart? From here, being single or in relationship is never a concern and getting involved in the question is just a distraction from the truth of your real being. From here, there is no such thing as “less than free.” Let me repeat that: There is no such thing as “less than free.”

Q: Can freedom be found in sex?

MR-B: Can freedom be found in anything? Is freedom an object that can be unearthed like oil, or gold, or diamonds? If not, where is it found? As with all experiences that have a separate self at the foundation, sex can be a pointer to the free. But trying to find freedom, or more specifically, freedom in sex is ultimately a dead end. Using anything, even practices like meditation, with the purpose of finding freedom is a dead end. Why? Because there is nothing outside of yourself to find.

Sex is just energy, an impermanent manifestation of the free.

Q: Are freedom and peace the same thing?

MR-B: Peace follows freedom. Freedom is what is – who you truly are. Peace is the authentic personal experience of freedom as lived by the free.

Q: Isn’t that another way of saying non-separation?

MR-B: Correct. Saying peace is the authentic personal experience of freedom as lived by the free is the equivalent of saying that freedom is the impersonal existence or experience of being that includes the personal. Non-separation is the free. The personal is the sense of permanent peace that has been recognized as being lived by the free. Trust your intuition here. Look closely and you will see how there is no separation between the two concepts, even amidst making our distinction.

Q: I am looking closely, but I still don’t completely get it. After listening to you describe non-separation, how come I am still not totally free?

MR-B: You are totally free. You just don’t recognize it.

But listening to me will not help you much. You must keep what I am saying in mind and ponder over it and try to understand the state of mind which makes me say what I say. Even now I am handing you the key. And each time you take it in your dominant hand and proceed to throw it as far away as you can. I simply wade into your darkness to pick up the key – and then I walk it back to you and return the key to your hand. Each time, you have the opportunity to hold on to the key. This is our time together – a spiritual game of fetch where I play the role of your loyal canine companion.

Q: How do I put an end to this game? I want to keep the key.

MR-B: The intellect is a difficult master. It is searching for what it means to be free – searching for a meaning rather than seeing who is aware of this meaning and the simple, non-separative mechanism in which meaning arises.

So trust what I am telling you in regards to non-separation and keep the key in your hand this time. Eventually, with grace, you will be led to a door. And when this happens, the impulse to use the key will be obvious.

Unlocking the door will reveal that there was never a key, a door, or a hand in the first place. You will recognize that you have always been free. That you are freedom itself. This realization is what I call non-separation.