Liberation. It’s a word that often gets tossed out as the goal of yoga or the goal of meditation. Liberation. Though it sounds enchanting and is delightful on the tongue, it can seem so unattainable and so intimidating that some turn away from liberation as a real goal, or don’t give it much thought. You go to a yoga class, enjoy the practice and leave behind the real promise and goal of yoga. Maybe you believe that you don’t have it in you to do what you think is required. Or maybe, you think that even if you tried, liberation is probably not yours, not in this lifetime.

Maybe you are someone who thinks of liberation as something that happens to you. You are liberated by some force of Consciousness. It’s not in your hands. Yet, you are the only one with the power to turn towards and express liberation in your life. It’s really no wonder that there’s intimidation and lack of clarity about liberation as the definition itself can be varied and vague. Some texts explain liberation as freedom from karma and others define liberation as freedom from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.

I tend to think of liberation as being more of a continuum rather than one big event. I believe that there are shades of liberation. We work toward it as we work toward any goal, realizing that really, the goal and the path are one. In this way, I see liberation as both the journey and the destination.

One of the guiding definitions of liberation for me is the freedom to choose. I can freely choose my thoughts, words, and deeds. Further, the only real point of freedom for any of us is freedom in the present moment. AND, our only real sphere of influence for choosing in the present moment is the choices we make in thought, word and deed. There we have freedom. In our thoughts, words and deeds, we can begin turning towards liberation.

Yet, many of us don’t use that freedom well. We are deeply influenced by unconscious chitta, mind-stuff, impressions that stores our memories, habits and patterns. In this way, our reactions tend to be more unconscious than conscious. Even when we do bring our unconscious impressions to the conscious mind, the thoughts and opinions can still be so centered in ego that our responses are driven by compulsion rather than true freedom.

This alignment with the ego causes pain. Pain, in this sense, is the ego dutifully playing its role, veiling our truest Essence, the truth about others and the nature of Life. Pain is inevitable in life. Pain comes even to the most ascended human beings. Yet, that very pain is golden. For within that pain and the healing release of that pain we can find freedom – freedom from unconsciously choosing what that pain would lead us to choose. Pain holds a golden key for us and it’s what we do with pain that tells us whether we are turning towards liberation or if we are aligned and identified with the ego.

Pain is a great teacher. Pain tells us where our unconscious stuff is getting triggered. Maybe you are like many who run away from pain or try to protect yourself from it, an impossible feat, really. But if you lean into the pain, with the right support, if you allow pain to reveal those places where you are thinking, speaking or doing from chitta rather than from Heart, pain can give you an expanded awareness that grants you more room. Room to be and room to choose. Space begins to open up around your stuff, those unconscious impulses, and in that spaciousness, you can choose more freely from an expanded awareness.

Your choices become more conscious. In this way, you begin to cultivate a life lived from pure awareness. Consciously choosing your thoughts, words, and deeds comes not from ego but from the spaciousness of your deepest Essence, the Divine living in you, through you, as you. And liberation becomes something you do, something you turn towards.

Author's Bio: 

Melanie McGhee, L.C.S.W. is an award-winning author, relationship expert, psychotherapist and spiritual coach. She is also the founder of Abhimukti Yoga Coaches - providing coaches training to yoga teachers.