Cultivating Freedom

Cultivating Freedom

Mar 13, 2022

"Freedom is not given to us by anyone. We have to cultivate it ourselves"~ Thich Nhat Hanh.

"For me, there is no happiness without freedom, and freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. I will share with you how we get greater freedom for ourselves. During the time that we sit, walk, eat, or work outside, we cultivate our freedom. Freedom is what we practice every day.

No matter how or where you find yourself, if you have freedom, you are happy. I have many friends who spent time in forced labor camps and because they knew how to practice, they did not suffer as greatly. In fact, they grew in their spiritual lives, for which I am very proud of them.

By freedom I mean freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair. If you have anger in you, you have to transform anger in order to get your freedom back. If there is despair in you, you need to recognize that energy and not allow it to overwhelm you. You have to practice in such a way that you transform the energy of despair and attain the freedom you deserve - the freedom from despair."

"You can practice freedom every moment of your daily life. Every step you take can help you reclaim your freedom. Every breath you take can help you develop and cultivate your freedom. When you eat, eat as a free person. When you walk, walk as a free person. When you breathe, breathe as a free person. This is possible anywhere.

By cultivating freedom for yourself, you will be able to help the people you live with. Even though you live in the same place, with the same physical and material conditions, if you practice, you will be a much freer person, a more solid person. Watching the way you walk, the way you sit, and the way you eat, people will be impressed. They will see that joy and happiness are possible for you, and will want to be like you because you are your own master, no longer a victim of anger, frustration, and despair. The practice that I have taken up as a Buddhist monk is the practice of freedom. When I became a novice, my teacher gave me a little book entitled Stepping into Freedom: A Manual for a Novice Monk.

To be able to breathe in and out is a miracle. A person on his or her deathbed cannot breathe freely, and he or she will soon stop breathing altogether. But I am alive. I can breathe in and become aware of my in breath; I can breathe out and become aware of my out-breath. I smile at my out-breath and am aware that I am alive. So when you breathe in, be aware of your in-breath. “Breathing in, I know this is my in-breath.” No one can prevent you from enjoying your in-breath. When you breathe out, be aware that this is your out-breath. Breathe as a free person.

For me, to be alive is a miracle. It is the greatest of all miracles. To feel that you are alive and are breathing in is to perform a miracle - one that you can perform at any time. Feeling that you are alive and that you are taking a step is a miracle. Master Linchi, a well-known meditation teacher who live in the ninth century, said that the miracle is not walking on water but walking on the Earth.

Everyone walks on the Earth, but there are those who walk like slaves, with no freedom at all. They are sucked in by the future or by the past, and they are not capable of dwelling in the here and now, where life is available. If we get caught up in our worries, our despair, our regrets about the past, and our fears of the future in our everyday lives, we are not free people. We are not capable of establishing ourselves in the here and now."

The words above are Thich Nhat Hanh and I only really tasted freedom for the first time when in his presence listening to him speak. Initially this was in The House of Lords in London, UK. In Easter of 2012, he had sold out the Royal Festival Hall. He had thousands join him in meditation in trafalgar Square in London. The only report on this was in an Irish Newspaper. After this he held a retreat at the University in Nottingham. Aroumnd 800 people attended this retreat. This was my first retreat with him and I found the experience very nourishing.

He passed away in Vietnam earlier this year at the age of 95. Having suffered a stroke in 2014 he had been confined to a wheelchair. Losing his ability to speak. 

I was invited to one of his retreat centres in France, Plum Village in the Dordogne, France in 2012. To ask him some questions during their Summer retreat there. Many families enjoy the Summer retreats with their children there. It attracts hundreds of people over the three Hamlets in France. 

Unfortunately I did not arrive at Plum Village until 2015 following his stroke. He was still very much present in Upper Hamlet at that time. Coming to the dining hall and meditation hall in his wheel chair. With his attendants, living in his hut there in the forest.

Since 2015 I have sp[ent many months in Plum Village in France, Germany and the USA. At Deer Park which is in the mountains abive Escondido California. Also Magnolia Grove in Missisippi. 

He has left a lasting legacy with his retreat centres all over the World. Along with hundreds of Monastics sharing his teachings to this day.

There is now a wonderful app along with along with free resources through the website and YouTube channels. Online and inperson retreats at the practice centres around the world.

He certainly gave me my first taste of freedom which has been long lasting, refreshing and nourishing

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