I recently visited the lively, beautiful city of Berlin. It was my first visit, and I brought with the visit what the word "Berlin" has meant to me. In my mind Berlin is a city that has lived at the center of extremes.
In the 1930's it was a pleasure capital of hedonistic fulfillment. In the 1940's, it was the center of Hitler and his Nazi followers' diabolic implementation of the Third Reich's new world order. In the 1950's and 60's it was a main focal point of the cold war standoffs between Russia and the allies of the United States, filled with John le Carre' intrigues.
And finally, in 1989, when the odious concrete wall separating East and West Berlin began to be demolished, it became the proof of freedom's ultimate uncontainability. A symbolic city in our collective history, and a strong myth in my own mind.
As Eli and I walked through the city, with its many beautiful trees and remaining elegant pre-war buildings, we noticed there were still places where the Wall has remained in place-perhaps as a reminder of history. It is a reminder of Berlin's history of course, and also of the history of all countries and all individuals.
There is within us a dynamic call to freedom. It demands expansiveness of mind and spirit so that we can discover what is not bound by concepts formed in the past. It allows creative exploration past our mental borders. And while political and social freedom is to be firmly supported everywhere, the freedom of our own spirit is not limited by external repression. The spirit of inquiry and discovery is silent and has no form that can be externally subjected to regulation or containment. Yet the forces we see at play in the world of history are also at play in the thought processes of our own minds.
The uproar in Iran confirms both the strength of the universal call to freedom as well as the repressive forces unleashed when that call threatens the status quo. There is a status quo in our own minds as well as in the governments of the world.
Freedom's call is usually initially met by our own mental tendencies of repressive containment. We may be called to freedom in the deepest sense, and yet resist that call by our own mental internal guards and censors. Our fear of the unknown can harness our creative, free impulse to soar. We build imaginary walls of separation to try to control what is allowed in or out, and then we cry out against those walls.
We too often substitute doubt for true questioning, and then suffer from self-doubt. We decide what we should feel or think, rather than simply discovering what we are feeling and thinking. We search for people to love us rather than exercising our freedom to love boundlessly. We try to be who we think we should be rather than discovering who we really are.
With willingness to see our repressive tendencies, we also can recognize that no wall-concrete or imaginary-can finally keep the thrust for freedom at bay. We can choose to ignore the loops of thought that try to keep us definable and small. When we refuse to continue to follow the dictates of constraining thoughts, we have the attention necessary to directly meet fear. In meeting fear directly, we discover it to have no real substance. We have the capacity to open our minds to the unknown. An open mind is free.
And we can see that freedom of body, mind, and spirit requires vigilance. The force that builds walls of separation, within our own minds or towards others, requires particular types of thoughts - thoughts of control, protection, and punishment. When we allow the cry of freedom to arise within us, it penetrates all thought in its promise and revelation of limitless spaciousness of mind.
Ultimately the Berlin Wall was brought down by its builders and maintainers by their recognition that it was destructive to the people. It was demolished peacefully; a time of celebration. No war was necessary, no lives were lost.
Likewise in our own minds, no war with ourselves is necessary to stop our repressive thoughts. When we tell the truth to ourselves, we see that our walls of protection, containment, and punishment do not serve us. If we open to all of ourselves, rather than partition off the good parts and the bad parts, we discover the open mind which is integral, free and whole.
It took some time for the concrete wall of Berlin to be breached; how much time does it take for an imaginary mental wall to fall?
Gangaji is holding meetings and retreats this summer in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Baden-Baden, London, Dublin, and Dorset. Read more about Gangaji's events and catalog of books and videos online.