Finding Our Freedom

A lion was taken into captivity and thrown into a concentration camp where, to his amazement, he found other lions who had been there for years, some of them all their lives, for they had been born there. He soon became acquainted with the social activities of the camp lions.

They banded themselves into groups. One group consisted of the socializers; another was into show business; another was cultural, for its purpose was to carefully preserve the customs, the tradition, and the history of the times when lions were free; other groups were religious -- they gathered mostly to sing moving songs about a future jungle where there would be no fences; some groups attracted those who were literary and artistic by nature; others still were revolutionary, and they met to plot against their captors or against other revolutionary groups. Every now and then a revolution would break out, one particular group would be wiped out by another, or the guards would all be killed and replaced by another set of guards.

As he looked around, the newcomer observed one lion who always seemed deep in thought, a loner who belonged to no group and mostly kept away from everyone. There was something strange about him that commanded everyone's admiration and everyone's hostility, for his presence aroused fear and self-doubt.

He said to the newcomer, "Join no group. These poor fools are busy with everything except what is essential."

"And what do you think is most essential?" asked the newcomer.

"Studying the nature of the fence."

— Anthony de Mello

If we just sit quietly for ten minutes, we can see how deeply we are trapped by our mind. Every thought, emotion and feeling has power over us and dictates our life. We don’t use our mind, but we are used by it. As the saying goes, the mind is a good servant, but a terrible master. As long as we identify with our mind, we are its slave.

As Buddha realized 2600 years ago at the night of his awakening, we are stuck by a narrow and limited world view of our tiny little corner in which we are born into: our race, country, religion, caste, gender, etc. As long as we attach to them, we are trapped by them. Every belief system is a trap! When we cling to any beliefs, opinions and views, they become our prison walls!

Our imprisoned life may be constrained, heavy and full of stress and suffering. We can walk out of our prison at any moment. But we are afraid and anxious to go out. As life is fundamentally uncertain and insecure, we prefer our secure prison. We may survive inside our prison walls, but real life is only in the wild!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver