The Five Faces of Freedom: Freedom from the world
Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of a five-part series, the Five Faces of Freedom, recounting the author’s reflections on turning 70. Part 1 focused on Freedom from the Past, Part 2 on Freedom from the Future.
When I was quite young I received a card from an older and wiser friend. Inside the card was a simple statement: “When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy there is always the garden.” Just beginning graduate school in San Francisco, so keen on the myriad of new experiences ahead of me, the card’s sweet sentiment held little meaning for me.
Fast forward 20 years, now in my early 40’s, just returning to the USA from a devastating misadventure in India, and my 3rd near-death experience, I was ripe to embrace this statement. My salvation at this time was to hunker down in suburban Minnesota, get married, and begin my deep soul-healing. A compelling idea that arose within my battered spirit was to begin a garden. I convinced my new wife that turning about half the double lot into garden paradise was essential to my soul’s peace. Ten years later what manifested was a miracle.
With every stone, every plant, every structure this garden taught me the difference between the elements of nature and what we call “the world.” The elements of nature represent our link to the eternal. Beauty, like truth, light and love, is an attribute of eternity. As I discussed in the first two parts of this essay series, freedom from the past, future, and the world are dependent upon our relationship with the timeless realm. By the time my garden was completed, my soul richly nurtured, I was ready for the next step in my journey. I was ready to claim my freedom from the world. What did my world comprise of at this time? The forms included a 14-year marriage, a 12-year garden and landscape business, and 25 years of life in the heartland of Minnesota. Two decades of intensive healing, which included 15 years in a deeply meaningful men’s group, had yielded a readiness for a full rebirth.
A final piece of my evolution to this point was a 30-day retreat, using a DVD recording from Eckhart Tolle’s 2002 Costa Rica retreat, aptly named Freedom from the World. Since the publication of his masterpiece, “The Power of Now” in 1999, Tolle’s influence, coupled with my 25 devotion to A Course in Miracles, was my “graduation.” In the spring of 2006 I sat with another enthusiastic participant, who was also deeply involved with “The Work” of Byron Katie. Our 30-day retreat turned into 60 days, meeting early each morning, in total silence, allowing the music and message of Tolle’s teaching to wash over us. For me the experience was one of completion. I knew that I was ready to leave “the world,” as I had known it, allowing whatever was destined to take its place.
Our relationship with eternity, the timeless realm, brings a calm sense of trust. Out of this trust comes the courage and willingness to follow guidance, in whatever strange form it might appear. This guidance made it clear that I was to find a home more kind and sweet than what I had known in the USA. Six years of exploration in several Latin countries brought me to the clear awareness that Cuenca, Ecuador was to become this new home.
I moved to Cuenca, sight unseen in October of 2013. A year later I experienced a strange encounter with a local woman, with whom I met and chatted in Parque Calderon. She seemed interested in a relationship, but I assured her that she was not my type. When she suggested that she might work for me, I asked if she had any mechanical skills, as I had recently rented a country home outside of the city. She said that she knew basic electrical, plumbing, etc. I agreed to a 3-month arrangement. I was quite impressed with the fact that she showed up every day at 8 a.m., traveling a full hour from her parents’ home in Totoracocha. Near the end of our 3-month agreement, she turned to me one day making a very strange request. I can remember with crystal clarity the moment, her question, and like many times in my life a whispering voice telling me to “pay attention.” The universe was offering me something that I never could have rationally chosen for myself.
Freedom from the World opens our relationship with the divine, by whatever name you might choose to call it. This relationship arises only after we break the chains of our conditioning and culture. What we are promised, if we truly “pay attention,” are blessings beyond our comprehension. Our life is meant to bear witness, to be a testimony, to the glory and magnificence of divine providence. As Eckhart Tolle wrote in the preface to “The Power of Now:” “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!”
In part 4, Freedom from the Self, we will look deeply into this process, whereby we overcome the egoic defenses against this destiny.
Louis Bourgeois lives outside of Cuenca with his wife and young daughter. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. If you are interested in participating, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org