Inner Freedom: Liberation of the Heart

If we do not focus on human limits and pathology, what is the alternative?  There is another orientation, a way to recover our human happiness.  It is the belief that human freedom is possible under any circumstances.  Buddhist teachings put it this way, “Just as the great oceans have but one taste, the taste of salt; so do all of the teachings of Buddha have but one taste, the taste of liberation.”

This is good news. Though we may periodically give in to despair, even when we are caught in these states, some secret part of us knows that there must be another way.  Some part of us recognizes that even in the worst situations, the heart can be free.

Psychologist Victor Frankl, whose family was killed, survived the Nazi death camps. Yet in spite of this suffering, he asserted, “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember those who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread . . . They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from us but the last of human freedoms . . . the freedom to choose our spirit in any circumstance.”

When we are lost in our worst crises and conflicts, in the deepest states of fear and confusion, our pain can seem endless.  We can feel as if there is no exit, no hope.  Yet some hidden wisdom longs for freedom.  We sense it must be possible.  Buddhist psychology acknowledges this potential: “If it were not possible to free the heart from entanglement in unhealthy states,” says  the Buddha, “I would not teach you to do so. But just because it is possible to free the heart from entanglement in unhealthy states do I offer these teachings.”

Awakening this inner freedom of spirit is the purpose of the hundreds of Buddhist practices and trainings. Each of these practices helps us to recognize and let go of unhealthy patterns that create suffering and develop healthy patterns in their place. What is important about the Buddhist psychological approach is the emphasis on training and practice, as well as understanding. Instead of going into therapy to discuss your problems and be listened to once a week, there is a regimen of daily and ongoing trainings and disciplines to help you learn psychologically and neurologically healthy ways of being. They direct us toward freedom.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart


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