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Practicing Freedom

Photo by Cristian Siallagan on Unsplash

The Bird Who Flew Free

Once upon a time there was a kind-hearted, wealthy man who had a beautiful talking bird as a companion. The bird lived in an elaborate and expansive cage with everything she could possibly need. The man loved and cared for the bird with all of his heart, giving her the best food and always showering her with attention and affection.

There came a day when the man had occasion to travel to the homeland of the bird. She pleaded with him to go along to see her family but the man would not permit it. He was worried the bird might be stolen as they traveled. As a consolation, he agreed to take a message to the bird’s family.

Upon arriving in the jungle, the man found the bird’s mother. When she read the message, the mother bird fell out of the tree, landing with a soft thud on the ground, dead at the man’s feet.

The man returned home with this sad news. When the bird heard what happened to her mother, she immediately dropped onto the floor of the cage, completely still.

The man assumed she died from the sadness and shock of hearing about her mother’s death. He gently removed her from the cage and laid her on the table to prepare for a burial.

As soon as the man’s hands lifted from her, the bird flew up and out the window.

Shocked, the man shouted out, demanding the bird explain what had happened.

The bird replied, my message to my mother said, “ ‘I seem to have everything I need here but I still can’t thrive. Please tell me what I need to do to flourish while living in this cage.’

My mother gave you a message in return. I had to pretend to be dead so you would take me out of the cage. I understand now that I cannot thrive without freedom.”

What is freedom?

Mokṣa is the Sanskrit word for freedom or liberation. The root word muc, means free, let go, release, liberate.

But freedom from what?

Of course the cage in the story is a metaphor for the kinds of restrictions we feel in our daily lives: time, money, our physical body, our thoughts, the expectations of others on us, and the expectations we place on other people…

Yoga argues that the ways we are restricted and the ways we restrict other beings are a hallmark of our collective amnesia. We forget that we are all united by one universal Supreme Consciousness; there is divinity in everyone and everything.

Because we are so terrible at remembering how to find our inner goddesses and how to see her in others, we require multiple lifetimes to figure it out. We end up being trapped in a cyclic cage of death and rebirth. With any luck we learn a bit in each lifetime until we can experience a little less suffering each go round.

Mokṣa is the ultimate act of being freed from the cycle.

On a smaller scale, we experience small moments of freedom on a regular basis, kind of like mile markers on our journey to reassure us that we are going in the right direction.

Playing Dead

Just as the bird in the parable played dead to find freedom, yoga invites us to play dead in our practice śavāsana.

The English translation of the word śavāsana is corpse pose. Not many yoga teachers refer to it as this, preferring the more gentle moniker resting pose.

Without the philosophical context, calling śavāsana the pose of a corpse might be distractingly morbid. (Though I must admit I’ve taken plenty of intensely vigorous asana classes where I certainly felt about as energetic as a corpse by the end!)

In śavāsana and in Restorative Yoga generally, we are called to stop doing, to pause the productivity, and to allow ourselves to be unrestricted so we can listen deeply. It’s in these quiet moments when we get signals that we are on the right track or that we need to course correct.

Have you ever experienced a moment of intense and nearly inexplicable peace when you are resting?

That’s a mokṣa mile marker!

We are on the right path and we have an invitation to consider how we might create that kind of ease in other moments of our life.

Practice Rest

These kinds of realizations only happen when we practice resting.

You already know you are in the right place to find LOTS of opportunities to rest. Every Sunday at 3:30 pm ET, you can join me, Carrie, Deb, or Chris for down regulating practices to help you find freedom from whatever restricts you.

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