Lama Rod Owens: Liberation is Love

What is it that relieves suffering? Love, real love and direct connection with other human beings around you. Giving and receiving love. Knowing and caring for someone intimately, and letting them know and care for you. Connection with other human beings, connection with life relieves suffering. Show me where this is written in the Suttas.

The Journey to Real Love

I have been concerned with the idea of freedom for a while now. I have occupied a body that was not held so warmly by this society. Growing up queer and of color in the South left a certain trauma both in my mind as well as in my body. After years of struggle with racial trauma and depression, I began to practice meditation and commit myself to experiencing liberation instead of simply longing for it.

In my early exploration of mind and body through awareness and mindfulness, I began to discover that freedom is really about remembering my body, and remembering that my body is the result of many people that have come before me: many decisions, many acts, and much love and celebration, but also much despair. I wanted to connect to my history, to my lineage, to that liberatory joy within the body — and to not connect, necessarily, to the violence or the despair in my past. To do that meant that I had to negotiate this trauma in my body. I eventually realized that what I wanted to be free from was the trauma of discrimination and devaluing that I had experienced my whole life — the pain stemming from the resentment of never feeling good enough.

Often if we just listen, our bodies are telling us how they need to be healed.

Healing is being situated in love. Healing is not just this courage to love, but also the courage to be loved. It is the courage to want to be happy, not just for others, but for ourselves as well. It is interrogating our bodies as an artifact of accumulated traumas and doing the work of processing that trauma by developing the capacity to notice and be with our pain. If we are to heal, then we must allow our awareness to settle into and integrate with the pain and discomfort that we have habitually avoided. We cannot medicate this pain away, we embrace it, and in doing so we establish a new relationship with our experience. We must see that there is something in us that wants to be befriended. This is the true nature of our being, and in finally approaching it, we can contact this basic kind of sanity. In this basic sanity love can begin.

When I speak of love, when I talk about love, it’s not just something I read in a book. It’s not something that I was told to do because I had to do it. For me, love has been the practice of surviving. Approaching true love has really been about, “How do I love myself?” when I’ve never been told how to do that?

My work of integrating into love was actually about coming into this place where I was able to hold space for what I felt I was, which was the sum of all these mistakes that I kept making over and over again. The sum of all the violence that’s been done to me — and the sum of the violence that I had done to others. I had to come back and look at the ways in which I felt that I was fundamentally not good enough to receive love. The liberatory part of my early practice actually was beginning this process of deeply accepting love. Realizing that the world was trying to love me, that my family was trying to love me, friends were trying to love me, strangers on the street were trying to love me. I avoided those attempts at love and in doing so essentially sabotaged the love that was being sent to me. I didn’t think I was good enough to receive it nor did I trust it.

The painful work there was opening up little by little to how the world was trying to send these messages to me. How the world was trying to hold me and to care for me, to look out for me. Then slowly, along with examples of the teachers that I was with — teachers who actually created spaces where I could actually open up and be vulnerable and look at the pain and to allow the pain to be there — the loving started for me. Once I began to love these seemingly unlovable parts of myself, I began to love others. I began to become very sensitive to the way the world was loving me.

It didn’t matter how bad I felt for the world; all the spaces around me were seeds, were shreds of light, were channeling love. I started feeding on that. I became addicted to that. If you want to become addicted to anything, become addicted to love. That’s a habit that will actually liberate you. Once I started loving, I started being able to move into this place of holding space for myself, of identifying and looking at parts of myself and how I was functioning and entering into the world.

This is how I’ve come to understand liberation. It is about loving and being loved. We are learning to meditate with our whole selves and not bypassing anything, getting in touch with the basic wisdom and love in our experience.

And this is the philosophy behind Awaken, a new meditation app for which I’m one of the Founding Teachers, is so important for us right now. Awaken is meditation with both our pain as well as our joy, holding space for both and, in doing so, understanding that freedom is first and foremost about accepting our whole selves.

We’re currently doing a Kickstarter to help build the I’ll be doing a livestream on our Kickstarter page on Wednesday, August 16th at 2pm eastern talking about all this and answering questions you may have. Join me there: https://whynotawaken.com/ks

We’d appreciate any support you can offer to help us get off the ground, and I encourage you to share our project with whomever you believe can benefit from this kind of practice.

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