Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Cost of Freedom

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down 
     ~Stephen Stills

For the last few days, I have awoken humming this refrain. It replays throughout the day and rocks me to sleep. Although it was written about war, it sings to my soul about internal war, the one we fight with ourselves, the one that I’ve been fighting for some time now.

The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that human existence is suffering. We suffer because we struggle. We desire things, including ourselves, to be other than they are and we fight to make them conform to our wishes. We fight until we learn that the Borg had it right – resistance is futile.

A series of seemingly unrelated events over the last year and a half has brought me repeatedly to the razor’s edge, the place I’ve written about as where we practice. With each event, I went through the same process of struggle, acceptance, peace. Then I would sit smug in relief, thinking that surely I had passed all my cosmic tests and could now chillax in enlightened equanimity.

But the universe, in its infinite wisdom and with a warped sense of humor, would nod and say, “Okay, well then how about this?!” And off we’d go again.

And so, as my last post said, I return to practice. Marianne Williamson wrote about a series of events in her own life that kept knocking her to her knees. With that good old perseverance that we value so much in our culture, she would pull herself to her feet only to be knocked down again. Finally, she realized, maybe she should just stay on her knees.

“Surrender is the name of the spiritual game,” teaches Adyashanti.

And so it is. Not the surrender of defeat, but the surrender into freedom. On my cushion this morning in meditation, I saw so clearly my struggle of the past weeks, a struggle to avoid pain and uncertainty, a struggle masking grief and sadness with anger and frustration, a struggle not born of courage but of fear.

I realized, in that instantaneous way we sometimes realize the simplest and most obvious things, that I didn’t need to struggle anymore. I…could…just…stop. I could stop listening to the endless spin of stories in my mind. I could act according to my own values and not let someone provoke me to react according to theirs. I could lay my body down and be swallowed up in the loving arms of the universe. I could choose freedom.

And so I did. Freedom is a choice available to all of us. The cost? Giving up everything that keeps us from loving.

I will fight no more forever. ~Chief Joseph

Well, at least for today. ~me

18 thoughts on “The Cost of Freedom”

  1. Sounds like much the same battle I've had in recent months. Expect trouble when you ask God to teach you humility. The Chief Joseph quote is one of my favorites ( and your reply is also a personal slogan, lol), and I know the CSN refrain well.

  2. "Giving up everything that keeps us from loving . . ." Amen, Galen! No, not easy, but we must surrender our wills to God's if we wish to stop living in fear and frustration, trusting that He has a much better plan for each of us. We do suffer because we struggle. Let us lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross.
    Blessings, my friend!

  3. One of the verses that has helped me disengage from the struggle against what seems so hurtful and unfair is that verse "You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good." So I'm trusting. Thanks for your comment, Martha.

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful post, and giving me a way forward. I cannot help but read of all the suffering in the world, and how much my own struggles are part of the universal struggle towards wholeness. It helps to know there are others who are working for peace, too. Sending you much love, Galen.

  5. Thanks, DJan. It has been quite a journey. I know in your own life you have had times of struggle and deep grief. Now here you are. And me too. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Hi dear friend, I had commented on the last post and then it didn't post. I think it is because i did it on my I-pad. As always I do enjoy reading your thoughts and you always cause me to think a little deeper about various things.
    Today's post reminded me of the value of struggle. For many years, I had a severe illness that took most of my energy and I really had a hard time working, caring for my family and etc. During this time, I questioned everything. I spent a lot of time on my knees, in our temple and etc. pleading for relief. Then as time went on and I recovered; I discovered how much I had learned about myself and my ability to relate to the needs of others. I had more empathy and true compassion for what others around me suffered. My prayers were answered in a much different way than I had desired at the time. Meanwhile, my husband also has gone through many health issues. He had a heart attack at age 45, by-pass surgery a year later, other surgeries and then a pulmonary em-bolus about 4 years ago. We have prayed, received priesthood blessings and had faith in our Heavenly Father's plan for us. We have both experienced profound miracles in our lives. As I look back on all he has gone through and what I have experience; the lessons learned have been tremendous. This learning has deepened our understanding and compassion for others and increased our faith in a loving Heavenly Father and Savior's plan for us. Life really wasn't meant to be easy. We are here to grow and learn through our trials of life,and the choices we make.
    We all have our journeys. It is obvious from your posts that you are learning and growing from your own life moments.
    I'm giving you a link to an article that you might find interesting.
    Happy Mother's Day to you! Wishing you a sweet day with family.
    Sending happy thoughts and hugs your way!
    On the post before this one, I particularly love the scripture about Praying without ceasing. I do a lot of that.

  7. 'human existence is suffering. We suffer because we struggle. We desire things, including ourselves, to be other than they are and we fight to make them conform to our wishes. We fight until we learn that the Borg had it right – resistance is futile.'

    Galen I appreciate what you write. It seems like we all suffer with something and its a whole learning experience to move from the struggle to non-resistance and eventual surrender. I experienced deep struggle when my wife went through a 5 year deep depression period 18 years ago. I experienced the agony of not being able to help the one I loved. I could not draw her out of the deep dark hole she fell into and she lacked the inner resources to pull herself out. You mentioned that freedom was a choice and I found that to love someone when they could not respond back in love was a choice I could make. To Love is also a choice. I also learned that when I didn't have the capacity to love because my well had run dry, I could cry out to the power of the universe (God) in surrender, asking for a new infilling of the power of love to flow within me. Every time I surrendered to the power that was greater then 'I' this renewed love for my wife came back. I look back now at this period in our lives and it was the deepest learning we had every went through. She has gone through so much and now she can go through most other physical ailments with little struggle because nothing compares to the mental suffering she had gone through.

    I am still struggling with intense tinnitus on the bad days and surrender is a hard lesson to learn. To lay the body down and surrender to the universal intelligence is the way… and all resistance seems futile. But, there is an inner resistance and I struggle to give up the struggle needed for total surrender.

    Thanks for sharing your deepest thoughts on your struggles and the challenge of total surrender.

  8. I always appreciate hearing more about your story, LeAnn. It seems to me that struggle is often a sign that there is some part of our life that we have not surrendered. Struggle is not how we grow, but it's where we grow. How we grow is by releasing the struggle. At least that is how I'm thinking about it these days.

    I'm sorry there was a problem with commenting on the last post. I didn't see your comment in any folder. I always hate to miss out on your reflections.

    Happy Mother's Day to you too, LeAnn!!

  9. Thank you, Brian, for sharing some of your story. Those are indeed intense and very challenging examples of learning to surrender. You've mentioned your tinnitus before. A challenge every day.

    I was caught by your phrase "struggle to give up the struggle." Reminds me of that quote "Quit trying. Quit trying not to try. Quit quitting." When we struggle with our own struggling, that is what the Buddhist call the suffering of suffering. Every layer of struggle adds a layer of suffering. Until we reach the point of total surrender. That seems most likely to happen when we are simply too exhausted to struggle anymore. Then as soon as we get some energy back, there we go again! Thanks again for commenting.

  10. 'Until we reach the point of total surrender. That seems most likely to happen when we are simply too exhausted to struggle anymore'

    Total surrender happens when we are too exhausted to struggle. Yes!, that seems to be the case, Galen. Every time I have totally surrendered to something it has been from a total exhaustion of energy to deal with it, in my human strength. The 'I' drops back and the deeper self is able to trust in the universal power called by many names. Maybe that is how total surrender happens. There doesn't seem to be an easy path to surrender.

  11. Surrendering and not struggling is so hard to do. I think I had to do this with my midlife crisis. Surrendering felt like the end of me – but it was only really a new beginning, though of course it didn't feel like that at the time! I can echo Brian above in this, when exhaustion comes, it makes room for surrending and that seems to enable something to shift for the better. It's easy to know this is what's happening after the event, but it is so tough to go through and of course highly individual. I don't often use the word 'pray', but I pray that if I ever end up in this situation again, I will remember the learning of the spirit we we undergo at this times. Love to you from me, Galen.

  12. You have made several references to your midlife crisis, Lynne. Do you have a particular blog post devoted to this time in your life? I'd like to read more about it. In any event, it seems that you have come out on the other side with a wisdom born of that time of transformation.

  13. Thanks Galen. Well I'm kind of keeping the midlife transition stuff for my memoir because it is so all encompassing with so much material I just couldn't fit it into one post, but also I don't feel comfortable presenting it in my blog. Also, like you I think, I'm having to consider whether I'm fully behind doing the memoir for various reasons, I find as I'm writing – Trudging through the past being one aspect. When I'm writing, I'm FULLY behind it, then when I come away, I'm thinking do I really want to do this? A writer over your way, has written a memoir on being an empath, her first ever published book, and has recommended a book to me – namely , 'Why We Write about Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature', so I'm going to be reading this, as i suspect my feelings will be very much part of the whole process. Wishing you a lovely weekend coming up :>)

  14. Yes, we have both explored the layers of walking and writing down memory lane. The question for me is whether I have something to offer others by sharing my own journey in that way. I don't know if I do, but it seems to me that you surely do. At least that is my impression from the snippets you share now and then.

  15. Thanks, Galen. I think so too. Went and did a bit more on it this afternoon and it feels right. I'm looking forward to reading the book and will probably do a blog post about it. Cheers!

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