This morning I had a dream that I was sledding down the side of a snow-covered hill on my black Tumi backpack, and suddenly, a red-tailed hawk flew down from the sky, and came to light on my left arm. It was so unbelievable. I was so amazed. I can still feel my lips parted in awe that such a magical, spirit, such a wild, solitary, elusive bird had chosen to come to me in such a bold act of intimacy.

It was as if freedom itself had decided to come to me. And not only did it just float there on my arm, but it softly sank his beautiful talons into my flesh, gently holding on, knowing exactly how hard to press, accepting my warm breath on his beak. To see if it was real, I gently went to stroke his head, and he let me and spread his gorgeous wings of white and red in appreciation that I had chosen to reciprocate his intimate gesture with one of my own.

Even now, the feeling of lightness and warmth as big as the sky above, spreads across my chest, from deep within my heart center to his, this magnificent hawk; we were connected, united, and FREE!  What a joy, what a gift that dream was! I am still celebrating it … A message from above. I am still aglow from that moment when my eyes caught him and tracked his trajectory, incredulous that he was coming toward me –when I saw his wings beating in an upward draw, slowing his descent, as he floated down from the ethers, and chose me as his landing pad, a confidant to whom he could silently transmit the message: “Believe it. You are FREE.”

Trial by fire. Oh, and it is.

When I first found this image, I wanted to kiss the earth that I had located a visual depiction that managed to encapsulate the very feeling I have had over the past month. I feel like a stuntwoman walking away from a well-played crash scene, except the “scene” isn’t staged. It’s real. Never before has this conscious awareness of contrast between incarceration and liberty been as stark, as naked as it has been for me of late. And when I say this contrast- I am referring to the battle of black vs. white, shadow vs. sun that comes to dominate the grand stage of the mind. The duel to the death that happens when we entrap ourselves in the stories that we ourselves author, when we imprison ourselves in the cells we construct, when we fashion the very shackles that keep our feet well-fettered.

Rumi said it so well,  “You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?”

In reality, there is no cell. There are no shackles. There is only that very early, formative history that lays the groundwork for the template we use as the holy grail for most of our days … the song we feel we must sing until we realize that we have been dancing to the beat of a drum that is not ours, chanting the war cry of ancestors who did not see the light, or  learn that they could sing a different song, that they were free to choose new music to dance to …

Waking up is hard to do. Just like the song, “Breaking up is hard to do,” (do I hear violins? ) but once you wake up, you can no longer sleep the slumber of one imprisoned by your own “stories” of the past. Once you wake up, your eyes take in the landscape of a vastly new reality, and what you see cannot be described by the words you once used. Even your vocabulary expands. Marcel Proust leaps to mind,  “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

The truth is, if you choose to live a self-examined life, you are constantly “waking up,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you get to experience the pay-off every day … and that’s why it’s such a good feeling when you do. It seems the Gods have planned it so that you only experience the reward every now and again-only after you have waged a good campaign and you return home, sufficiently bloodied, humbled and grateful. That’s the way they make sure you stay in the game. And it’s only after you have war wounds to lick, that you come to appreciate your skin when it heals.

We humans, while I wish I could say otherwise,  learn most expediently through adversity. Consider a yoga practice. If every pose were easy and accessible, where would our edges to push from arise? How would we learn contrast and how on earth would we learn patience and fortitude and courage? The inversions where we consciously turn our worlds upside down, the standing balances when we have to create the solid ground underneath our own feet,  the arm balances, where we have to summon the strength in our very core to defy gravity and float above it with smooth breathing and measured aplomb. Yes, it’s true that whatever happens on your yoga mat, is a mirror for what happens and what is possible in your life. And whatever is going on in your life, if you’re lucky, you can work out on your yoga mat before, during and after.

Freedom. No one can deny that it comes at a price. But once you taste it, you really couldn’t care less how much it may have cost you. While you are on the battlefield of life, slashing through time and space with your mighty sword, slaying dragons and demons who come in human form, yes, the very same you yourself have somehow invited to the party, one after the other, all somehow strongly resembling one another, you fight the same damn fight until you “wake up” to the lesson, to the reality that has been there all along. And now, yet another quote from my dear friend, Rumi comes to mind, “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along”.

That “awakened” self is really a part of you all along, just waiting to be contacted, like Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be kissed and freed from her imprisoning slumber by the warrior self who fights to break the chains of history that bind us to the fear we inherit from previous generations … generations who slept a seemingly endless slumber.

Today, like Thanksgiving Day, when I was filled with gratitude, I am taking stock of where I’ve been, and how far I have traveled. The death-defying mountain passes, the chasms with no visible bottoms that I thought could never be traversed, the tangos with partners I wished would have dissolved into the ethers, like The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer, the dance that I thought would never, ever end, and the contracts signed in haste and in blood. They have all reached their destined conclusions. And I am FREE. Free of this particular epoch in my history. Still standing, and more awake than I’ve ever been. I am here on the battlefield of life where my blood has become the fertilizer that has transformed it all into a field of wildflowers, alive with a sweet, sweet buzz attended by troupes of dancing bees, bobbing and swaying gently in fragrant breezes like fingers through my my own hair.

I am here to tell you that as painful as it may be, it is true that the only way out is through … and along the way, we learn invaluable lessons. Like ancient glaciers carving a path through our souls, lessons leave in their powerful wake, exquisite etchings that are the markings of our spirit’s evolutionary journey. It takes great courage to face what we have created, to weather the storms we stir,  to conclude the dramas we have authored in order to come to know our true selves.

The reward is worth the apparent “cost.”  The reward is standing on the solid ground that you have reached after great travail and toil. The reward means you get to breathe new air. The reward is greater than anything you can hold in your hands, and once you feel it, once you breathe it and let it sink into your every cell, it is yours forever. You have claimed it, and no one can take it away.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And they said: “We are afraid.”

“Come to the edge,”  he said.

And they came. And he pushed them, and they flew.”

~Guillaume Apollinaire

8 Responses to “Freedom”

Beautiful, inspiring, and moving. Thank you for sharing

January 15th, 2012

It seems red tail hawks peruse both of us…

I read you, I listened to you, and I most assuredly heard you..

My love to you,

January 15th, 2012

To this, in full, I can relate~ Thank you for taking the time to map the universal from your experience Jennifer~

January 30th, 2012

Wonderful imagery Jennifer! It at once conjures up the harmony of Native American beliefs, while also incorporating the yin-yang and rejuvenation seen in Eastern philosophies.

January 30th, 2012

Dear Christine,

Thank you for what you wrote- so glad to share and so pleased that the writing spoke to you.
Warmest regards~

February 6th, 2012

Dear Kristi,

You are so very welcome, my dear and thank you!

Much love~

February 6th, 2012

Hi Jennifer. Yes, your writing is truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey and for writing about it so poetically! I wish you could come to Salt Spring Island.

March 7th, 2012