Teachers I’ve studied with over the years seem to be saying that In order to fully realize the truth and freedom of our being, all we need is to allow the inherent power of our spirit of inquiry to fully express itself. One very powerful aspect of our spirit of inquiry is its freedom. We begin to realize our inherent freedom when we allow the full expression of our longing that merges with our gratitude for life itself. Our spirit of inquiry is free in that it arises together with the free presence that is always here and now; there is no separation. Presence has no boundaries of width or height, space or time, and is free of all conceptual labels. It is free of the confinement of thought altogether.
This means also being free to include thought, to include aliveness, to include love. Our spirit of inquiry enables us to freely ask the deep questions about life; who or what am I really? Is there an actual entity that we call me? What is the actual substance of the awareness that manifests the world, that manifests the idea of me? The ultimate question is to ask deeply: What is it really? Behind our wanting to know is a deep prayer from our hearts, our prayer of wanting to actually be freedom itself.
The question of whether or not human beings have free will has been an on going mystery for thinkers of all kinds for millenniums. In our Western culture, we put a stronger emphasis on the individual self than in the East, where many of the great contemplative traditions originated. When we ask whether or not we have free will, we are usually assuming that we are asking whether or not our separate self is free to choose on its own. Does our self as we think and experience ourselves to be have the freedom of choice? Or are the thoughts and other experiences we have predetermined by forces outside of our awareness?
With this type of asking, we are assuming that there indeed is a real entity that is our separate self. We assume that it is uniquely ours, and that there are indeed outside forces that can affect our experience of this separate self and its choices. Human consciousness has now evolved to the point where we now have the ability to deeply question and doubt this assumption of a separate self. When we develop the courage to stay with and test this deeply conditioned assumption in every aspect of our lives, we are tapping into the freedom of will that is much more powerful than we can comprehend with our mind. We gradually learn to surrender, and allow ourselves to be guided from within by this vast mysterious power leading us to the realization of what we really are.
Some masters describe will as the process of realizing that thought is actually energy. Another name for will is the motivation of human activity for experiencing. It is always arising with, and interwoven with thought energy. We know we aren’t just our thoughts, because we can be aware of thoughts. That which is aware of thought energy is free; it doesn’t belong to, or confined by any entity we call self. There is free will, but free will is actually free of everything, free to be nothing and everything at the same time. It is simply free of all ideas of self or no self.
There is free will, but there is no my free will. There is the phrase, ‘not my will, but thy will be done.’ God’s will being done, isn’t the result of self sacrificing behavior. God’s or Spirit’s will being done is just the way things actually are, it’s the way things actually are happening. We doubt this and it’s healthy to doubt it. After all, this is just another idea. If we doubt the thought ‘It’s all God’s will.’, it can be an opening into the aliveness of very deep questions. As Zen master Hakuin said, “If you doubt deeply, you will awaken deeply.”
Free will is you, the living presence we actually are is free, and its manifestations are the manifestation of freedom. What we think we are is a tiny flash of this freedom of living presence, our egos aren’t freedom, and can’t express free will by themselves. Our egos don’t exist by themselves; they are only this tiny brief flashing our actual living presence of freedom. So ego consciousness is always a tiny expression of the freedom of our infinite living presence. By simply offering all of our experience of being separate to our actual living presence, we begin to tap into boundless and timeless free will.