Often it begins with choosing to sit still with the incoming and outgoing breath.
Gradually this equanimity or detachment can be extended to passing thoughts and emotions. Dropping the judgement, developing discretion, viveka. This helps in overcoming minds habitual tendency of clinging or aversion. Gradually with ‘right understanding’, we begin to recognise both pleasant and unpleasant as transient states of being. This irrevocable surrender to the impermanence of life is what liberation feels like. Freedom from the realm of duality, of opposites. From tyrannies of success and failure, good health and illnesses, good moods and bad ones, feeing calm or highly irritable. windfalls and misfortunes. Fame or anonymity. Perfect or imperfect outcomes. All alike. No difference.
Suffering happens when we cling to the pleasant and are averse to the unpleasant, that is things not going our way. Tiny or large catastrophe, failures, and disappointments that are part of daily human existence. The first of Buddha’s Noble Truths.
In practice, to be liberated means we learn to stay in the moment, like a witness to breath we become witness to life itself. In Bhakti marga, the path of devotion, this state of surrender is achieved by surrender to the Beloved or the Ishta. Where a bhakta or devotee finally let goes his or her need to control personal destiny. Rather he or she is open to live as per the cosmic destiny or the large scheme of things. In short, the wave learn to behave like the ocean. This unitive existence is liberation or jeevan mukta, liberated living. Freedom to choose as per our calling or higher wisdom. Some people also call it choiceless awareness or going with the flow. Some people confuse going with the flow with inert surrender to what ever is happening in life, with learning or responding to life. Forgetting that not making a choice is also a choice, a karma. Surrender is staying tuned, or in flow with the inner flow of guidance, moment by moment. Surrender is surrender of karma.
Like spokes in the wheel of wisdom, the dharma chakra, the further we are away from the axis, the truth, more chaotic life appears and becomes. Closer we are to the center more equanimous we can be. More still.
How often do we lose our center when things do not go as per our wishes?
Or lose rather give away power to external reality and power. Giving absolute credence to inner power and truth is liberation.
Can I be amidst chaos and still be at ease?
Can I be going to immense suffering and still be peace with divine will?
Do I desire divine will to be aligned with mine or vice versa?
I believe even looking for silver lining amidst dark experience is one step short from absolute surrender. What if there isn’t anything good in it? Can I live in that state of surrender.
Are my prayers directed to make my life easy? To control my external reality, and ultimately to control God.
Can I live in the archetypal ‘cloud of unknowing’. Not knowing where the next meal is coming from, still enjoying and sharing it abundantly. Not sure about the next breath and yet giving it all the attention to this present, passing one. The mystic does it, is thus liberated. Willing to live in the mystery of God, where no every thing is explained to us or given affirmative answers to all our prayers. Sometimes the answer can be no.
As Kathopanishad guides us, Living a life of jeevan mukta, liberated soul, that is learning to make preferable or inner directed choice rather than merely pleasurable or ego satisfying in short easy choices. Over the years leads to exist from the karmic cycle of life followed by death and then so on. Eternally.
So dhyana or meditation is required to make mind an instrument of observation. Then gyana or wisdom of the transient nature of life can actually be practiced. Eventually Bhakti comes in when we realise we are letting go control only to the Beloved. Our own greater self. The knowledge itself liberates. The journey can be an amalgamation of all the paths. Efforts till we learn to live with effortless of the wave in the ocean. That is true liberation.
Liberation might appear to be a destination, but it is the way also. It is a way of life. There is no other way to achieve it than having one liberated moment after another. Liberation is in this moment. Either you are liberated in this moment or you shall never reach there.
Drop everything and settle, surrender to this moment, this breath and you are liberated already.