Have you ever chosen a path of restriction rather than liberation? There are often compelling reasons to choose the route less free: “I don’t want to leave this relationship because I don’t want to be alone (even though I’m not happy with my partner)”, “I can’t leave my job because although I hate my boss/colleagues/the work, it’s regular pay and besides you can’t always get what you want: better the Devil you know”, “I can’t possibly consider moving to a new apartment/city/country because it’s just too scary”. The French philosopher Rousseau (1712-1778) taught that all human beings have the possibility of freedom, but the ultimate declaration of human autonomy came thousands of years earlier.
The Book of Exodus depicts a peculiar scene of an Israelite slave who has served for up to six years and is due for his mandatory release that comes on the seventh anniversary of being a slave. Our particular slave decides that he’d rather remain in servitude – perhaps because he likes the security of having regular food, shelter and routine, or because he has built a family in the household who are also slaves, and he chooses to stay there even if his boss is something of a slavedriver.
The Biblical ‘punishment’ for his choise is to have a nail driven through his ear as it’s banged into the doorpost. The new ear’ole symbolizes his choice of forsaking freedom for slavery. According to Rashi (1040-1105) the ear was the organ that received the message of universal human freedom at Mount Sinai and this nail becomes a piercing reminder that the slave has chosen a master other than God. Another idea is that the nail-through-ear is a poignant symbol because when specks of the slave’s blood runs down the doorpost, it reminds us of the blood of the pascal lamb in Egypt which was smeared on the doors as the ultimate symbol of freedom during the 10 plagues*.
The practice of yoga is concerned with freedom (‘moksha’ in Sanskrit). We aim to find physical freedom through the postures, psychological freedom through achieving stillness of thought and spiritual freedom through reminding ourselves that our soul is eternal whilst our body is temporary. This is important because much of our suffering comes from the illusions that this life lasts forever so we try our best to cling to things that will inevitably change. Whether it is a relationship, a job or an identity, change will surely come whether it is in 7 minutes or 70 years.
Yoga was preceded by Samkyaha philosophy which stated that “liberation occurs when one has understood this truth [that the body is temporary but the soul lasts]” and that the goal is for us to reach a point where “the Spirit regains its original freedom”**. Only through experiencing this truth, and realising that suffering comes from over-identifying with the body, can we free ourselves from pain and touch our true potential. If we remind ourselves that we are a soul temporarily housed inside a body, and meditate on this truth, then we will ultimately become free of suffering and experience true freedom.
POSE OF THE DAY
Today’s posture is ‘chair’ or ‘fierce’ pose (uttkatasana). You can do it anywhere:
i. stand up with your feet together
ii. bend your knees as if you are sitting in a chair
iii. lift your hands upwards and press your hands together
iv. push your bottom backwards and lift your chest so there is a slight curve in your lower back
v. gaze at your hands.
Hold the pose for 5, 10 or 25 breaths. Begin by counting your freedoms – freedom of speech, work, thought, love and more – and try meditating on how your soul is ultimately free, eternal and bigger than you can possibly imagine. Finally focus on your breath, listening to the sound, and allow yourself to sweat and push through the posture. You may want to add a twist variation, placing your right elbow on your left knee, pushing your hands together in ‘prayer’ pose, and twisting your spine, thus freeing your lower back from residual tension.
Have fun. If you’re feeling really brave, here’s a difficult question to chew on: In which are of your life could you experience some more freedom? Where are you holding back? Sometimes we are held back by other people’s ideas of us and it can be painful to say to them ‘actually I’m not the person you thought I was. I’ve changed. I’ve moved on. Whether or not you accept me, I’m now living my truth and becoming free’. The words of George Michael’s song Freedom ’90 was a revealing message to the fans who wanted to force him to match their image of his former days in the band Wham! when he rocked the 1980’s pop scene with uplifting teeny-bopper hits:
Heaven knows i was just a young boy
Didn't know what i wanted to be
I was every little hungry schoolgirls pride and joy
And i guess it was enough for me…
But today the way i play the game is not the same
No way…I won't let you down
So please don't give me up
Because I would really, really love to stick around
We are about to celebrate the new month of Adar, a time of joy and a month of fun. Sing, play, dance, let your hair down and feel free. If you’re stuck for ideas then try out today’s Bibliyoga Boogaloo track: Freedom by Wham! The Talmud says that “When we enter Adar, we increase in joy”***. So play hard, be free and share your true gifts with the world.
Wishing you high times and endless love
Shalom V’Ahava & Shabbat Shalom
THE KOSHER SUTRA © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
*This idea was taught to me by Samuel Klein, a talented teacher, artist and leader of London’s Saatchi Shul.
**p17-19, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom by Merce Eliade, Princeton University Press:1958) .
*** Babylonian Talmud: Ta'anit 29a