Liberation is a Process



Liberation is a process, not an end. We don’t just reach a point when we feel free. We keep getting the chance to enact this formula:

Notice. Engage. Release. Notice. Release. Engage. Notice. Engage. Release. Notice. Release. Engage.

We cannot control our lives. What we can do – by noticing, engaging, and releasing –  is stay in active engagement with our lives and the process we are in. We can adjust attitudes, habits, actions, thoughts. We can come into right relationship with emotions. We can learn how to better be a part of community. We can of better service. Control can be a useful concept, but more often than not it becomes a stand in for what actually helps. Think of muscle control. An athlete wants this. But really, what the athlete wants is to engage heart, breath, attention and muscles all at once, so as to move precisely, with strength and flexibility, in the moment. Eventually, this becomes a state of pure presence, the athlete is one with herself and the water, the track, the grass, the mat. We can call that control. I would rather call it engagement. Relationship. Presence. Why? Simply because the concept of control can turn into rigidity of form and attempts to force an outcome.

I was discussing this with a client this week. S/he is discovering that life is working much better, and there is greater satisfaction overall, because s/he is more present and less controlling, less hung up on things looking and behaving a particular way. I spoke of the task I once gave myself of noticing a thought-form habitual at that time, “I just need to figure out.” I trained myself, when hearing that internal voice, to pause, breath, and open again. To notice, engage, and release. To notice, release, and engage. I did this because I realized “I just need to figure out…” meant I wanted to control a situation and thought I could come up with the answer that would fix things. I couldn’t. What I could do was invoke presence and relationship. That habitual thought-form has gone away as a consequence. Not because I forced it away, or controlled it into submission (two things which do not work, in my vast experience with them), but because I worked to shift how I responded to it.

All of this rings true not only in the personal realm. Think on today’s political and economic climate. We cannot force this away either. What we can do is notice, engage, release. Notice, release, engage. We can continue to find ways to shift our presence and relationship to our countries, to global economics, to the plants and creatures of this beloved, Earth, and to each other. Remember: liberation is a process, not an end.

We cannot control politics or economics. We cannot control our lives. But we can co-create them.

How do you co-create? I invite you to share insights into how you engage with the process of liberation. How do you remain present? How do you notice, engage, and release?

14 Responses to “Liberation is a Process”

  1. Crow

    I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing a lot over the past few days. About how I cannot force the issue or take control, and how when I try I inevitably end up feeling overwhelmed, and the ways in which the feeling of overwhelm is my cue to check out rather than in. After all, that elephant is far too big to eat. Ever.

    That’s my habitual pattern. It’s important to notice. Sooner is better than later, but noticing is the most important thing. And then releasing, which for me looks like giving myself permission to come back to presence — to be right here, right now, and to experience what’s happening and how I feel in the moment.

    And so then I look at what I *can* do, which is to respond to one thing/action/emotion at a time, in ways that bring me the pleasure of presence. Pleasure is as operative a term here for me as presence, and I find that so even when the moment is itself not pleasant at all; it helps me to relax into my physical body, and for my etheric and auric bodies to relax, so there is space for presence, for breath and depth and breadth and knowing. And for the kiss of mystery as well.

    • Thorn


      I really resonate with the concept of the “pleasure of presence” that is the satisfaction I feel these days, the deep satisfaction of a life engaged. Not extreme highs and lows, but pleasurable equanimity, even when times feel rough.

      Noticing patterns like you speak of helps us to tune in to things that might actually offer greater comfort than what we choose when we tune out. We might take a bath or meditate instead of eating a whole pint of ice cream or talking badly to ourselves. We get to be kinder to ourselves in a holistic fashion. What a great opportunity.

      Yes. Space. Thanks for speaking to this.

      • Crow

        This is a great post on a great topic, Thorn. Much needed food for thought, as are all the responses.

  2. Teo Bishop

    This couldn’t have come up at a more appropriate time, Thorn. The discussion that erupted over my PPD post created for me a number of opportunities to either notice/engage/release, or to freak out. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a little freaking out going on this week.

    My blog feels like a co-creative endeavor. So much of what takes place online is collaborative. I can’t control the conversation, or the direction of the dialogue. I can influence it by the way I write my posts, but only to a degree. People sometimes project onto the posts and make judgements without understanding the full context, just as I, in my experience at PPD, made judgements without understanding the full context.

    I’m wrestling with the consequences of that choice.

    I often get stuck in either the “notice” or the “engage” part of this formula you’ve presented. I am either the observer, or the initiator, but becoming one who releases is challenging for me.

    Thank you for giving me this mediation, this formula. It will be a point of focus for me today.

    • Thorn

      Oh yes! Oh yes. I get the projection, the judgement, the misreading of my carefully crafted words. It doesn’t feel easy. I also notice when I want to leap to that myself. It is why I *try* as a practice, to ask questions.

      We all wrestle with consequences of choice. In looking at your last two blog posts I think: what a great opportunity for dialogue and deeper learning. You and the community wouldn’t have that if you a/ were not willing to take the risk with that first post and b/ were not self-aware enough to wrestle deeply and follow through with personal conversations and that second post you made today. Yes, your process is more transparant right now than ego probably likes (I deeply dislike public scrutiny, but it comes with the territory of having the privilege of a public voice) *and* it gives you opportunity to do what you are doing: show us deeper insights and point us to our own processes by exposing us to your own. Brave. Honest. Wonderful.

      Sometimes a little freaking out, or a little venting, or a little fill-in-the-blank is healthy. As long as we can return to noticing, engaging, releasing, and not get stuck.

      thank you.

      (and folks, I linked to Teo in another comment if you want to look at what we are speaking of)

  3. Aquila Ka Hecate

    I’ve just jotted down some thoughts on the need to control how people think of us in a particular situation which is on-going at my workplace.
    My response – and it was a vastly different one from the anger I used to habitually fling at such things – was gales of laughter. Eventually. When I noticed, as you say, what was going on.
    Laughter – full of Love and release – is an excellent way to respond to our species’ need to dominate, I am finding.
    Thank you for these words though – I’m starting to cease being surprised at the synchronicities.
    Terri in Joburg

    • Thorn


      Thanks for the inclusion of laughter. A big laugh burst out of me yesterday when someone shared something deep, dark, and mysterious with me. I then thought “Oops, was that inappropriate?” but then paused and opened. The laughter ended up opening a door to a very good conversation, adding a much needed lighter energy to the discussion.

      And synchronicity abounds today! I trotted over to Teo Bishop’s blog and found some overlapping themes. We must need to look at this message from different angles this week.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Ealasaid

    This comes at a perfect time for me, too! I’m noticing a lot of anger and volatility coming up for me today (and the last few days, for that matter), and trying to see it and let it be what it is rather than fan the flames or try to stamp them out.

    I really like the notice>engage>release/notice>release>engage model, and am adding it to my toolbox as another thing to play with (along with center-and-circumference, kala, etc.) Thank you for this!

    • Thorn


      yes, noticing is such a helpful practice!

      “trying to see it and let it be what it is rather than fan the flames or try to stamp them out.” This is a perfect illustration of not controlling, but being with.


  5. Sarah

    Byron Katie has this beautiful phrase that sums up presence for me: loving what is. For me, this wording has been helpful because it helps me notice both when I am grasping and when I am on the other end of the control teeter-totter, retreating into powerlessness.

    I’m also finding curiosity to be a useful ally. Havi Brooks makes a great distinction between WEAR (What Everybody Agrees is Reality) and TEAR (The Ego’s Arbitrary Reality), and staying curious about what’s really in WEAR keeps me from trying to control it but frees me to release my stories and assumptions.

    • Thorn


      curiosity has become a powerful ally to me as well. I tend to *know* things with certainty which sometimes feels helpful but often leads to blocking learning. When I’m curious, I can honor my knowing and be open to possibility at the same time.

      love what is? That can feel hard. If I can’t love what is, perhaps I can at least acknowledge what is.

      thanks for your insights!

      • Sarah

        I definitely do not always love what is, and I don’t aspire to if we mean the way that I love ice cream or my sister. I believe that in a cosmic sense, everything is fine, and in a just-this-moment sense, things are usually okay too, but we humans live in the messy space between those two things, and it is good that we don’t consider everything to be equally okay.

        The reason I find it useful is that it turns out that I am great at resisting what is and wishing things were different. So maybe acknowledging or accepting (in the sense of “I accept that this is what is true right now”) are better words for the opposite of that

  6. Cat Dancing

    When I react it can lead to feeling the need to control. Taking a breath, widening back and shifting viewpoint from ego to Source releases the reaction and allows me to shift consciousness to neutral acceptance of “what is”. Sometimes I can do this in the moment and sometimes it requires effort and a willingness to “notice, engage, release”. It’s an ongoing “practice” for me that is improving over time.
    I like the idea of curiosity. Curiosity allows me to remain open.

    • Thorn

      Cat Dancing,

      You are onto something.

      In my experience, constant reaction can lead to a sense of diminished autonomy. The urge to control tries to counter that diminishment – causing us to feel we are back in the driver’s seat.


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