Jan Frazier, who wrote the bestselling When Fear Falls Away: The Story of a Sudden Awakening (2007), has come out with a new book of true genius and transforming capacity. The Freedom of Being at Ease with What Is (2012) combines an awakened perspective with a life-long professional writer’s acumen in written expression with a decade of spiritual teaching. The result is a work of such grace and clarity that I find myself wanting to shout “Read it!” to everyone I know.
This is a work that spends no time on Jan’s personal awakening (that was covered thoroughly in her earlier book) but instead offers some of the clearest teaching I’ve come across, untethered to the language of any particular philosophical or spiritual framework. Even when going over familiar ground, The Freedom of Being does so in a fresh and unusually precise way. Jan also introduces ideas that I, at least, had never seen before in a spiritual context. As a psychotherapist, I found the nuanced attention to the causes of suffering helpful i n expressing what I do in my work with clients and it even suggested new territories that I might fruitfully explore with them (and of course with myself).
My personal favorite is her clarity at expressing the difference between the “real”— what is actually here right now — and the realm of thought which is a step away from that. Rather than getting caught in whether a thought is true, Jan suggests an approach that bypasses thought altogether: “We have more to say in the matter of mental noise than we half dream. Not by going at it in a full frontal assault, but by a little sneak around to the back side, where the plug is. It can be slipped from the power supply—just by flooding the present moment with attention. Simply by attending to what’s here and now. Don’t mind whatever the here-and-now happens to be. Don’t make up a story about it. Just be with it. The plug slips out all by itself.”
Jan does not shy away from stating, repeatedly and descriptively, that the awakened state is really wonderful, hard to describe perhaps, but wonderful. Again and again she calls us home. “All wanting, all fear, had stopped. There was—there is—a steady stream of joy without cause. No reason, nothing driving it, nothing able to interfere with it. Did I know why this happened? I knew only that I had come home. I knew too, with certainty, that this radical equanimity had been there right along. That it is the nature of us all.”
When I interviewed Jan Frazier about her book, she explained that she wanted to speak to both those intent on awakening as well as those who simply want to suffer less. She tells us that whether you want to suffer less or awaken, what you do is the same thing—she calls it preparing the ground. As she puts it, “There is something you can do, but it isn’t a doing so much as a being. The thing you want, which is to be awake, is to be gotten to by being awake to this moment. The longed-for thing is attained by doing—by being—the longed-for thing. A person might want it to be more complicated than that. It isn’t.”
There are three parts to The Freedom of Being. In the first called “The Lay of the Land,” we read through a series of chapters that lay out in detail the human condition and what it is to be free. As she puts it, “The news that it’s as close as the taste of the inside of your own mouth is supposed to be encouraging. Stop expecting to find it out there. Elsewhere, later. It is the looker. It is the looking.”