#47 – The Circle from the Chain

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Total Freedom – The Essential Krishnamurtiwhich is a collection of talks and writings from Jiddu Krishnamurti. He was a teacher not tied to a particular discipline, a thinker not aligned with one school of thought, but a man who wanted to urge others toward freedom through self-realization.


The individual is of first importance, not the system; and as long as the individual does not understand the total process of himself, no system, whether of the left or of the right can bring order and peace to the world.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

I recently attended a memorial service for my friend’s brother, and their wonderful family reminded me that we should listen without judgment and connect with full awareness. We cannot do either of those things without first understanding ourselves. We are often unaware of the filters and screens that can influence our interactions with our fellow human beings. By spending time with yourself, you can become aware of the conditioning that can limit your ability to connect. With true awareness comes pure connection.

While only less than halfway through Krishnamurti’s writings, I find myself already surrounded by questions that point back to perception, perspective, listening, security, understanding, conflict, and transformation. The best books don’t provide answers, they lead to critical thinking and great questions.

Constrained by beliefs, experiences, and perceptions, are you merely an animal tied to a metal post in the middle of a vast field? Is the large expanse of the potential of your existence limited to a microcosm of a reduced circumference? Do your steps tread the familiar path of compressed Earth and wilted grass, or do you see fresh, fallen snow before you each day? Do you revel in stories of what could exist beyond the circle but are convinced of their impossibility? All around you, others are shackled by similar devices with their visual, auditory and tactile senses attenuated by their own fear and doubt. Is this driven by a desire for attainment and acquisition? Are we missing true fulfillment by chasing and attaining objectives and collecting things? The collection of things is not just physical. We collect, process and inventory thousands of data points every day, and if we aren’t careful, these assets can influence our thoughts and interactions. Are we further driven by financial, physical and spiritual security, and if so, do we create our own turmoil in the process? By seeking security, are we entering a mode of self-protection and preservation? Does that mindset create filters and screens that influence our interaction with others?

In the presence of chaos, we all seek shelter. Do our political, economic and social leaders really want to get rid of something that perpetuates their own existence? Our world is full of systems and organizations that offer a false sense of security. Through lack of understanding, we create opposing sides that merely give runway to something that doesn’t work. Do revolutions actually drive transformation or do they just leave us with a modification and transfer of power? Donkeys and elephants are tied to their own metal post in the ground, seeing the colors they want to see, hearing the sounds that validate the patterns of their beliefs, and experiencing life through the confines of their circular pen.

We, as individuals, are the answer.

Not systems and organizations.

Not choices of bad or less bad.

By knowing ourselves, we can remove filters and create understanding.

Why haven’t we done it? It’s not easy. It requires patience, pure presence, unfiltered listening, and total understanding. It takes a quiet state of mind not obscured by filters and screens. It takes commitment to disconnect from ego and delve into self-inquiry.

Seems abstract? Maybe.

How about a personal example?

I was growing tired of watching cars in my neighborhood race by my house at ridiculous speeds. I would experience a rising anger that escalated through the nerves in my body, and I was experiencing a gap or conflict introduced by my conditioning to the environment. This gap produced two discrete positions. There was one group of people who felt it was reasonable to drive double the speed limit in a neighborhood, and another group consisting of myself that didn’t want to see a kid get crushed by a car.

Group A – Individuals prioritizing convenience over safety.


Group B – One biased property owner with four kids.

Without true understanding, the conflict manifested into anger and embarrassingly passive-aggressive complaining (at least on the side of Group B). After escalating the internal conflict and perpetuating my state of displeasure and malcontent, I finally asked myself what I was really seeking. Did I want to reprimand the offenders and create new rules and punishments to try and effect change? Wouldn’t new rules just create more conflict and division without making the neighborhood any safer? What I really wanted to do was objectively create awareness of the fact that the interaction of this behavior and the environment could potentially lead to an unfortunate outcome.

How could I create this awareness?

  1. Knock on every door and voice my concern to each of my neighbors.
  2. Hire the county to do a speed study and hope for speed bump installation.
  3. Steal traffic barriers and randomly place them in front of my house.
  4. Stay mad and eventually throw rotten produce.

Each of these options would produce more conflict.

Wait …

Transformation requires self-reflection, listening, and understanding.

I wanted to create awareness of a potentially dangerous situation. I didn’t want to create discord or escalate the conflict in my environment. There was one question that constantly pierced my subconscious every time a car raced by my house. A question that remained unanswered no matter how many cars I watched from my front porch.


Presley and I decided to create a sign and display it in our front yard. While it’s not likely that this sign will change behavior in 100% of the participants in Group A, that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to create awareness of a potentially dangerous situation. Instead of letting my filters, lenses, and conditioning produce an unproductive reaction to my environment, I asked myself what I was really trying to accomplish.

Self-inquiry can be difficult, but without it transformation is impossible.

Are we too busy to find time to get to know ourselves?

If so, are we then too busy to feel the cold embrace of the shackles, the constraint of the metal post and the limitation of our circular prison?

Spend time with yourself.

It all starts there.


Total Freedom – The Essential Krishnamurti

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