What is freedom and how do we ‘get’ it? This is a question I have been asking for a long time. When we think about happiness, contentment, peace, what are we really thinking about, and what is the common denominator that we could call freedom? This inquiry involved a process of elimination.
Money: Is money really freedom? Certainly, it allows for a level of relief with being able to meet basic needs, food and shelter, and holidays. But we all know that some of the unhappiest and insecure people are millionaires and celebrities. So, if it’s not universal, money cannot equal freedom.
Location: Is where you live tied to freedom? Of course. We can enjoy freedom of speech, freedom to move, freedom to work, and the freedom to carry arms! But is it truly freedom? I hear everyday of people feeling trapped, isolated, scared and frustrated. Rates of crime in the US are high, in the country that is supposed to be free. Simply changing where you live does not necessarily equate with true freedom.
Health: When we are struggling in the face of illness and pain, it is difficult to feel free. I know when people get better, or have a day or a moment without pain, it feels like pure freedom has arrived. However, it seems that in the background there is always a fear that it will return, that this moment will end. We can feel helpless and trapped in our bodies, unable to escape. However, I have seen perfectly physically healthy people feel trapped, restrained by fears, dissatisfied with life, anxious and depressed. Physical health, it turns out, is not everything, and it certainly does not lead directly to freedom.
Relationships: Having healthy relationships sure can feel like freedom. Freedom from abuse, freedom from negativity, freedom from criticism. However, relying on this for true freedom is very precarious, like walking on thin ice! Depending on others for your mood and happiness is a definition of codependency. It’s like giving away your power so that if your relationship is good, you are good, and vice versa. Freedom would surpass any dependency on external, ever- changing factors.
What then, is freedom? If we feel peace we grasp it, not wanting it to leave. But everything is temporary. If we are suffering or we see suffering, we resist and brace against it naturally, wanting it to leave. If we find the right conditions for happiness, those conditions will change. If we are seeking certainty and safety we might find it fleetingly, only to have it crumble in the next moment. Where does that leave us?
Here goes… freedom is being absolutely ok with the present moment, whatever it is. It is internal and always available, assuming you are not being chased by a tiger or about to be run over. In the present there is no past conditioning, no history, no right or wrong. Only now. Herein lies your power and your freedom. When I fight against it, I create tension and again I am waiting for freedom to arrive. We will probably never be absolutely ok with what is happening in the world. We don’t have to, we only have to accept this moment. I have never found an exception to this.
Some questions to reflect on: How much time do I worry about others? How much time do I spend going over the past? How much effort do I spend trying to manipulate and control other’s behaviour? (Go easy… it’s all unconscious 🙂 Am I waiting until (fill in the blank) so I can be free? (Hint: you don’t have to feel happy to feel free).
So, in answer to the question… what is freedom, did you answer “I feel free when… I’m dancing, singing, biking, painting, breathing, travelling?” What is the common denominator in all of those answers… an experience of being ok with the present moment. Now bring that into more moments, even difficult ones. Don’t believe me on this. Only you can find it out yourself.
When J. Krishnamurti, a well known philosopher and one of the greatest thinkers of all time, was asked how he would sum up his life’s work, he paused and answered “I’m ok with what happens.” Simple as that. Freedom moves you from a victim of circumstance to creator of your own life.
I’m curious about what your experience of true freedom is. Leave a comment below and tell me, or jump over to facebook and comment in the Just Breathe community https://www.facebook.com/peacebeginshere/.
Have a great week,