What does true freedom mean to you?
Before you read on, ponder upon this question for 10-20 seconds. What came up? Is there a common denominator among the concepts circulating your consciousness?
Let’s see if it matches up with what I’ve realized about freedom. When I ask this question in my seminars, the first answers I get are about financial freedom – having enough money to do what we want whenever we want, or (surprisingly) political freedom – having the right to create and defend a society based on personal values. In short, they are about money and neighbors.
If this is what you came up with, I hear you. These are freedoms about controlling your environment, and most of us are, first and foremost, focused on the world around us.
In reality, any organism focused on the environment is a stressed organism, living in a state of survival. Let’s dig deeper and say you love your community and have enough money, what’s freedom to you then?
If you’ve ever attempted to meditate even for a minute, you’ve realized your true prison guard is not money or society (read: other people), but your own mind. True freedom, then, from a spiritual perspective, is freedom from your own mind and expectations imposed on you from the outer world.
You are free when the external world no longer affects you. You are free when you have the courage to be who you are without seeking permission or approval from others.
True freedom allows you to feel connected to others as well as yourself; to accept yourself as part of the whole.
In this state of compassion, criticism, and judgment from others cannot penetrate your peace. You no longer allow your energy to be influenced by others. In return, you can start influencing others and the world around you. In the state of true freedom, the past no longer matters and the future no longer concerns you. You don’t belong to the future or the past; you belong to yourself.
Once you’ve realized the nature of true freedom, you’ve taken the first step.
Here are a few ideas to start practicing true freedom today:
1. Surrender. Don’t fight against the process of true freedom. Instead, visualize and emotionalize (i.e. create a feeling in your body) having freedom from the machinations of your thoughts and ego. Observe. You’ve been designed for freedom from mind and ego, and fighting against that natural process only prolongs your prison sentence.
2. Reframe your mindset. Become an expert at reframing your thoughts and finding meaning in situations. Start by observing your mind, then accept what creates anxiety and negativity, and finally, seek to attach meaning to your feelings. You can’t get from negativity to bliss in one jump. If you get stuck, the next best step is gratitude. You can’t have an ego-centered thought in the presence of gratitude.
3. Work with your heart. In the Western world, we’ve been trained in grade school to have our minds dominate our lives. Instead, learn to listen to your heart’s wisdom. Think of and place a hand at your heart (center of your chest) several times a day. This simple gesture creates coherence between your heart and mind and makes your mind listen to your heart. That’s the natural flow of energy.
True freedom is about being comfortable in your own skin, accepting yourself as part of the whole, and allowing your energy to flow freely without being influenced by others. It is a process, but by surrendering, reframing your mindset, and working with your heart, you can experience true freedom. Remember, it’s always within you, and experiencing it requires a commitment to the practice of it.
Photo by Eva Fanari, Maui