I wrote a poem once entitled ‘Freedom’ that was my very first published piece of writing – I was 11-years-old and it went in the Australian Girl Guides magazine.
Actually, I’ve ‘boasted’ about the poem before, in this post about freedom, democracy, the rights of children. Clearly it’s still a source of a little bit of pride, even if the magazine was chucked out long ago.
In my previous post I wrote about freedom in the BIG, global sense. Freedom as a fundamental and universal human right. Freedom from war, violence, poverty, persecution, discrimination.
Of course freedom should be all of that, for everyone. And of course it’s not.
So while we rightly focus on human rights for the oppressed and disadvantaged, and fight for fundamental freedoms for all, there’s also room to work on our own individual sense of freedom, and the things that leave us feeling trapped, including (and especially) our own thoughts.
After finishing my job last week I feel a sense of freedom and lightness that I haven’t felt in a long time. Perhaps you don’t realise the true extent of the stress and heaviness until it’s lifted.
After finishing up I gave myself the freedom of precious time on my own, visiting my sister and then heading up to a nearby cabin on her parents-in-laws property to stay for 30 or so blissful hours flying solo, planning my reYINvention.
Of course I didn’t get as much done as I imagined in terms of planning and developing the reYINvention tools I’m working on – sometimes soul-searching, daydreaming and eating chocolate suffice for planning – don’t they?!
I reconnected with my own sense of freedom, and thought about the ways it has been compromised – maybe your sense of freedom is constrained in similar ways.
I arrived on a blue sky day, which was followed by overnight heavy rain. I found colour amidst the grey with bright marking pens and peanut M&Ms. I watched the wind in the trees, listened to the rain, and sought clarity in a crystal I was given by my former workmates – one that is supposed to support individuality.
I reckon we feel truly free when we escape from some things, and embrace others – freedom from and freedom to.
- Freedom from judgment – judgment by others and by yourself. So this may be a noble, if unrealistic goal, but we can at least try to control our own thoughts that trap us in that downward cycle of self-recrimination and doubt. Bringing awareness to those thoughts (capturing them) and then releasing rather than replaying them is the first step. Not reacting to others judgments, choosing to understand that their criticisms say more about them than they do you can be hard, but necessary. I’ve had to practice this in the last few days when I received a judgmental and hurtful text message and was able to remind myself that the words originated from the other person’s sense of hurt and not anything I’d done wrong. I was able to quickly shut down the replay of negative comments, so I only briefly stewed on them (yeh, winning). Non-recognition and lack of engagement can be it’s own form of insidious judgment, and in leaving my old job I leave behind feelings of being dis-empowered and not valued that eat away at you slowly. It feels soooo good.
- Freedom from resistance – whenever we are not present we are in some form of resistance. Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future takes you out of the present moment, effectively resisting what IS. Resistance shows up in our bodies in pain and stiffness, in rigid and habitual thoughts that fear or fight change, in frustration, anger and self-righteousness. I’m always teaching my yin yoga students that when we meet resistance with resistance we just intensify it, but when we meet resistance with acceptance we can neutralize it. The energy you put into resistance can then be used for creating the life you want. We have to be prepared to breathe through discomfort and pain, in our bodies and in our lives.
- Freedom from the past – effectively we have been building resistance in our bodies since we first started saying ‘No’ as toddlers. And unless we release this resistance it hangs around in our cells as toxic waste. Freedom from the past is all about acceptance, forgiveness and cutting ourselves some slack, without running away from the life lessons. Try to view the past like an old black and white newsreel – sure there is something to learn from it, but real life is in colour and in the present.
- Freedom to make mistakes – if freedom from the past helps you escape recrimination and resentment then freedom to make mistakes helps you conquer fear and expectation. When you appreciate that making mistakes is the best way to lasting success you recognize the growth opportunities to move forward rather than focusing on the backward step.
- Freedom to contemplate – When we make our lives too busy we cut out the invaluable yin time we need to contemplate. Creativity never arrives when you are in the midst of ticking off your to-do list. It always comes in moments when you quiet the noise of everyday life and often in serendipitous moments that arrive precisely because you’re not seeking them.
- Freedom to find meaning – When we flail about on the surface of life, with too much to do and consume, we lose the opportunity to discover real depth and meaning. We can’t really have more without making the things we have seem more superficial. When we simplify our lives and possessions, we find more time and money for the things that really mean something. We can master a hobby or pursuit because we devote energy to it and open up the zone of creative flow. Simplifying also allows you to focus on meaningful connection and relationships and enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature.