What does freedom mean to you?
A sense of freedom is fundamental for happiness. We all want to be free and that is why so much emphasis has been placed on it in our US Constitution and American values. We want to be able to make choices in our pursuit of happiness. The pillars of freedom for me are, in order of priority:
- Having enough awareness to observe what is transpiring in any moment and make choices to shift thought, feeling, and behavior at will, creating a consistent sense of freedom from the tyranny of habitual patterns;
- Having enough wisdom to know when to act and change something, and when to relax and let things be;
- Having enough meaning so that we feel we are making a difference, free from feelings of ennui that create feelings of being oppressed from within;
- Having enough purpose in life to maintain our attention on the wide world around us, rather than the constrained world of our inner distress patterns;
- Having enough support from others to be free to experience vulnerability, without being so threatened by it;
- Having enough money to make choices about what we do and have;
- Having enough discretionary time to choose when and how to engage in activities.
Having a sense of freedom implies that I am having a feeling of liberation from whatever contrast I have experienced in the past that felt constraining. Obviously, patterns of worry, withholding, protecting, controlling, etc. all lead to the desire for a feeling of freedom. A sense of freedom is derived from different contexts over time. For example, I found that having a condo in Santa Fe to be able to go to whenever I wanted to was the most liberating feeling I could ever want. Six months later, I felt freedom from letting it go and having less overhead to think about. Freedom is relative and anything but static.
Freedom can also be the paradox of placing limits on one’s behavior, time, or resources by making a commitment. To pursue a particular path of action no matter what happens is to liberate one’s self from the tyranny of less satisfying patterns, like quitting half way through projects or programs.
What felt liberating one day might feel constraining the next. But the overall idea is to ask one’s self, “what would give me a sense of freedom today?” It is not an escape from pain and suffering, but rather the ability to lean into at times, let go at other times, and as often as possible, sense that one has a choice to be, feel, think, and act as one chooses. That is the ultimate freedom.