THE BLOG
08/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Fireworks, Partying, and The Real Meaning of the 4th of July

Dazzling fireworks color the night skies. People are dancing, laughing and having barbeques with friends. The 4th of July is one of those holidays that we seem to always remember: It was the 4th of July many years ago when Ed flew from NYC to Rome on his long journey by air, land and sea to India. There he would train to become a Yoga Master (Swami). More recently he skied high up in the Rockies on the 4th wearing only shorts and no shirt. What memorable 4th of July moments do you have?

But why are we celebrating like this? In the years leading up to 1776, Great Britain was demanding higher taxes and asking that the colonists follow more British rules. This resulted in the American Revolution, where the dominance of the British was rejected in the desire for independence, declared on July 2nd. The declaration became official on July 4th of that year.

This was a very important step and rightly celebrated, although, as Deb is British, we do have some conflicting opinions about this in our family!

But despite the celebration, do we ever stop to ask what real independence means?

Among other things, independence means freedom from control, self-determination, and nonalignment. Which, realistically, few of us practice. Most of us experience some level of being under the control of more powerful bodies, such as the IRS; few of us determine our own thoughts and beliefs but prefer to go with the general consensus; and most of us feel aligned to something, whether it be a political party, religion, race, or country, rather than being neutral or open to all.

So how can we integrate a greater sense of independence into our lives? How can we truly practice such an important declaration, not just as a country but also as individuals?

Five Ways to Embody Freedom

1. Think Your Own Thoughts
Every day we hear politicians, the media, religious leaders and others telling us what they think is good for us. And too often we go along with their opinions, with what everyone is thinking, without stopping to ask ourselves, "Is this what I think or believe as well?" The Buddha offered some great advice about this when he said, Don't believe what I say. Find out what is real or true for you.

2. Say What You Believe
How often do we come from our heart when we express ourselves? So often we are stuck in our heads and think one thing but say the opposite, because it is what everyone else is saying. We may have a great desire to fit in, but this can be at the expense of our real feelings and what is truly meaningful to us. It can be challenging to speak our own truth, but when we do it is ultimately very liberating.

3. Do What You Want To
As long as what we do does not harm anyone else, then freedom is doing just what we feel. This can include dancing in the rain, wearing a red hat, or walking barefoot through wet grass. It especially means feeling free to do all those things we were told we should not do, like singing or smiling for no reason at all.

4. Give Your Heart Away
Do we have things or do they have us? Does having more mean we are less free as we are concerned with protecting what we have or getting more? Some of the freest and happiest people we know have nothing. When we were in India the poorest people we saw living on the streets were smiling and playing and laughing. This especially applies to our heart. The more we love, the freer and happier we will be. And the more we give our heart away by caring and sharing with others, the freer we will feel in ourselves.

5. Be Still
Sitting still and being quiet may seem like the most limited of activities, but this is how we can enter into an inner spaciousness that is the most free place to be. So when the dancing is over, and the celebrating begins to wane, find a way to have time to yourself and enjoy the true freedom within you. Sit quietly, breathe into your heart, and have a smile on your face.

In our new book: BE THE CHANGE - How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, with contributors such as the Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, Robert Thurman, Jane Fonda, Michael Beckwith, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Ellen Burstyn, Russell Bishop, and others. These luminous people share how meditation has brought them greater inner freedom.

What does the 4th of July mean to you? Do you have any good stories of freedom to share? Do let us know as we would love to hear from you! You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.

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Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Byron Katie, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Gangaji, Ellen Burstyn, Ed Begley, Dean Ornish, Russell Bishop, and others, will be published November 3rd 2009 by Sterling Ethos.

Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See: www.EdandDebShapiro.com