A long weekend, parties, crazy hats, fireworks, and fun are all going to be enjoyed this July 4th weekend. America has come a long way and been through a ton since she declared her independence in 1776 (by the way I love that our nation is a she), but how independent are we as individuals today? We may have moved out of our parents' house, but do we really take the time to reflect on the balance of dependence and freedom in our own selves? It's a useful practice that can give us a lot of perspective on what might be holding us back or propelling us forward. We are the only ones who can understand how and why we are the way we are. It's up to us to put in the work.
Using our bodies to enter the tunnels of the mind is a useful practice. When we move with our breath in our bodies and turn on the focus and awareness of our minds, our thoughts have the opportunity to calm and our intuitions have a chance to surface. In yoga we have bound poses to show us how to be in our bodies when we have limited room. To stay in a bind we need to have alignment, focus, strength and balance all in order. And then we need to tell our minds that it is ok for us to be in a difficult position. Everything is temporary and eventually the pose will come to an end. When we decide to stay in the bind our bodies build strength and it becomes easier each time we try. When we release the bind we feel even more freedom in our bodies and minds than before we entered the bind. Bound poses teach us there is always something to work on, room to explore. We can move with grace and ease of mind, whatever the pose.
Life is the same. That's the whole point. When we experience a circumstance or element of our life that is in a bind we can bring the same qualities of alignment, focus, strength and balance to stabilize ourselves during the challenging time. When we can exist in a tough situation with a calm, steady mind, we find room to expand and new freedoms emerge. We learn to move with grace, tolerance and ease in our bodies and minds through both challenging and rewarding circumstances alike. A child is dependant on their circumstances for happiness. As adults, we gain the potential for independence. We can use our minds to steady us in not-so-comfortable times. This wards off temper tantrums, and builds strength and character.
If you practice yoga, you've probably experienced being in a challenging bound pose and found that when you stay in it calmly with the right amount of tension, the body starts to soften and actually open up. You might have had a moment where you found an inch or what feels like a mile of extra room in your spine, shoulders or hips, all from staying in the pose calmly. The body and mind can open up. We are the only ones holding us back from freedom.
Our circumstances aren't what determine our freedom. What is going on inside us does. When we are free from the traps of destructive thoughts, insecurities, and fears, we are independent. Boundaries and limitations on who we are or what we can achieve fade.
Take the Quiz: How Independent are You?
1. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
a. What a beautiful day, ready to see what it brings.
b. Another day, still here.
c. What do I need to get done before I can relax?
2. How do you feel about your career?
a. I'm doing what I love and would keep doing it no matter what the return
b. I've got a plan, hopefully it will work out
c. What career? I can't catch a break.
3. How stressed are you about money?
a. I use my head about my finances but don't get too wrapped up.
b. Too little, too much, it's an occasional stress.
c. Money is everything, it makes the world go round.
4. What do you do to maintain your health?
a. Yoga classes and meditation of course!
b. I exercise occasionally. I know it's good for me.
c. Exercise is for in-shape and vain people. I'm not one of them.
5. How do you feel about yourself?
a. I love me. I love you. Same thing. Let's hug it out.
b. I'm ok I guess. I'm a work in progress.
c. Not very good. Am I supposed to like myself?
Mostly A's. Freedom Warrior! You get it. The body and the mind are the same thing. You treat yourself well and feel good in your skin. You know you can be the best version of yourself when you live healthy and feel good.
Mostly B's. Freedom Fighter! You want to get it. Get to a yoga class, find a friend to teach you to meditate, or go hug someone. You're hungry for the goods. Sometimes we all need someone to break us through to the other side.
Mostly C's. Slave to your own crap! Snap out of it. Yes, life is hard. Hate to break it to you but it's hard for most people and you're probably standing in your own way quite a bit. Phone a bunch of friends and get them to mob you with hugs and tell you "it's not your fault." You will probably cry but it will be ok and then you can get on the good foot.