Are you aware how fortunate you are? Those of us in the West are blessed with freedoms that many people in other parts of the world can only envy, such as the freedom to say what we want, to practice any religion that turns us on, even to wear whatever clothes we like. It is very easy to take our freedom for granted, as it is so integral to our daily life. Those who travel beyond our borders are often amazed when they experience how much other cultures differ, and come to deeply appreciate how precious such freedom is.
Yet, does our independence and freedom bring us any more happiness than the lack of it? We have visited many poverty-stricken countries and found immense happiness and freedom in the people, even though their physical lives were filled with hardship beyond measure. We have been in places where Deb had to wear a headscarf and long sleeves, where bare ankles are seen as more provocative than a bare midriff, or where we had to be very careful with what we said. But always the genuine smiles and laughter that greeted us were overwhelming.
We are not saying that other cultures are freer than ours, but we constantly find ourselves coming back to asking: How do those of us in the land of the free actually find and express our freedom?
We tend to have a limited idea of what freedom means. There is a myth that freedom is unattainable, that it lies somewhere ahead of us, or that once we have done this and achieved that then we can be free. And yet so often, as soon as this first obstacle is out of the way and freedom is looming close, another obstacle immediately comes along to delay it once more! We were teaching a workshop outside of London when Marie told us that she was very happy to be with us and was learning a great deal, but she knew she could not be at peace until her daughter was. Only when we shared that by first discovering our own inner peace then we can help others to find theirs, did she get it.
There is also the myth that happiness, independence and freedom are contingent on favorable external circumstances. Yet, we only have to look at examples, such as some of the Tibetan refugee prisoners--held in jail by the Chinese for many years in the most atrocious of conditions, who later emerged from their captivity in a state of inner peace and tranquility--to see that the freedom we really need to be talking about is not one that is dependent on external conditions but is the freedom within us, regardless of circumstances.
True freedom enables us to accept both good and bad without identifying with either. It is seeing things as they are and not being attached to our own preferences. Freedom is an inner awareness, a knowing that nothing can touch the truth of who we are; it is the 'I AM' that is within each one of us.
For many people some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation, can be very helpful. This doesn't have to be religious in any way, and can be as simple as taking three breaths with awareness and intent. It is any activity that connects us to our inner heart and the magic of being alive. In this way, we can enter that place where we know ourselves as truly free.
Stop and Pay Attention Meditation
Freedom is in every moment, not in the future, not in the past, but right now.
Every so often throughout the day, just stop what you are doing and look around you. Breathe, smell, and be aware of this extraordinary world you live in.
Each time you stop, pay attention. Notice how easily your mind takes you into mindless thoughts, dreams and dramas, past or future fantasies--anywhere than just being here now.
Be aware of what is right in front of you, and the wonder of it all.
What does freedom mean to you? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Tuesday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
You can learn more in our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, or from our three meditation CD's.
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Our latest book won the 2010 Nautilus Gold Book Award: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie, Michael Beckwith, Debbie Ford, Jack Kornfield, Seane Corn, Ellen Burstyn, and others.
Our 3 meditation CD's: Metta--Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi-Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra-Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com