Freedom is a word that resonates with everyone. But what does it mean? Ordinarily, and very simplistically, freedom is the right or power to make a choice, to speak, act, think and exercise free will without any kind of restriction or hindrance in a sovereign state that is not under a despotic rule.
Emerging from this is the much talked about and proclaimed ‘freedom of speech’ in a democracy under the pretext of which individuals, organisations or media can say what suits them to entertain, inform or facilitate achievement of a personal, social or political purpose. This is part of a good democratic system.
We may be free to vote, to speak, to exercise our rights and make choices in pursuit of happiness. The meaning of freedom and its interpretation are very much influenced and made to appear absolute by political science. But is this all there is to freedom? Even in a wealthy, peaceful nation with zero poverty, no homelessness, full employment and all the social amenities, are we really free? Is there such a thing as Absolute Freedom in any democratic state as we know it?
The enjoyment of material comforts of life, free movement and relative personal security have pickled us into accepting this limited definition of freedom. But there is much more to freedom if we care to explore genuine freedom. And as we do it, we realise that man is not truly free.
For example, with all the easy excesses and overindulgences there is growing stress in society. There is compulsion to succeed, sometimes at any cost. The strife to free oneself from this results in loss of sleep and over-dependence on drugs. Drugs have become addictions which have to be financed somehow. This compels the victim of drugs to commit crime to sustain the addiction. The result is imprisonment – loss of liberty to enjoy all the good things in life.
We talk of being free, yet don’t realise that we are not free of the opinions of others. Our lives are governed by fear of what others may think of, and do to, us if we choose to stray from the norms of the society. We seek safety in following the herd and prefer to lose our freedom to question the ways of the society. These shackles are readily preferred. They stop us in our tracks and hinder free expression of thought although the system we live in gives us the right to express ourselves freely. Thus, we see safety in wearing these virtual self-imposed shackles. We readily surrender to the ways of the society.
Freedom is understood to mean the right or liberty to do what one wants to do without restraint. But it does not free an individual from hidden shackles within. It is fair to say that the freedom that we have grown to accept as real is not absolute, but an illusion. Most people hardly ever attempt to practise the freedom we are endowed with – the freedom of thought for self-realisation and self-transformation – preferring instead to opt for reckless free speech, which can often land one into the mire of trouble. We prefer to conform, often against our natural inclinations, and live with this conflict inside us in a supposedly peaceful society. The conflict is from not letting the inner sprout into what Nature intended; instead we let the music placed in us die with us. We live to please others, thus remaining unaware that we are not free. We live as prisoners of our own illusions.
True sense of freedom is gained at a conscious level once we become aware of our deepest emotional state when the mind begins to explore and understand itself. In this state all deep seated desires, struggles, anxieties and motives become apparent, and our true purpose in life presents itself. Quest for self- knowledge now begins its journey. Realisation dawns that we are not free until we disengage from mere reactive living. This disengagement is a process of cleansing oneself of all useless toxic baggage and clutter in the mind. Our independent will to think with clarity comes to the fore and opens the gateway to freedom. Now we begin to question, and understand, all our thoughts, words, actions and emotions. Light begins to flow in and reveals hitherto hidden dimensions of all events.
Here is how the mind can be cultivated to feel truly free:
First and foremost recognise addictions. These are not only indulgence in drugs and harmful substances, but also inclinations to squander time in frivolous activities like gossip, window- shopping, meaningless tinkering with gadgets, making unnecessary phone calls, downloading trivia, reading irrelevant stuff in the media and so on. Over a period they grip us and steal our most valuable asset – time, time to be creative.
Let go of resentments. Resentments are immobilising emotions born of memory of past hurt and our reluctance to let go and forgive. They are tantamount to storage of poison inside us which we expect will return hurt to the one who has alienated or antagonised us. Resentment corrodes the insides of the bearer whilst the one who gave cause for it remains untouched and free. Be quick to say ‘sorry’ and move on.
Have no fear – there is nothing to fear. If examined closely, fear is the product of imagination or anticipation of what may happen. When the event happens, fear dissipates and the event becomes an experience. In the suffering of the event there is no time to give thought to fear. The thought of going to the dentist causes fear, but during the treatment, there may be pain and suffering, but no fear. Suffering is an experience, but anticipation of it is fearfully gripping. Anyone gripped by fear is not free.
Most common causes of fear come from unconstructive worrying about loss of wealth or employment break up of a relationship, being rejected, inability to pay debts and such other misperceived matters.
Opinions about you don’t belong to you. If someone has an opinion, good or bad, about you, it belongs to them, not you. You are not a slave to the opinions of others. If someone calls me a bast..d, it will not invalidate my parents’ marriage certificate. If someone calls me a dog, it doesn’t mean I will start barking. If you exercise your will to pay no heed to the gift of any opinions showered upon you, then they belong to the givers.
Remind yourself that you have an independent will. Your will can help to preserve your pride and dignity. No one can take these away from you without the permission of your will. Even in your direst moments you can choose to place your imagination on pleasant and uplifting thoughts, away from the pain and suffering of the present moment. Your freedom lies in your creative imagination which you can summon even in imprisonment or in the face of capital punishment.
Run your own race. Find and live your purpose. Blaze your own trail. You have no one threatening to leave you behind when you are on your own unique path. There are no races to be won in life, and if there are any, run them such that you leave no-one behind. Gain mastery over yourself. There is no greatness in gaining mastery over anyone else. Seek to be a better person today than you were yesterday, and a better person tomorrow than you are today.
The society does not owe you a living. When you become dependent on others, you are a slave to your own weakness, and reluctance to accept that you are gifted with all the necessary resources to take responsibility for yourself is the greatest form of ingratitude to Nature. In dependency there cannot be freedom, only slavery. Nature helps those who are at first striving to help themselves. In this state you will experience, when you least expect it, that there is someone round the corner waiting to come to your aid. Trust and befriend Nature, and it will never forsake you.
Cultivate habit of giving. Giving is not the prerogative of the wealthy. If you have nothing material to give, experience blissfulness by giving kind thoughts and silent blessings, even to those who are endowed with immense wealth and power. You have nothing to lose when you shower others with kind thoughts. Consider yourself so fortunate that you are sharing these times and place with those who are blessed with immense fortune. The feeling of release within is so liberating that you become a stakeholder in the Universe. This is freedom, for nothing has a hold on you when you volunteer giving.
Live with a fisherman’s attitude to life. The fisherman knows what he wants and where it is. By casting the line he freely expresses his desire and then patiently waits for Nature to deliver the object of his desire. This is a powerful blend of faith and patience, which together are an expression of knowing that the intended outcome will be realised when we know what we truly desire. Life will offer everything to us that we have become worthy of. It is also an expression of knowing that we are equipped with the wherewithal to make a life for ourselves and liberate ourselves from daily anxieties of making a living. It is true freedom when we take charge of ourselves.
Freedom usually means to be free from the clutches of something, whereas Liberty usually means to be free to exercise choice, although both refer to the state of being free. We must take the liberty to give ourselves freedom from the clutches of warped thinking. Our entire freedom lies within us to exercise choices of thought we can make with the mind. The conscious intelligence field is the source of boundless power located within. This is where true freedom lies.
Be free, be happy!!!!!!