“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
— Nelson Mandela
Each day that we are able to pursue our lives as we wish is a cause for gratitude. Our personal freedom is something we should never take for granted, but often, it is not foremost on our minds. How amazing is it that we actually have an honorary day—Sunday, February 1—on our calendars as a reminder? It is National Freedom Day in the United States, which commemorates the day President Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery in 1865. This day is an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the meaning of this deeply profound and essential state of being.
Thankfully, many of us enjoy freedom in the form of our civil liberties. But it can also be true that sometimes we don’t really feel “free.” We might hit rough points in life, feel trapped in a situation, or believe that it isn’t possible to make different choices. Let’s take a moment to look at three factors of personal freedom and how we might go about restoring them:
- Freedom of Mind
Sometimes our mind “traps” us into thinking negative thoughts that make us feel as if things will never improve or we’re just not good enough or if we only had this or that our lives would be wonderful. When this happens, we feel at the mercy of the outside world, and we certainly don’t feel free! We must remember that we are not our thoughts. It is within each of us to release the negative, worrisome thoughts that arise from moment to moment.
We do this by having a meditation practice in which we sit with ourselves each morning and then call upon the Sacred Mantra throughout the day. With these two practices, we are creating space between the thoughts and training the mind not to engage or believe the thoughts. We are bringing ourselves back to the present moment where we are free to choose a course of action or just be in the moment.
- Freedom of Body
The human body has many limits, but it is also capable of incredible feats, including some things we may take for granted like walking, eating, and sensing the world around us. Sometimes we might feel trapped by physical limitations. The first step in freedom of body is achieving the best health possible given where we are in our lives. We can choose some particular movement routine that meets us exactly where we are, like walking, swimming, stretching, and yoga. A regular practice of movement for the body can release tension, relieve pain, and improve flexibility. When coupled with healthy eating, the body is well on its way to enjoying freedom to its utmost capacity.
- Freedom of Spirit
When we are in touch with our spirit, we feel at peace and strong inside ourselves, regardless of what is going on in the outer world. Our inner light fills us, and we shine it outward. Sometimes, though, we can feel heavy, as if our spirit is hidden away in a dark room. To invite it back out into the light, we sit in silence and simply listen to what our heart wants to say to us. Little by little, the messages from our spirit grow louder, until eventually, our spirit has free reign and supports us in our pursuit of happiness, purpose, and meaning.
When we really embody these three types of freedom in our personal lives, we are truly free. In the book by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
May we all find the freedom to move through the world unencumbered by what we once believed held us back and do our incredible work to ultimately leave this world feeling a little freer, a little braver, and a little more loving.