You are free when you think what you like.
–by Jeannette Maw
The 4th of July annual celebration reminds us not to take our freedom for granted. We're prompted to consciously acknowledge and appreciate the independence won years ago and to support our government's continuing efforts to maintain our citizen rights.
However, with many citizens at odds with our leaders, feeling misrepresented, unheard and deceived, some feel anything but gratitude for our unperceived freedoms. Frustration and disempowerment are sometimes more typical feelings for those who oppose the leadership of our government.
But true freedom isn't dependent on outside conditions; it doesn't require that particular circumstances be in place for us to feel peace. In fact, if we require certain situations to exist before we acknowledge freedom, we are anything but free.
True freedom lies within. Until we tap into that truth, we're at the mercy of the world around us for our peace of mind, joy and any other emotions we attach to liberty.
What is freedom?
The word "freedom" itself invites the idea of being able to do as we please. The dictionary definition includes "being exempt from external control or interference," "at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint," and "the state of political or national independence."
Many Americans – arguably the most privileged citizens to walk the planet – don't feel strongly connected to independence and liberty in their daily lives. We speak as if we're slaves to a job or life responsibilities or even time. We believe that without an abundance of time, money or health, we aren't free to live the lives we really want. And with those thoughts we would be right; we are enslaved. Not by our job or position in life, but by our thoughts of such.
True freedom lies in our ability to deliberately choose our thoughts and feelings. When we exercise that ability, we no longer require things "out there" to be a certain way to feel peace "in here." Our "feel good" comes from within. And it's there waiting for us whenever we choose to entertain it.
Developing the discipline to choose how we think and feel is where we meet true freedom. When we realize we don't have to have a certain amount of money in the bank, a particular brand of government in office, a certain health status, or whatever else we might condition our "feel good" on, we embrace authentic personal liberty.
Who knows it?
How many of us exercise this power of freedom? And how often? Do you regularly experience liberation from thoughts that otherwise hold you trapped, not just in painful feelings but in the reality created by those thoughts?
Whereas many across the globe consider the U.S. to be the epitome of independence and freedom, as long as we are stuck in fearful, angry thoughts directed toward terrorists, Republicans, environmentalists, corporations, Mormons, immigrants, employers, or whomever, we are anything but free.
Author Victor Frankl practiced his freedom of thought under the particularly challenging conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. In his book, "Man's Search For Meaning," Frankl shared his belief that we each have the freedom to discover what has meaning for us.
His death camp experience offers an extreme example of how it is possible to choose what we think and feel despite the conditions surrounding us. As we break that chain of relying on external circumstances to be happy or at peace, we are truly free.
Last week a friend spent a night in jail for destroying public property, after swatting at a street sign in a late night, Cosmopolitan-induced gleeful moment. Although he briefly argued the ridiculousness of not being free to have a happy moment in public or even to question officers without repercussion, he at least realized his ability to choose personal freedom once he was behind bars.
He could either be in jail as an ornery, insulted miscreant, or he could be in jail as a peaceful, go-with-the-flow cooperative citizen. He chose peaceful. And each time he tells the story, he has another opportunity to choose whether to be indignant and angry or to laugh at himself and consider himself better educated about police protocol.
He is always free to choose his perspective and can exercise or abdicate that power any time. As he does, he dramatically alters his experience and satisfaction with life. The same is true for each of us.
How to be free
Since the foundation of freedom lies in our power to choose thoughts and feelings, we can embrace that power by developing a discipline of conscious choice – releasing knee-jerk reactive thoughts that don't feel good and finding our way, one better-feeling thought after another, to more pleasant feelings.
If Dr. Frankl can do it, so can we.
As we practice conscious choice of thought, we no longer need the boss to acknowledge our contribution to feel good about our job. We don't have to get an anniversary present from our spouse to appreciate the relationship. We don't require six months of living expenses saved up in order to sleep well at night.
The additional beauty of this practice is that once we regularly spend time with more pleasant thoughts, we attract a more pleasant life. One where bosses offer generous acknowledgements, spouses treat us like gold, and money flows in abundance – which just turns out to be icing on the cake, since we didn't need any of that to enjoy life beforehand.
So next time you find yourself in a stressful conversation about the importance of patriotism, evils of terrorism, or whatever topic might inspire your negative feelings, remember your true freedom lies in your ability to choose your thoughts and how you feel. Instead of being stuck in anger or resentment, exercise your liberty to find your way to a better-feeling thought. Be picky about the thoughts you entertain.
Similarly, when you recognize you're resisting a situation or circumstance in life, use it as an opportunity to come back to your personal freedom. Remember you are free to choose how you perceive it and how you feel. As you do so, you'll find your sense of freedom increasing dramatically without anything else around you needing to change.
Our thoughts create our world. Until we consciously choose our thoughts, we are slaves to our perceptions of reality and are abandoning the freedom that is our human birthright. This holiday, celebrate your internal liberty to find your way to thoughts that create the world you want. Namaste.
Jeannette Maw is an Attraction Coach and founder of Good Vibe Coaching in Salt Lake City, with more deliberate creation musings on her blog at www.loaplayground.blogspot.com.