The Fourth of July signifies an important turning point in history where Americans became free from the reign of English monarchy. Though the nation gained their freedom, the individuals within the nation are still being ruled by thoughts, emotions, and external pressures from society. I know I can be controlled by thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough. I can be a slave to my emotions like anger and frustration. I can be bound to what society deems as “normal” and try to fit in by rejecting parts of myself for fear of being rejected by others. I live in a free country, the land of the free, but in many ways I remain in chains.
Obtaining personal freedom is easier than it seems and starts with an awareness of the ways in which we are not free. When it comes to our thoughts, a simple way to gain a little freedom is to practice mindfulness. I know, it is loaded word filled with expectations and visions of monks in robes sitting in lotus pose, but beyond the ideas we may have about mindfulness, there is simplicity underneath it all.
With time and practice, mindfulness allows us to create a space between our core Self which experiences all things before thought and the thoughts that tend to parade around like they are in charge. With this space between Self and thought, freedom is gained and we become free from the shackles of our minds. You can start a mindfulness practice by reading a book like Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by John Kabbat-Zinn and practicing on your own, or you could join a meditation group geared towards beginners like the one I lead every Saturday morning from 9am-10am.
Similar methods can be applied to gaining freedom from our emotions. There is the method of EFT Tapping, otherwise known as Emotional Freedom Techniques, which is a type of Meridian Tapping that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Tapping utilizes the body’s energy meridian points by stimulating them with your fingertips and this puts a halt to the brain’s fight/flight response to strong emotions. Read more about EFT here and check out a local practitioner who offers online EFT at www.worldtappingcircle.com.
Using a mindfulness practice, we can also gain freedom from our emotions by creating a space between us and the emotions we feel. Sitting in stillness, we can locate the areas in our bodies that hold our different emotions. We can learn to be still and sit with the emotion without letting it take over, bringing a sense of curiosity to what the emotion actually is. What is the shape, color, size, temperature, and location of the emotion within us? What thoughts appear before the emotion appears? What thoughts come after the emotion? When you give yourself permission to slow down and be present to your emotional experience you begin to create a space between your Self and the emotions that rise and fall within you.
The emotions you experience will never actually be bigger than your Self, though they may feel like they are swallowing you whole. I’ve heard this concept be explained in the following way: The sky is vast and hurricanes and tornadoes appear within it from time to time. From the ground it can seem like the storm is taking over the sky to become bigger than it, but the sky is vast and above and around the storm clouds there is always more sky. Our emotions can be the same way, from our experience of them, they can appear overwhelming and all encompassing, but our core Self is vast like the sky so from a different vantage point we can begin to witness the coming and going of our emotions like they are passing thunderstorms. The space we can create between our Selves and our emotions will allow us to experience a little more freedom from them and help us get to a vantage point where we are no longer reacting from an emotional space as much as we once were.
The final and perhaps the most difficult feat we must accomplish to gain complete personal freedom is to become free from oppressive external forces that prevent us from being ourselves. What I mean by this is it can be difficult to give yourself permission to be your true Self, no matter what others may think of you. The reason this can be so difficult is because it is in our nature to conform to society’s expectations. Most of us (not all of us) want to fit in and be accepted by others. This is a biological adaptation humans have developed over thousands of years because way back in the time of hunting and gathering, if you pissed off your village, then you would be kicked out. This wasn’t good for your survival rate because you would most likely starve to death or be picked off by a lion.
So our highly intelligent brains still have a very primal and adaptive need to be accepted by our family, peers, and society at large. The challenge lies in finding the courage to be completely and utterly yourself despite the real or imagined fear that you will be rejected or cast out from your present day clan. In many instances, you being your core Self will be met with acceptance by those who truly love you. In other instances, your clan may reject you, but then you must consider that perhaps you would be better off with a group who loves you for who you are without conditions. Plus, we live in an age where there are 10 other tribes waiting to welcome the real you with open arms should one group reject you for being who you are.
There is only one you on the planet earth at this time. You have unique opinions, abilities, talents, and looks. Hiding who you are at your core does you and the universe a great disservice. I absolutely love this quote by Marianne Williamson which directly applies to this idea that we can let our fears of what others think keep us from being liberated. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So, in the spirit of Independence Day, I invite you to find some personal freedom. Be mindful of your thoughts. Make space for your emotions. And let your core Self radiate the truth of who you are so that you become free in the deepest sense of the word. Enjoy your Independence Day!
Written by Tanya Ricketts.
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Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.