What does it mean to be free? What does it look like? How does it truly feel? What do we mean when we talk about personal or inner freedom?
Often as people enter soul work I hear them say, ‘I just want to be free’. But in the next sentence they are expressing their victimhood. Or sometimes when there is a glimpse of true authenticity being discovered, there is a declaration of freedom: ‘I AM FREE!’. But then the next day utter depression sets in. Freedom can be elusive and difficult to acquire. Where does it come from and how does one live inside of it?
When I really get curious about a word or concept I begin a task of investigation. WHO can I look at that embodies this word or concept? And how can I study them? Sometimes this is more effective than studying an idea in separation. We can have lofty ideals about what a word or concept means in and of itself. But what does it mean to embody it? To live it? And is there any human example to guide me?
What qualities do you think belong to a person who is living in freedom? How do you imagine a person living their life who is ‘free’? It can be interesting to imagine this as it takes the concept of freedom into a human reality and invites us into our own lives. If I was truly free, what might that look like?
You may come up with your own list of freedom qualities, but here are some of mine that I have gathered from this journey of observing, noticing and discovering tastes of my own inner freedom.
- JOYFUL – A person who is living and moving in freedom is a rather joyful person.
- INNER KNOWING – They are a person who is able to think independently of a group and move from their own inner knowing with a clear conscience.
- VOCATION OF THE HEART – They have a vocation that is meaningful to them and are full of purpose.
- NO NEED FOR PRAISE – They no longer need the praise of others and so they are free to do work that is most life giving to souls, whether it is seen or not.
- IN RELATIONSHIP – They are able to be in relationship with others without being triggered by other’s behavior and have the freedom not to take things personally.
- CONTENT – They are content as they are living out of a place of deep inner integrity.
- MOVING OUT OF INTENTION RATHER THAN REACTION. – They are making choices about their behavior according to their integrity rather than their first reaction to a situation/person.
- ROOTED IN LOVE – They live out an inner well-spring that sustains them and nourishes their souls.
JOYFUL – Where does joy come from? For a two year period I thought about joy a lot! I wondered where it came from as I realized I had no experience of it that was truly authentic that I could recall. I knew about a forced expression of joy, but I didn’t know how one attained joy. Brother Roger of Taize became my spiritual father and teacher regarding joy and he wrote about an inner well-spring. A well-spring is a beautiful image and one that I could see bubbling up with clear water. I had been taught that I was inherently evil, so how could I have an inner well-spring of joy? My fundamentalist evangelical understanding of my humanity eventually came crumbling down as I came to the phenomenally amazing understanding that I was beautiful at my deepest core!! And that from my soul emanated a well-spring of life. Joy can never be forced but is rather like a bubbling up from within.
INNER KNOWING – If you have been like me, and thought you were inherently evil, it can be quite a journey to not only tap into your inner well-spring, but to trust your inner knowing. True freedom is when we are able to move from our authentic selves, knowing our inner truth. Most of us move with a group. What does the group think? How can I stay safe and not stick out? Many subtle compromises can be made with our freedom as we yield our true knowing to flow with the group. At times compromise is a wonderful quality but other times it costs us our true self, our freedom. When one considers the heroes of the past, they were people that were willing to go against the flow and follow an inner knowing. This took tremendous courage. Freedom doesn’t always feel fantastic!! Freedom takes courage and fortitude in the face of possible alienation from others! True freedom is about this inner alignment with the soul, truth-telling within and being faithful to the deepest part of one’s being. This isn’t EASY. Freedom, I’ve come to learn, isn’t easy. Freedom can cost everything one has to honour the one thing that matters most, one’s soul.
VOCATION OF THE HEART – People who have found inner freedom are usually doing the vocation that their heart is asking of them. Whether it is a hidden task with no pay or a high-profile job with a great salary. The thing is, it doesn’t matter when you are free. What is important is that you are doing what your soul is inviting you to do. The other day when someone came to me in distress about their vocation, their relationships, their life, these words popped out of my mouth; ‘We are here today to be in service to your soul.’ My eyes welled up as I spoke those words and I knew I spoke a truth that I would remember for a long time. I wasn’t in service to his ego, to his plans, to his agenda. I was in service to his soul and I was inviting him to be too. Because when we are in service to the soul, it changes everything and the soul can guide us into the tasks we are meant to be part of in our life-time. When we live into these tasks, whether it is cleaning a toilet or being on a large stage there is an indescribable joy, a sense of alignment and freedom that is absolutely breath-taking. The key is to move out of society’s claims on what it looks like to be ‘successful’. Being ‘successful’ is not about status, image, money or accolades. It is about living from the soul into the fullness that you are being invited to. It is like an acorn becoming an oak tree. It is ‘successful’ because it has become itself!! Likewise, who are you? WHO ARE YOU??? Your freedom lies in becoming that which lies at the cellular nature of your being.
NO NEED FOR PRAISE – If one is truly free, one is doing things or being in a way where there is no need for praise. Of course, it always feels good to be praised, but when we are looking for praise or waiting for praise, it is a sign we are not free. Our living is still dependent on others approval and recognition. Rather, the invitation is to look in the mirror at the end of the day and ask these questions: Did I live in integrity today? Did I live into my true self today? Did I love freely today? Am I at peace with my soul? These questions will guide one into an honest inner dialogue. If the answers are ‘no’, then there is soul work to be done to come back to freedom. If the answers are ‘yes’, then lie down in peace and know that it has been a great day. People will come and go in our lives and some will love what we do and some won’t. But to be in integrity with oneself will bring about the most amazing fruit in your life. I had a friend once who was struggling with a decision I had made. She felt uncomfortable with my choices even though I knew I was in integrity with myself. Her discomfort was uncomfortable for me too. I had to go within and ask myself if I was out of alignment? Was I in integrity with myself? I realized I was and had to be at peace with her discomfort. This is where the rub is. When we are free, it isn’t always comfortable!!! We must allow others to be uncomfortable with our integrity. This can bring a measure of friction in a relationship that one must be at peace with and not try to ‘fix’. It can be that this very friction is what another person needs to face a truth. It just so happened that a few months down the road, my friend was driving on the freeway and it was very congested. She ended up backing up on a on-ramp to get off the freeway and completely changed her course of direction. As she did this, she had an awareness of my situation in a new light and came to an understanding that had eluded her thus far. She came to my home with flowers and tears. It was a huge learning for her but also for me. Stay in integrity. Be OK when others don’t understand. The fruit of your truth-telling and peace with your soul will be enough.
IN RELATIONSHIP – I’ve been learning about attachment and non-attachment. Attachment is a necessary part of being human. An infant needs to know that attachment to his caregiver. If he doesn’t, it has a profound affect on his brain and psychology. Attachment is vital to our sense of connection. But there is also a healthy teaching on non-attachment. That as we become whole, complete in our psychological well-being, we can be fully present to others in relationship in non-attachment. This means that we are not attached to the outcome of what their decisions are, who they chose to be, etc. We are OK! We are OK with them because we are fully present and complete in ourselves. This place of knowing deep attachment at our core, but able to be in non-attachment in mutual relationships is profoundly freeing. I may WANT you to do something for me, but if you don’t – I’m OK! I may WANT you to BE something for me….but if you choose not to be or simply cannot – I can learn still that I’m OK…and can release you in freedom to do what is best for you. When we hold this living tension of attachment/non-attachment the potential level of intimacy becomes profoundly greater. The potential for intimacy becomes greater because closeness then is a CHOICE from mutual partners and the thrill of that is quite special! It takes a lot of inner strength to live in attachment/non-attachment but it is a rich ground for personal and relational growth.
CONTENT – When one is living from a place of truth-telling, doing a vocation one loves, in healthy relationship and is at peace within, there is a contentment that emerges. What a gift!! Money cannot buy our contentment, but inner integrity can bring this journey of freedom that yields a profound contentment that is like a balm over ones life.
MOVING OUT OF INTENTION RATHER THAN REACTION – If you listen to the conversations around you, what do you notice? Are people talking about others? Or how life has robbed them of this or that pleasure? Where do you notice people talking about their dreams, their proactive actions? Where do you hear others speaking out of their vision for what they see? It takes great inner discipline to move out of our childish tendencies to blame others for our unhappiness and to begin to live out of intention. It takes time to ponder how one wants to live and what values one wants to emanate. But these are things we must think about so that we can choose to become the people we are. We don’t have to remain victims, we can choose our responses and our values.
ROOTED IN LOVE – Where does a person’s nourishment come from? A person who is free has learned to draw deeply from an inner well of Love. They are rooted in this Love! Language around this may be different for different people, but the fruit of it is the same. For me, God is Love and Love is God. When I root myself in Love and receive nourishment from this Source, it creates energy in me and a freedom to bloom. It is in this Love I know I belong and so there is no need to seek for belonging from another source. Rather, I can BE belonging for others. I can BE and extension of this Love because it is flowing through me, like sap in a tree. Wow, what freedom. Christ was such an example in this way. He was so rooted in Love, moved out of intention, was at peace with himself (content), was in relationship with others, had no need for praise, and lived joyfully out of his inner knowing into the vocation of his being. As we enter the season of Easter, it is Christ’s story of utter freedom that we can celebrate. Freedom to love even unto death.
The soul journey is not an easy journey. Truth-telling, courage, determination and valour are required! But the fruit is freedom. A human being living in freedom is beautiful, radiant and a privilege to be with. Laughter abounds in their presence and a sense of home surrounds them creating a place of welcome for all. May we all grow in freedom!
I’d love to know your thoughts! Send me a message with your experience or thoughts on freedom.