By: Danielle Wilson
Happy Fourth of July! Today marks the day when our country published the Declaration of Independence: a document containing a series of basic rights of freedom for its people. As our country is concerned, I feel like the legitimacy of whether we have upheld these foundational ideals through law and culture for all of our citizens is questionable, but I have, however, felt inspired by this age-old hope for freedom, as of late.
What is freedom? On most days I’d probably say freedom means something different to everybody, but when applied to the concepts and beliefs of spiritualism, yogic philosophy, Buddhism, or whatever higher form of thinking and being you’ve appointed as your guide to life, the notion of freedom contributes, collectively, to a single definition alone: the allowance and empowerment to be completely in touch with, and expressive of, our most authentic Self in order to create independence from the aspects of ego and life that bar us otherwise.
We all have certain expectations, narratives, notions, judgements, and/or opinions we arrest ourselves to throughout our lives. Beliefs that we are unworthy, stuck inside our current situation, the world is working against us, or even more pointed thoughts like needing to eat a certain way, act a certain way, or put up a specific front, aesthetic, or storyline on social media (to name a few). There’s an outlandish amount of merely fiction information driving our lives on the regular. It’s not these stories, opinions, or judgements themselves that hold power, in fact, it is our blind tendency to shape our lives around such notions which grants them permission to control our mindset, behavior, and experience.
This is where yoga steps in. Our practice of separating ego from Self by becoming aware of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and experience as something outside of us, rather than a part of us, is the tool which ultimately unlocks the shackles we’ve willingly placed on ourselves and our lives. I liken perceiving reality to peering through a kaleidoscope: there are an infinite number of patterns and colors available to us, if only we would make the choice to pick up our hand and turn the dial. Reality isn’t a fixed concept—our perception is the driving element which shapes it. When we submit completely to a singular view through the kaleidoscope of life, we limit ourselves to enjoying the freedom that naturally exists within our every moment. Instead, we’re left with nothing but a small handful of joyful moments that happened to align with the set pattern and colors we chose to shape our lives around. When that singular view is met with a situation it deems unfavorable, we have a tendency to hold onto the kaleidoscope even tighter, as if we could squeeze a new reality out of it through a firmer grip. Other times, our singular view is compromised completely through experiences of loss or trauma, and we drop the kaleidoscope out of our hands, entirely. These scenarios only continue to hold us back from recognizing the power we’ve had to turn the knob and alter our perspective in the first place.
As human beings, it is within our egotistical nature to assign narratives to ourselves, our relationships, and our lives, in order to maintain some sense of identity and value. It is through the realization that we are already everything we need to be, all on our own, without identity at all, that we begin to acknowledge that the stories themselves don’t mean as much as we once believed. And what happens when we deprioritize something which has maintained a strict boundary on our lives for so long? Freedom happens, independence from all that ever held us back, kept us feeling small or afraid, less than or not worthy of. When the need for a narrative loses its importance, perception becomes fluid, and we begin to ride the wave of beautiful, ever-evolving patterns and colors. Endless opportunities, sensations, connections, and reflections start to knock at our door because we’ve stopped limiting ourselves to only those which fit our comfortable mold. In time, we become keen observers as we twist the dial of our kaleidoscope until we land on a picture which serves our best and truest Self in any given moment. This practice of observations serves as a stark reminder of our ability to chooseour perspective, and therefore chose our freedom, with every situation that arises.
I know it may sound absolutely crazy, but I believe, with all of my heart, that an ongoing sense of independence from the everyday sufferings of life is undoubtedly possible. I believe it because I’m living it. I’ve created this life and nurtured this mindset which feed off of fluidity and the understanding that nothing is fixed or permanent. I intentionally set my ego aside (in other words, I place my hand on the knob), check in with my Self, and choose the story which aligns with my highest good (the turning of the knob). Doing so requires compassion, understanding, flexibility, and an open mind. The authentic picture that shows up as the knob turns may not be the one you wanted or expected, but it will be beautiful, it will send your heart soaring, and it will serve as a symbol of your effort to choose a life driven by freedom.