As July 4th draws near I keep thinking of the concept of freedom. Naturally, right? After all, July 4th is all about freedom. Freedom from the rule of the British Empire specifically coupled with a deep appreciation for our founding fathers for their wisdom and clarity.
But, being a Yogi and Ayurvedi, my contemplation turns inward and goes deeper than that. With all the freedom I have outwardly, I ask myself, how free am I inside?
While independence day is of course more about the freedom of our nation, I strongly believe that freedom has to start with each one of use. Outer freedom is great, but without inner freedom we have nothing.
Being grateful for outer freedom
Contemplating on what freedom means to me, my first thought goes toward all the outer freedom I am able to enjoy. Being a woman born in the West, I am grateful for all the education, opportunities and freedom of choice I have had in my life compared to other women around the world.
I am able to travel wherever I want, work in whatever profession I choose, have children or not without being shunned, have lovers without being married and stay out dancing all night should I wish to do so.
So the first thing is, I am grateful how free I am outwardly.
Freedom brings choice and requires effort
Then my mind moves on to the realization that freedom requires effort and comes with responsibility. The more free I am, the more choices I need to make and the more decisions I am faced with.
Instead of being ruled by others I need to start ruling myself. Simply following rules for the sake of following rules is no longer an option. So I end up needing to create values for myself, how I want to live, eat, dress and socialize.
For me, taking self responsibility raises many questions:
- How do I want to feed myself so I can experience optimal freedom in my body?
- How much self-care vs service is balanced so I foster inner joy and spread it too?
- What are my values and how can I implement them into my daily life?
- How do I want to use my time?
- Which people do I want to hang out with?
- What work am I called to do? What is my purpose?
- What is my vision for the future and in what way do I want to contribute to that vision?
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”
In other words, being truly free requires me to answer these questions with clarity and confidence. It requires deep soul searching. It requires removing all toxic layers in the physical, mental and emotional bodies so I can let the light shine from the inside out. Yoga and Ayurveda have taught me a lot about how to create inner freedom and showed me a path to take on that responsibility with ease. It all started with my body.
What does inner freedom mean?
Of course, I love the outer freedom I have but also realize that having outer freedom without inner freedom is not enough. In fact, outer freedom is a nice start but without inner freedom we have nothing.
I may be free to choose a career (outer freedom) but may not be able to make a choice because I am an emotional basket case. I may be free to travel (outer freedom) but I may not have figured out my food & lifestyle routines so traveling ends up being too hard on my body; so I end up staying home.
Inner Freedom to me means:
- Having a body that is well functioning, and managing the cause and effect of my food and lifestyle choices skillfully
- Being able to navigate my emotional life with ease
- Having relationships that are meaningful, mutually nurturing and supportive
- Having the ability to discard outdated belief systems and adopt newer, better ones at will
- Seeing and acting on my purpose from a space of clarity
We can put ourselves in a straight jacket by living a life we despise, by surrounding ourselves with people that don’t serve us, by eating foods that clog our consciousness, by living a lifestyle that is depleting. Inner freedom to me is to create the body, lifestyle and life I desire.
I look at July 4th as an opportunity to assess my life from the viewpoint of inner freedom, to reflect on what have I grown out of and how I want to grow next.
Create inner freedom
Before you jump into the barbecue party with your friends and loved ones, spend some time in the morning hours to reflect on the level of freedom you experience inside. Here is a 10 min inquiry practice for you. You will need a quiet corner, and pen and paper:
- Center yourself: Sit and breathe for a few moment to arrive in the present moment.
- Journal: Pick up pen and paper and brainstorm….
- What does freedom MEAN to you? Write 5-10 sentences or until you feel empty. Use the sentence stem. To me, freedom means…
- What areas or your life do you feel caught in? Think in categories like finances, relationships, career, fun, health (body, mind, emotions)
- What areas of your life do you feel free in? Again, think in categories.
- Circle one or two things that popped out at you that you want to uplevel over the next 90 days.
- What are 2 or 3 specific action steps you can take this week to make that happen?
For example for me, I want to uplevel my financial life. One specific action step this week is to make an appointment with a financial advisor to help me outline a financial plan for the next 20 years. For you, you may want to uplevel your body. So your action step may be to sign up for yoga classes at your local gym or to find a health coach to help you along the path (me, me, me…. for example. Just saying).
After you are done with your inquiry practice, pause and take it in. Awareness is the first step to change. Inquiry practices such as this are a powerful tool to create that awareness. The awareness is your “what needs to happen”. Once the What is there the How can arrive.