Freedom implies being free of something, and it can also mean being free of everything. You are free of a thing when it has no hold on you, and when you have no hold on it. Then you are in harmony with life.
The freedom that most people seek is really a temporary relief from problems. No permanent relief is possible as long as one is attached to impermanent things.
The common understanding of freedom is that you get and keep everything you want, and avoid or dispose of everything you don’t want. However the things you want will eventually change or disappear, and things you don’t want will continue to appear at unexpected times. Once this is seen and deeply understood then you become open to real freedom.
Are you free to do what you love? Are you free to love what you are doing? Are you free to meet whatever arises with love? If not then you will experience uncertainty, anxiety, confusion and fear, which announce to you that you are moving away from freedom.
Anything that enters your awareness is a part of you. You know this to be true to the extent that you can see yourself as being greater than the boundary of your own body. This is similar to how a baby begins to discover that its hand or its foot is a part of its physical body. The next stage of spiritual maturity, beyond thinking of yourself as a spiritual individual, is to see everything as being part of your self.
Your experience of freedom increases as you outgrow your limited self, your individual self. That is not to imply that you should abandon your personal identity but rather to simply recognise that your personal identity is a part of your greater being.
As you become increasingly free of the limiting aspects of your personal identity, you give up the strong desire for control and domination in favour of spontaneous engagement and collaboration. Where you once said, “This is how it must be”, you might now say, “This is how I’d like it to be, however I’m open to discover other possibilities”. The latter approach in itself frees you from the frustrations of events not unfolding as you had expected.
A free person understands that psychological stress is caused not by circumstances but by beliefs. Circumstances might cause pain but only dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs can cause suffering. Pain is the physical sensation caused by injury while suffering is the negative emotional sensation caused by thoughts and imaginings of injury. Knowing this, reflect on the stories you have told yourself about past problems. Are your stories freeing you or keeping you trapped in suffering? Can you let them go?
Nothing can upset a person who is free. In practical terms that means they cannot be upset for long because they understand the impermanence of things. Not clinging to things they allow them to come and go as easily as possible.
Your inner freedom makes you a more integrated and functional part of the whole. If you are truly free then you will naturally act in the best interest of others, and your being established in freedom creates an opening for others to be free.
Photo: Cook Islands by Benedict Adam