“Now that she had nothing to lose, she was free.” -Paulo Coelho
Sometimes life feels so free. We have space and time, and choices, and feel alive and inspired. Freedom fills every nook and corner of life and our souls are soaring high in the sky, right alongside the clouds and birds. Sometimes life feels so stuck and bound like we are shackled down by heavy chains with nothing but the darkness of a tunnel hitting a dead-end ahead of us.
Freedom appears to be such a fickle and faithless attendant. One moment it’s here. The next moment it’s not. Much like happiness and love, it is fleeting and capricious in nature. But what happens when you decide to dedicate your life to freedom? What happens then? And what happens when all you want is freedom, yet it appears hidden, no matter how much you search? When I was 23, I was drunk with the idea of living a life filled and fuelled by freedom. The idea alone infatuated me. It was at this tender age that I made a vow to myself to dedicate my life to creating, knowing, understanding, cultivating and teaching freedom.
With this resolution, I discovered one unexpected and startling thing: everything I believed to be true up to this point, was not.
I embarked on a journey of unlearning everything I had been taught and rediscovering the world, life and myself, with new eyes. Instead of chasing goals and achievements, I learned to tune into feeling and being present. I stopped caring about what other people expected of me and started paying attention to what felt right for me.
Instead of doing all the right things I was supposed to do to get a good job, I chose to follow my curiosity, heart, and instinct. I decided not to become a psychologist after all and ended my studies after completing my undergraduate degree, embarking instead on an unconventional path of working in the creative world of music festivals.
Instead of fighting for being right, I surrendered into being equanimous. I learned that there is no right or wrong, black or white. Everyone holds a piece of the puzzle from their unique perspective. The human experience is limited from being all-knowing. When I recognized and accepted this, I felt instantly free.
Instead of cramming my mind with insecurities and trying to look like other people through rigorous exercise routines, self-loathing and cycles of starving and binge-eating, I softened my view of myself. I started walking every day and spending time in nature. I ate what I felt like when I felt hungry and celebrated instead of feared food. Instantly, I lost weight and relaxed into a healthy, natural weight and body shape. Instead of buying all the shiniest, newest, most-coveted objects, I developed a deep connection with the universe which left me feeling richer than anything I had ever owned. I sold everything I didn’t need and lived out of a suitcase.
Instead of chasing after boys and seeking out the perfect relationship, I grew into an intimate committed relationship with myself. I became unashamedly selfish, the way that Buddha teaches us to be. I learned that it is not my job to satisfy and please others. Each of these choices was part of the untethering that set me free. As it turns out, much like happiness and love, freedom is a choice.
“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” – Rumi
Choosing freedom is literally a moment to moment decision that you get to make.
It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you are doing. Freedom is, after all, a feeling. I always ask myself, even when I don’t feel free “What would make me feel freer than this, right now?“. I listen. And do that. I nudge myself back to freedom. Little by little, choice by choice. Until freedom is breathing fresh air into my lungs, expanding my heart, breaking me open again and flooding me with love and sweet, sweet relief. Choosing freedom feels like coming home.
Yet, it must be said, there is another discovery that comes with the invitation of freedom. The discovery that, from this moment on, life will be lived very differently. There is a cost, for freedom. At times this cost may seem almost unbearable. Yearning for freedom is easy. It fills an unquenchable thirst for adventure, discovery, self-expression, choice, abundance, joy, love, creativity, generosity and expansion. Choosing freedom takes commitment, courage, strength and unwavering trust.
Here is how to choose freedom when you don’t feel free
It means choosing to feel free in ordinary moments.
To see beauty, magic, and miracles in the mundane. Choosing to experience freedom, right here, right now even though it feels hard, and you’d truly rather run away.
Choosing freedom is an art. It means opening up and saying “yes” and “thank you” to life and lessons even when we feel most broken, most vulnerable, and most like turning our backs and closing our hearts.
To choose freedom, you have to believe that it is worth persevering for.
Freedom, contrary to popular belief, is not all open starry skies and limitless options. Sometimes it’s trudging for miles, feeling outcast, alone and separate from the world. It’s seeing the truth all around you, and being unable to close your eyes and make it go away and then, still choosing freedom.
To choose freedom, you must have the courage to say what you feel and be who you are, despite what others might think.
It means that you sometimes have to allow yourself to hurt and use that hurt to grow deeper into freedom. To choose freedom means you are willing to face yourself, be present with yourself, and understand that this is an individual journey that you can only do alone. Through this journey, you grow and change and learn what freedom really means.
Choosing freedom means listening to your intuition and knowing the difference between when she tells you to go and when she tells you to stay.
It means not running because you are afraid and not staying because you are frozen by your fears. It’s through these phases of moving and staying still, change and transition, beginnings, and endings, connection, and disconnection, that feeling free becomes your devoted companion.
To choose freedom is to face your fears.
Allowing yourself to feel your fears, to acknowledge them and embrace them, even when it’s the last thing you want to do, means that they dissolve in the face of your innate freedom. Fears are, after all, simply false beliefs that are holding you back from feeling free.
Choosing freedom means to let go.
Letting go of what you believe. Letting go of expectations of others. Letting go of how you think your life should be. Letting go of fitting in a certain box. Letting go of stubbornness. Letting go of who you want to love you. Letting of having things a certain way. It means letting go, and trusting, and having freedom lead.