Freedom. It seems like we know what it means.
Ditto with independence.
But did you decide on your definitions or were they fed to you like so many burgers and dogs? NOTE: This is not a leading question, and I am not throwing lazy anti-establishment shade at the USA on Independence Day.
I’m a word-nerd. I like words with multiple meanings, and I even enjoy tracking how meanings change, and when, and in which contexts. What I don’t dig is when I assume I know what a word means and how to use it, when it’s not actually clear.
When we use words that are defined for us by someone else, without clarifying what they mean to ourselves, stuff can get pretty messy. The problem is that even if the meaning of a word is hijacked, the word doesn’t lose its power. It retains the original power and adds another, often distorted, dimension to it. This distortion seems innocuous but carries concealed toxicity.
The real trouble hits when the word is used. We use language to express ourselves. But when we express ourselves with someone else’s idea, without knowing that we’re doing so, the storedpoison proliferates, even if it remains undetected. If this goes on for a long time, it’s possible for the poison to spread in ways we can’t imagine, until all of a sudden it’s leached into the earth, air and water and people start dying. Words can actually cost lives.
Today is the day the US was born. It’s a birthday! And birthdays are complicated. I wonder if America is nervous that people won’t show up to her party? Or if she feels guilty for being born? Or if she is gonna get inappropriately wasted? Does America get birthday sex?
We are celebrating her Birth and her freedom! Independence! From the British! Right? Is that what we’re doing today? Or are we celebrating something else?
Again, I have no horse in this race. I am grateful for what I have. I love the US because I was born here, and I think we’re born where we’re born for a bunch of good karmic reasons. By karmic I don’t mean to imply that we are born where we deserve to be born because we did well or screwed up. I mean that our birth place is part of a huge set of given circumstances that make up the foundation of what we’re working with in this life: what we have, what we don’t, what we have to overcome, what we use to learn.
Mostly I love the US because I am aware that the freedoms we take for granted here are inconceivable in so many parts of the world. I may have been taught definitions for freedom and independence, but I was eventually able come to my own conclusions about the meaning of the words. The very fact that I can write a post about freedom, today, without someone stopping me is proof of the freedom I have that so many do not. That has to be honored.
All I want to offer here is how I’m thinking about freedom today, and hopefully to get you thinking about freedom as well.
What does it mean to be free? Is it about escaping tyranny? Then you’re free?
Is it about overthrowing your oppressors? Conquering? Then you’re free?
I argue that if your freedom requires you to retreat or attack, it’s not really freedom.
True freedom, as I see it, cannot be relative to anything. It must be inherent, unconditional, unaffiliated. It must be able to stand alone. Otherwise how can it be free?
If you have to attack, that’s not freedom because you are being compelled to engage something. If you have to rebel, that’s not freedom because you are still rebelling against something.
There may be plenty of reasons to fight for freedom (like WWII) or surrender for freedom (like Gandhi), but these reasons are not freedom in themselves. They are actions taken on behalf of freedom, or in the name of freedom. They are actions that use the idea of freedom as a justification.
This is the equivalent of using a word that you don't know the exact meaning of. It's probably fine at first, until, little by little, it's not fine anymore. Not at all.
The good news is, there's a little space inside of us all that is always free. I might argue this is the only space inside of us that matters. It is some part of us, somewhere within us, that is totally unconditioned and unaffiliated; that is pure, that is clear, that is free.
It might be the quietest place within you, or the stillest. It might be the loudest, or the freakiest. But it's there. You'll know it when you encounter it because it feels like you. It is enough. It works. It makes you feel fantastic.
And most importantly it doesn't require you to DO anything. It needs no step forward or step back, no attack or retreat. It is still, and in it's stillness it is untethered, unfettered, unlimited.
You are unlimited.
And yet, the shitstorms keep raining. Awesome. What then?
When I was a kid I was chubby, and I was really good at floating. Like the best. I didn't like running or jumping or pretty much any sports. I tolerated swimming because I liked the water. But I frickin' LOVED to float. I was the best at floating.
When I hit puberty I dropped some pounds and then, one summer, at the beach, I realized I couldn't float anymore. I did not like this. My legs kept sinking, my arms flailing, my head bobbing under the water. "Must be cuz I lost weight," I thought. Maybe it was all my blubber that let me chill like a whale. But that wasn't comforting. I loved to float, I was the best floater. I got pissed.
Getting pissed didn't help. Then one day a wise teacher said to me, "You're tense. Relax, let go, let the water hold you." It was weird. He was right. I struggled some more, then suddenly released, and bam. I was floating again.
Freedom is like floating. You have to relax into it whenever you get the chance. The problems will come, the atrocities will occur (and it's more and more likely that they will occur, are occurring, and have already occurred outside our own doors), but if you know what YOUR FREEDOM FEELS LIKE, you will smell it, feel it, sense it coming.
This is good, because these days, real freedom, real floating is hard to come by without looking for it. You can't just float anymore. You can'tt get too comfortable with your freedom, because the meaning of that word may have changed since you last checked in. But the acceptance, the relaxation, the release required to float are all criteria that can dramatically increase your ability to find freedom in the midst of the crappiest currents.
My mom woke me up too early this AM. I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to rebel, to conquer, I wanted to escape, to go back to sleep, to frickin' whine. But mom was up. She wanted to go the beach. I was not floating. I was not free. I was tired, and I was pissed. I felt the absurdity of myself being an idiot and creating so much unnecessary drama. I put my suit on and went to the beach with my mom. I didn't attack. I didn't retreat. I went to the beach and I sat.
"This is freedom," I thought. In this moment, I am lucky enough to have no problems. This moment is always available, even if only for a moment. I sat completely still. I wanted to write this feeling down so I could share it. But I didn't dare. I sat so still.
And THEN the cutest, whiskery-est, slipperiest, greyest seal poked his head out of the water directly in front of where my mom and I were sitting. We jumped! I grabbed my phone and looked up Seal medicine.
I found this, from www.shamanicjourney.com: "Seals are (obviously) sea mammals, and are highly symbolic of our feeling, sensual selves. The seal helps us to remember our connection to our deep inner rhythms, feelings, and knowing, as represented by the sea... When we are afraid of drowning in these depths, Seal being a good swimmer and knowing how to flow with the ever changing current, reminds us how to swim with the current. When we do this, the negative feelings we have created such as worry, fear and anxiety are released form our minds. If Seal enters your life you are being asked to review the ebb and flow of your thoughts and emotions and find and keep up a point of balance."
I like the idea of flowing, so very much. But in that moment, when Seal popped his snout out of the blue, I prefer to think he was floating. Still. Happy. And Free. Whatever he did next would be in his flow. I respected the his flow. It made me want to be like him. Good thing I'm growing my beard out. I dove in the water and practiced.
I floated. I flowed. I went up, and down. And I felt pretty free. On this Independence Day, may we all find the perfect balance between flowing and floating. May we all know freedom.
Millions of thanks to everyone and everything that has created, sustained, and supported true freedom, in the US and around the world. Oceans of love to all those living under tyranny, delusion, and separation. May we all know freedom now. Today.
With Love and Firecracker Light,