I grew up with my mind harping a lot about freedom. I hated that schools limited what I do, when I do, and how I do something. Eventually, these grouses continued in my work-life too. As a young person, freedom was about doing whatever I want, however I want, and whenever I want. Then I got married and became a mum.
The reality as a mum is that you can’t do whatever you want, however you want, and whenever you want. You just can’t. Period.
Feeding needs to be done, breasts needed to be pumped, diapers needed to be changed, crying needed to be soothed, and the list goes on. Yet when I look back now, I can’t imagine life happening any other way. How else would I then learn the difference between freedom and true freedom?
I plunged into years of seeking and searching just so that I could feel free. Free from what I didn’t like, from difficulties, from the norms and social expectations. It took a long while to see I was looking for scapegoats to be responsible for the ‘stuckness’ I felt. I was looking to be free from external boundaries — and it kept me locked in endless sufferings. The irony was that I had gotten stuck in the very notion of freedom.
I begin to see that true freedom is about being free from the inner boundaries. And I had so many wrapped around my bitterness.
“I can’t travel with a kid.”
“I can’t escape this responsibility.”
“I can’t feel happy if I am not free.”
All these grouses I had for the lack of control over my time — maybe I had to learn to soften the attachments to control or to the belief that I can own time.
The constant binging on social media and food to assert my freedom? Maybe that kept me caged in a vicious cycle of negativity and shame.
One day, I sat in complete surrender and whispered to myself, “this is so hard” and allowed the tiredness to permeate my entire being and the resentment to sear through my heart. A new freedom was found at the core of my being when I opened to this pain within. I don’t have to run or hide anymore.
These got me pondering. Maybe true freedom is cultivated and not a birthright by nature. Possibly, a skill gained through a lifelong journey of cultivating range — internal range. The range to ‘feel’ free regardless of what is happening externally. We might never be free from difficulties, tumultuous emotions or thoughts, yet we need not be bound by the resistance towards them. What if they come and go on their own more easily when we don’t get in the way?
When I take a timeout and sit in meditation practice, my thoughts and emotions can run wild. It is in the intention and essence of my practice that I don’t care if the thoughts are wild or that the emotions are screeching against my skin. I don’t have to fix them. Just as I don’t have to fix my home, or my kid, or my life when I sit. I just sit.
A space that is somewhat bigger than the chaos I attempt to fight daily is allowed to emerge. This sitting here in chaos somehow can feel alright and safe. This gradually became my daily ‘training’ in freedom. A sense of ease, and wholeness. Nothing but a spacious holding of what is here.
When I open my eyes again, I can choose to go back to my grinding, or I may not. Whatever I choose, I know now, the space exists. The space that can hold whatever life may present in the next moment.
Alas.. maybe just by knowing I always have space for choices, is freedom.