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True Freedom: 5 Things to Let Go and Feel Free
What It means to be Really Free?
Living in a free or democratic society does not mean that we are “free.” For the same token living in a communist or dictatorial system doesn't necessarily imply a “lack of inner freedom.” Yes, I am talking about how we “feel as a person.” After all it is all in the mind, as they say.
History, if defined merely as a chronicle of wars and invasions, can only say about freedom, or lack of it, in a society. If you have your own government and a mighty military, you can defend your freedom against any outside aggression; this is what history can tell and nothing more. But how free you actually are in your own country, on your own land and protected by your own army is something only you can know and feel. Yes, be absolutely clear that no one else has the power to decide how free you should be feeling.
Why we perennially feel as if something is missing, as if we are not living up to our full capacity, as if we are not in full control of ourselves, and as if we are a prisoner of our habits and tendencies? We apparently have every material comfort but the sense of spontaneous joy is somehow not there; and the feeling of a kind of emptiness doesn't go away. Unfortunately, we get no training in schools or universities to help us handle this sense of empty and limited living.
Why We Feel Limited?
Before we get to the solution it helps to know what keeps us “bonded” inside. Once we realize the nature of walls confining us, we have a chance to think about the possible ways to come out.
We are in fact imprisoned by the conditioning of the mind. Today what we are is a result of the life we went through, the experiences we accumulated, the traumas we faced (or could not face) and the thinking patterns we nurtured. In brief, the past has shaped us; and it is still dictating the present. There is nothing unusual about it; we are all like that. The important point is: as long as the past conditioning continues to shape our actions today then we are no more than mere puppets. We know very well that puppets are not free; their actions are dictated by how the strings are pulled. They are just robots; remote controlled robots.
To a large extent this is true of us, though in a less dramatic way.
What can We do about It?
We are however different from the puppets or robots in a crucial way: we have (or can develop) awareness that enables us to recognize the strings binding us. Once we spot these strings we can take steps to cut them off and liberate ourselves.
The only way to free ourselves is to let go – really letting go from the mind. Letting go is the art that opens the door to freedom – emotional freedom. Without real letting go there is no real freedom.
How do I know what I am supposed to let go? Yes, I won’t know until I develop awareness – self awareness. It is also called mindfulness; or alertness, loosely speaking.
Fortunately, there are just a few things that need to let go. They are well recognized once we develop awareness. Awareness helps us “let go” of our conditioned response which is, so to speak, compulsive, automatic or robotic. We have been “conditioned” to act, behave or respond in a certain way. Awareness brings them in the realm of consciousness where we can change our response in terms of thinking, behavior or action. “Letting go” is the best universal response that expands our emotional freedom.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. – Dalai Lama
If you haven’t any charity in the heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. – Jesse Jackson
The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. – James Oppenheim
A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy? – Albert Einstein
Accepting others as they are – their looks, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes – brings you peace of mind by saving you from anger and resentment. – Unknown
Do you feel dissatisfied with life?
What to Let Go?
All our conditionings show up in the form of our beliefs and thinking patterns – rational or irrational – that we picked up while growing up and now almost ossified and fixed; as emotional debris from difficult moments in our past and which are lurking around to traumatize us at the slightest invitation; as attachments to people and material possessions; as strong hatred and dislikes; as fears and phobias;
There are just a few basic things that we need to recognize and then learn to let go.
1. Attachments: This is the most basic human inclination which is at the root of perhaps all miseries. It is nothing but a strong liking for anything. All attachments take emotional flavor; the deeper the emotional involvement the greater is the potential for pain. While it was the Buddha who pointed out attachment as the root cause of suffering, it is a universal fact. The danger of attachment is the fear of losing it. For example, you like your job – it is ideal for you. Then situations change, you end up losing it. It suddenly becomes highly painful. Why? It was your emotional attachment that is giving you pain. If you had carried out with the attitude that – Well, it is a good job and I like it, it gives me satisfaction and money both but let me not forget that things can change – then losing it would have been less painful. The ideal antidote to attachment is keeping the big picture in mind and knowing that sooner or later things change.
Relations are the biggest source of attachments. Satisfaction is attachment demands status quo; any change is the beginning of dissatisfaction. In reality nothing lasts for ever, therefore seeking satisfaction in attachment is like walking on slippery ground.
2. Ill-will: It can take any shade, from mild dislike, resentment, prejudice or grudge to strong hatred. In fact, every hatred is born out of dislike converting into ill will. The more we ruminate the stronger the ill-will becomes; it its extreme avatar it turns into intolerable hatred or repulsion. Therefore, the sane and safe way is to never nurture the thoughts of ill will; else it will turn into a bigger monster that will suck all your energies.
3. Self Pity: Most often we don’t need enemies; we ourselves go into self-devouring mode. If ill-will is directed towards others, with self pity we targets our own selves. It is a brilliant art of self-destruction, self-degradation and self-annihilation. We inflict pain on ourselves through self-mortification and self-torture. It is actually ill-will turned inwards. When practiced in extreme form, it gives birth to suicidal tendencies. So watch yourself damaging thoughts and let them go before they start taking root in the mind.
4. Ego: This is the hardest thing to tame. In fact, taming a monster of nightmares is easier. A hurting ego is perhaps the most destructive weapon – whether turned inwards or outwards. It is the mother of both ill-will and self pity. It is certainly not possible to eliminate its damaging influence altogether but can be minimized with care and awareness. Self control is the key to discipline the ego. The best way to keep this beast away is to develop skills to behave in impersonal and non-egoistic ways.
5. Fears and Insecurities: These are the source of all stress and anxieties. Mix up teaspoons of ill will, self pity and ego and you have a perfect recipe for high blood pressure, heart troubles and so on. This cocktail is the most effective way to destroy health, inner peace and joy. Even the best brain in the world can’t perform well in the presence of fears and insecurities. Unfortunately, as societies develop people tend to live with more fears and greater insecurities. The most effective antidote for fears is to face them head on, if possible. It is not a good idea to change course because of fear. Incidentally, as one learns to reduce attachments, ill-will and self pity it also diminishes fears, because after all fear is nothing but the perceived pain of losing something.
Finally, the letting go of these five things necessarily involves changes in attitudes, ways of thinking and the belief system. The practice of mindfulness provides an ideal platform to achieve that. By providing you with a bigger and more comprehensive picture of life, it puts these five traits into the right perspective. They will no longer dictate your behavior as they did in the past. Each small step you take to recognize and stay away from the automatic (habitual) response, it is a big step forward into the realm of freedom. The more you practice the freer you become, from the past conditioning. This is true liberation! Simple to understand.
My personal weapon has been mindfulness meditation for almost two decades. It is a simple yet highly effective technique, even therapists are recognizing it. It is easy to learn and easy to practice. But different people have different preferences and choose techniques that suit them the best.
The bottom line is, don’t remain disillusioned: since you live in a democracy you are free. This freedom is social freedom and is wonderful but the real freedom is the freedom within, when the mind is free of all its negative tendencies, ego problems and self-limiting beliefs. It is your right as a human being to evolve beyond what you think you are!
Wish you a really Free Day!