Last month we celebrated Juneteenth. This weekend we celebrate July 4th.
An Independence day is a reminder that we live in a free world. Very often that freedom is hard earned. Sometimes, as we are currently witnessing, the struggle for freedom continues for years beyond the independence day.
Celebrating independence days, whether July 4th or the Indian Independence day (which I celebrated as a child, still do) is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of independence and freedom.
Why is independence important?
What does it mean to be free?
Do you feel free? If not, what will it take to be completely free?
I won't get too much into why independence is important. It's fairly obvious. Each human being is born with unique talents and abilities. Each one of us is equal. We must strive to create a society where everyone is celebrated. Where everyone is given equal access to opportunities, a space to truly shine and express who they are.
This can happen in an independent society.
At least that's the vision. A vision worth striving for.
But, is freedom only important at the level of the country?
As I envision it, there are three levels of freedom:
Societal / Country- This is the freedom of a country or a society, where citizens govern themselves.
Interpersonal / Family- This is the freedom to genuinely be yourself in relationships.
Even though a country may be free, an individual citizen may still not feel free.
Differences between who you are, and the notions of who you should be can be severely inhibiting. Even if you don't impose those constraints on you, other people may. You may feel stifled by how the other people around you want you to be.
Interpersonal freedom means you can be who you are in all your relationships. You can express yourself genuinely. You don't have to hide yourself.
This includes freedom at work to express yourself authentically. Without having to hide your culture, your identity.
Without this freedom, we feel suffocated. This freedom is essential for us to thrive in our environment. To chase our dreams, & live up to our potential. Interpersonal freedom helps us create happy families, contribute meaningfully at work, and feel like we belong.
Individual / Inner- This is freedom that you feel inside.
Inner freedom allows you to believe in yourself. When you feel free inside, you have the conviction to stand for your ideals, and the courage to follow your dreams.
Inner freedom is the knowledge that you are in charge of your happiness. It's the freedom from obsession of what others think about you.
Inner freedom is what makes you truly feel good about yourself & your choices in life. It's the freedom to be who you really are, when alone and with other people.
This freedom is the key to real happiness - a happiness not easily shaken by external circumstances.
Take a moment to reflect- Do you enjoy all three in life? To what degree?
All three are necessary for a happy life. All three support each other. But they can also exist independently.
The one we focus most on is Societal freedom. But it's not complete without interpersonal & individual freedom.
Without interpersonal and individual freedom, societal freedom cannot be truly brought into experience, or enjoyed by its citizens.
The one that we ignore the most is individual or Inner freedom. If you have inner freedom, you can smile even if you don't live in a free world. There have been multiple examples of people who have been full of wisdom, joy and fearlessness, even though they were born in an oppressed society.
Inner freedom is the catalyst for a fulfilled and realized life.
How do you gain Inner freedom?
It takes work. Some people are gifted with it. For some, the unconditional love of their parents and elders creates a strong foundation for it. But whether you are gifted with it, were loved by your parents or not, you can still gain inner freedom.
How can you do that?
By working on your inner self.
First become aware that you have an inner world.
We are always looking outside. But there is a whole world inside you. A world of your inner dialogue, hopes, dreams, beliefs, concerns and pleasures. You are a rich, complex, beautiful being.
Just close your eyes to see inside.
But don't sleep.
Stay focused inwards without sleeping - in other words meditate.
With meditation you can develop the habit of focusing inwards. This ability can also help you journal, reflect, & contemplate. You can develop a comfort with looking inwards through meditation.
Looking inwards, and noticing your patterns is the first step in gaining freedom from them.
Meditation is the tool that allows you to slice through the forest of ignorance, and clear your inner space.
This work will need patience and perseverance. And I am here to support you through it. Learn more
Finding inner freedom is a life long learning. But you will be rewarded immensely if you work on it. You don't need to wait to reach a distant destination to gain rewards on this journey. You will start getting glimpses of that inner freedom right away.
How will you know you are free from inside?
You may notice it in your non-response to a trigger. Or when other people’s actions don't bother you. You may find yourself creating your own happiness rather than wanting it from other people. Or you may feel a sense of peace, purpose and joy for no reason.
You will find it in your strength to chase your dreams even if the whole world tells you not to. Or in your courage to stand up for what's right.
You will know it a thousand small ways. And those will be beautiful days.
Let’s celebrate our inner freedom, as much as we celebrate the freedom in our outside world.
May each of us celebrate many milestones of inner freedom in the days to come.