No limits, or constraints.  No strictures or structures, right?  To be able to do or be whatever you choose?  

freedom is riding a bicycleWhen I first started writing, “fiend or foe” came out :-). While that really isn’t what I mean, and despite the Freudian typo slip, it is true that I have a perplexing, unclear relationship to the word, the concept… even the experience.  Freedom: friend or foe? expresses it pretty well.  

What exactly do I mean by that, and how come it seems this way, at least at this point in my journey?  Here are some dimensions of the conundrum.  It doesn’t seem to me that I am viscerally afraid of freedom, although Jack Kornfield’s blog today, Fear of Freedom, which inspired these musings, is provocative.  

Jean Paul Sartre suggests, “People often prefer a very limited, punishing regime—rather than face the anxiety of freedom.” That doesn’t immediately resonate either, off the top.  It’s not the anxiety that grabs me, and concerns me, although I may be deluding myself here.  That’s always a possibility.  I don’t think I’d settle willingly for a punishing regime, or a cramped down style.  So what’s my puzzle?  Why not embrace freedom and be done with it?

I think actually it’s the pursuit of freedom that I resist.  Holding freedom as a goal, somehow the highest, total liberation, doesn’t sit well with me.  Some spiritual approaches seem to hold out freedom, as the be all, end all. Freedom from suffering, constraints, patterns, ego structures…  

What seems true for me now is that I actually like this life as it is, and by many standards, my life is not “free”.  But the struggles, the ups and downs, the joys, and sorrows, the triumphs and disappointments, the peaks and the valleys, are integral to the richness; I love the grappling, the learning, transformation, the insights…being part of the evolution of awareness and consciousness.  

Freedom to make mistakes

I don’t strive, or even want to be free of the cycles of birth and death.  I relish them.  If there is rebirth, bring it on 🙂 If there is not, OK, that’s fine too.  What matters to me is to live (each) life fully.  

For some, the experience of total freedom could be the best expression of that.  (And I’m certainly not saying that my views have any value as generalizations, just that they are what’s alive for me right now.)  For me, I am relishing my preferences, my uniqueness, my quirkiness, the habits and structures that define me, also give me a lot of pleasure.  What seem paramount is the capacity to accept and truly be with, feel, hold, embrace what is, the contrasts, the waves of emotions, the storms, the calm…I guess I could say I relish the journey more than any destination.

There is so much more to say, feel, explore, but posts that go on and on are annoying, so I’ll close with a selection of quotes that appeal to me.  

     Mahatma Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Love it!  

     “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Ralph Ellison

      “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” Jim Morrison

      “No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it” Paulo Cohelo

      “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”  🙂 David Foster Wallace

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”  Erin Hanson

Freedom for allI also want to acknowledge that I am writing this from a very privileged place.  I, and most of us reading this enjoy the Four Freedoms Franklin Roosevelt reference in his famous speech.  It’s easy to relate loosely to freedom, when I already have lots.

What is your relationship to freedom? Your comments and questions are most welcome.

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook :-)

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