Today is the 4th of July, the day the United States celebrates freedom. Monday was Canada Day, another celebration of freedom. As a citizen of both countries, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what freedom means to me.
As a child and young adult, freedom meant freedom FROM – parental control, men who treated me poorly, freedom from sexism and racism and other “isms.” These were all things I thought were outside me, things over which I believed I had no control and could change by making other change their behaviors and policies.
As a matured, my belief in fighting against things I thought were outside me and against the people who created the policies and structures didn’t change, I also saw freedom as my freedom to DO – the freedom to do the work I wanted , the freedom to make a difference in my own life and the lives of others.
When I was in my late 40’s, I started working in the First Nations (American Indian) communities. I got the hint that freedom could mean something deeper. I was introduced to the idea that my thoughts made a difference. Up to that time, I hadn’t paid much attention to the random thoughts that went through my head constantly. I certainly didn’t think they made a difference.
I also got introduced to the idea that by changing my thoughts, my life would change. I heard that by changing my thoughts, those things I believed were outside me would be impacted and might change as well. That idea was only a glimmer in my consciousness. I had grown up with such a strong belief in dualistic thinking, and from experiences as a child, I’d built such a strong barrier around myself, really accepting that belief was like a seed trying to grow without soil and nutrients. I heard the teaching and had no idea what it really meant.
In 2008, I was at such a low point in my life that I allowed myself to grab hold of the lifeline that the philosophy of Ernest Holmes and Science of Mind offered me. The glimmer of the idea I had caught 30 years previously now had a fertile field in which to grow. Letting go of my shields and barriers hasn’t come easily. In the face of other’s belief in me, I have started living spiritual beliefs, including the one about changing my thinking.
I don’t think this is only a function of age. Since I’ve been attending Centers for Spiritual Living (Science of Mind was so often confused with Scientology that the centers are now Centers for Spiritual Living), I’ve witnessed young people grow up with this philosophy with a very different sense of themselves than I did. They still do life with all of its growing pains and they do it without that strong sense of “us vs. them” that was my burden. Freedom for these young people – and more and more for myself – is the freedom to BE: to be love, to be creativity in action, to be joy, peace and kindness, the freedom to choose.
In the United States, we hear a lot about the need to protect our freedoms. We talk about freedom while we separate children from their parents and warehouse them. We talk about freedom while our neighbors live in tent camps. We talk about freedom while people of color, particularly men of color, have to live on high alert and high watchfulness for being profiled and singled out for different treatment by police and neighbors.
I know that speaking about and paying attention to injustices is important. What is most important is where we’re coming from while doing those things. Are we coming from a place of love for the people and policies we’re speaking about or are we coming from a place that imagines those people and events are somehow separate and different from us, like I did for much of my life.
On this July 4th, I’m celebrating my freedom to choose how and what I think, my freedom to choose my emotions, my freedom to BE love.