Freedom. What is it?

What is freedom?

When I have asked people this question, their responses have been both delightfully unique and predictably predictable.  Freedom is time for travel, not having to work, doing whatever it is one wants to do, playing music, volunteering, not having to set an alarm clock every night, eating a limitless amount of cheescake and not gaining weight, experiencing no boundaries. . .

Many people equate freedom with money.  Financial freedom has its many perks that allow for choices that can be bought.  Exotic travel, a newer car, a bigger home, a better body that has been nipped, tucked, and enhanced.  A better wardrobe, more shoes, a bigger closet.

But what about those many things in life that do not have a price tag? Like health, love, laughter, respect, integrity . . . many of the things that ask that an active and committed and mindful choice be made.  Choices about the food we eat, how often we exercise, what kinds of supplements we want to add to our diet.  Our choices to extend love, to share, to forgive someone their humanity – even when we truly do not even feel like it.  Our choices to walk through the walls of our ego for a different view and laugh at ourselves and with others.  Choices to not sell ourselves short too quickly for a short-term solution.  Choices to believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  Always . . . believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  Choices to stay on the sunny side and to believe in optimistic outcomes.  All of these choices . . . we have so much freedom to choose in any given second of any given day from an infinite library of perspectives.

But I sometimes think that I tend to oversimplify . . . especially when I am writing at my old, favorite, beat-up library table with a fire going in the fireplace and a glass of white wine nearby.  There is beautiful music playing and it is official: we are on the sunny side of winter solstice.  I am blessed with so much and choices feel easier when life feels good.

I read East of Eden by John Steinbeck many years ago.  The idea of timshel is discussed – the Hebrew word for thou mayest.    We are born with a sense of free will that allows us to make choices for better or for worse.  Timshel is freedom of the mind, but isn’t it also freedom of the heart entwined with freedom of the mind?  I am not sure how to separate the two.  Which camefirst?  The thought or the feeling?  There are neuro-scientists and neuro-psychologists that can surely answer to this.  There is amazing and impressive research concerning our emotional intelligence and what occurs during an emotional hijacking . . . how our emotional brain races ahead of our rational brain.


Thoughts.  Feelings.  I am convinced that there is an additional element that blends and swirls with our thoughts and our feelings: timshel.  We can accomplish many amazing things; we can meet many goals; we can overcome staggering obstacles.  Amazing and stunning displays of success.  But what came first?  The Thought?  The Feeling that motivates and drives us?  Or the Freedom of Mind that opens the doors that allow our Thoughts and our Feelings to pass vigorously, creatively, and humbly into the worlds and dimensions around us?

john steinbeck quote east of edenWhat is freedom? ” . . . the way is open . . .”  Some definitions of freedom remove obligations but my current definition asks that I embrace responsibility for Freedom of Mind . . . for embracing timshel and understanding that thou mayest means different things to different people.  Defining anything can introduce a wealth of confusion and possibly disagreement.  Words, as wonderful and beautiful and elucidating as they can be, can also limit us in the ways of thou mayest – a blessing of optimism.  “Now that [we] don’t have to be perfect, [we] can be good.”  Simply put . . . what is freedom?  I believe that it is optimism.  Always believing in the possibility that something beautiful has the power to enter into my world. toaster oven


The Beauty of Flying

I seek this. I want to experience beauty in my life.  I want my life to encompass and to express beauty and usefulness and meaning.  I search for beauty all around me. It is all around me.  I use my senses to detect it, experience it, and to make note of it. I record reminders of it with my pen and with my iPhone and with my sketchbook and with my laptop and with the telling of a story.  This is beautiful – and I try to capture it for future reference. . . on the page, on my phone, on my social networking page, on my desktop, on canvas.

Real Beauty takes up residence.  It lives within.  Sometimes in obscurity, but it is there.  Without sensing and experiencing Real Beauty, my inspiration to write flounders for oxygen.  Writing.  Writing dictates my sense of  soul survival.  I will write.  I sit at my desk and salad spin my ideas into various folders on my external hard drive and various flash drives and stretch for oxygen. I breathe to resuscitate my soul’s desire to record that which will give my life meaning.  A reflection, a glimpse of Real Beauty.

All the while, beauty has every opportunity to exhale out of me. Out of my words, my senses, my actions, my intentions. These Hands have the power to create beauty from that which is within. I can make a difference by simply being present.  This is what my humble soul reminds me of on a daily basis: You can make a difference.  You can be the change.  You can create something useful and beautiful.  You have a purpose.  You have purpose.

I think of the day when I was walking down at the harbor and, in the near distance, I saw an older woman with a kite. She was dressed for the wind — which I wasn’t — and she was walking and jerkily working her line to get her kite up into a fresh gust. Her age precluded her from running into the wind. Her face turned back — hoping to watch her kite take flight.

I don’t know why, but this image tugged at me . . . a sadness took hold of my spirit . . . until I realized that she was the one out in the elements seeking to create magic in the sky. I was merely walking off a recent argument with my now ex-boyfriend, knowing that he had extruded a far-from-positive reaction from me in the midst of the discussion.

I was out on that very chilly day wanting to realign my thinking, my sense of being, and my sense of believing. My sense of wonder and beauty and meaning.  I wanted to see some beauty in not succeeding. Not only in my own life but in seeing that wind-less kite on the grass.  The day did not hold a lot of promise of bliss or serenity or flight.

As I approached the woman, I felt a wave of reticence wash over me. Should I offer help? If I do, will that come across as condescending? Should I allow this person her independence and the satisfaction of having accomplished the task on her own once the kite is up in the air?

I know. Too much thinking.  My rational brain was warring with and winning over my emotional brain.  I walked past her and then stopped. There is never harm in offering help if the intention is pure.  Decision made.  I asked.  She said Yes. 

I ran with her kite until she yelled for me to stop. She told me to just toss it up in the air and she could take it from there. I tossed her kite twice before the wind grabbed it. The woman’s eyes were on her kite. She was smiling. Such a small moment of exchange, but I could feel nature’s pulse in the line as the wind grabbed it from my hands. There was truly no tossing on my part involved. The wind did all the work.

As I left, she told me thank-you-so-much.  She didn’t think that she could have raised the kite on her own.  She said that there was a group of people who meet down at the park each Wednesday afternoon and that I should come and bring a kite and join them.

I go to the harbor every Wednesday, but I haven’t brought a kite with me. Instead, I lie on my back on a grassy hill and watch the toss of brilliant colors in the blue sky.  I look for her kite. It is one of the smaller kites, some of them being extraordinarily extravagant and gregarious.

I see her green and red tree frog soaring in the wind, and the incongruity of a frog flying feels ironically beautiful. I am watching something tangibly impossible. I am witnessing a miracle.  And I remind myself that I was able to touch that miracle on a gray-sky day when no one was down at the park but she and I.

Seeing the woman with her Kite Club, it strikes me odd that she was all alone the day that I met her.  Maybe she was chasing her own demons around that day. Maybe she just wanted to catch some wind.  Maybe she just loves to fly her frog.

By me offering to help her, she helped me. She put my mind up into the sky and out of the mire where an unpleasant exchange of words had sunk me. Or more aptly put, where I had sunk me.

I create what I allow.  I witness beauty when I open my eyes. My mind. My heart.  I experience beauty when I allow freedom of light and love to flow into my skies.  I feel so blessed to have been a part of that kite’s flight.  I can still remember the tug of wind and the release I experienced by over-riding my rational and emotional barriers.

Life is good these days.  I am soaring, and I appreciate the stillness as much as I do the wind.  Beauty is in every molecule and these molecules enter into me without thought.  The beauty exists in great abundance.  Blessings abound.  They are amplified by the stillness in each present nano-moment.  I am happy.  toaster oven