July 3, 2013
Last week was fraught with mixed emotions for many of us who dream of freedom and equality for all. The Supreme Court’s rulings on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action were a bit of a buzz kill for the high that followed when DOMA and Prop 8 were repealed. A quote from Dr. King helped me put things in perspective and take the long view: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Given the generational ideological shift and humanity’s ongoing and inexorable process of spiritual evolution, the outcome is inevitable.
What does it really mean to be free, though? I was recently privileged to host a day retreat bringing together several young underground artists from Cuba with others representing the Cuban-American community. Convened by Janelle Gueits, director of the documentary “13 Million Voices,” the experience of exchange and dialogue was fascinating, informative, inspiring and impactful at several levels. One of the artists, David Omni, a rapper who, like many of his colleagues, taught himself the craft by listening to contraband American artists, struck me in particular. While living in a totalitarian and oppressive regime, he had reached some of the same conclusions that I share at my retreats! For instance, he spoke of personal revolution and how one can be free “over there” and imprisoned “over here.” So true. A source of inspiration for so many, Nelson Mandela, who seems to be preparing to transition soon, experienced freedom while under years of imprisonment. To be able to forgive and feel authentic compassion for an oppressor, that’s freedom!
In the free and developed world, even in the U.S, a country built on the promise of freedom and opportunity, how many of us are selling ourselves — our precious life-force and time — for the illusion of security that a measly bi-weekly paycheck provides? How many of us are still suppressing who we are for fear of losing our jobs, or simply for fear of rejection? How many are selling out on our dreams, our true calling, out of fear of “how will I pay the bills?” How many of us have stuffed ourselves into little boxes and soul-devouring situations so as not to make waves? How many of us are stuck in self-made prisons, living under the tyranny of the ego mind, slaves to its reactions and machinations?
Freedom, to me, means being able to be who we are wherever we are, no matter what. Freedom is not having to react whenever one of our old, tired and predictable buttons gets pushed and we feel attacked, devalued or unappreciated, and the fear of survival, rejection or abandonment gets triggered. Freedom means that our love of self and sense of worth do not depend on anyone or anything external.
Freedom means that we know–we really know–that we are so much greater than our pasts wounds and our conditioning, greater than our habituated tendencies and inherited and unexamined beliefs, greater than our thoughts and emotions, greater than our tired, predictable and boring emotional survival patterns, greater than our brain chemistry, greater than our addictions and our DNA.
Freedom is about always bringing choice back into the equation, no matter what curve balls life throws our way. How do I want to be now in response to this situation?
So, as we celebrate freedom this weekend, what do you say we get off the merry-go-round and really free ourselves?