For many July is a month to celebrate freedom. People in the US, Canada, France, Argentina, Peru, the Netherlands, Belgium, Laos, Slovakia and other countries celebrate their national independence this month. Forty years ago my parents gave up their country, their families, their possessions and life as they knew it so that my siblings and I could grow up in freedom, enjoying the rights to study, believe, and lead our lives as we chose. Having lived in a totalitarian Communist country for the first ten years of my life, I don’t take freedom for granted.

As I have been catching up with Season 3 of Handmaid’s Tale—with its brilliant production values and stark, poetic and disturbingly beautiful cinematography—freedom is especially up for me. Recent trends in this country and others are letting us see how ephemeral rights, liberties and privileges are, how quickly they can be reversed when fear is allowed to give way to the illusions of security provided by existing power structures, even if these are outdated and unsustainable.

Freedom is a state of mind

How many hugely successful or famous people with access to everything power and money provide end up with addiction, depression, even taking their lives? How many of us lucky enough to live in democratic and developed countries are imprisoned on the spinning wheel of the rat cage, barely making ends meet, selling ourselves cheaply for the illusion of security of a biweekly paycheck? Nelson Mandela found freedom in captivity, famously saying that if the had not found a way to forgive his jailers he would still be in prison.

So what does it mean to you to be free? From what are you willing to declare independence this month? What has been holding you back or blocking your freedom—the freedom to be all of who you are, to pursue your deepest soul level dreams, to realize your full potential? Old, tired conditioning from culture, religion or family? Boring thoughts of insufficiency and self-doubt? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of survival: how will I pay the bills? Have you had enough of your self-imposed confinement?

These are the kind of themes and issues we explore in the Soulful Power family of retreats, and the kind of stuff that gets cleared through the life-changing practice of breathwork.

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