This week we celebrate Independence Day, the anniversary of when the U.S. declared its freedom from England, with fireworks, parades, barbecues and picnics.

But are we really free? It depends on what we mean by freedom.

To me, freedom is more than the right to vote, to speak our minds or choose what we are going to study in college, more than innocent until proven guilty or trial by jury — all fundamental liberties taken for granted by many and not yet available to countless humans in our world. It means more than the right to marry, one still not available to otherwise committed, loving, tax-paying citizens in our own country.

Freedom is about ultimate liberation from the tyranny of the ego or small self and its boring, predictable defensive reactions driven by past hurts and brain chemistry. Freedom is about choice: consciously choosing how we are going to be in response to any situation, no matter what curveballs life throws our way.

Freedom is about emancipating ourselves from the slavery of the mind, of addictions, from the conditioning of external structures and the insidious demands of consumerism, from corporate-imposed delusions. Freedom means no longer being imprisoned by the ego’s need to be right, to judge harshly, to try to control others and circumstances, no matter how futile an effort this may be. It means freedom from the need to blame others that keeps us stuck in a disempowered state of victim consciousness — from self-sabotaging, self-defeating and self-limiting behaviors; from the demands and expectations of self and others; from approval-seeking and fear or lack-driven behavior. Freedom is no longer taking things personally.

To be truly free means learning how to keep our hearts open — no matter what, and even if it means getting hurt again. For we can’t close our hearts selectively to those who have hurt us, and doing so is giving our power away to those who have even less of a clue than we do. Forgiveness and letting go are the key to freedom from our pasts.

Freedom means knowing that we are greater than our bodies, our thoughts and our emotions, greater than our DNA, our addictions, traumas and conditioning, greater than our perceptions and the circumstances of our lives.

Freedom entails educating and informing ourselves rather than swallowing what schoolbooks and the media filter and spoon-feed us. It means the freedom to believe and to question beliefs, being able to compassionately accept, but not cater to, what to us is the limited perspectives of others, confronting them and speaking our truth when appropriate. Freedom is the inalienable right to go within to access the answers to the questions we seek.

Freedom includes being who we are — and letting others be. It means giving ourselves permission to express our love and our passion, to answer love’s call however it reveals itself.

Freedom is being at choice to express our personal power gracefully, soulfully, in service and humility, even when that means rocking the boat. With freedom comes responsibility, the ability to respond rather than react.

Freedom means having the courage to explore and express our true purposes in life, rather than selling ourselves cheaply and allowing ourselves to flounder in soul-devouring mediocrity, for the illusion of security provided by a bi-weekly paycheck. It’s about the ability to create the lives — and the world — that we truly dream of. It’s about expressing ourselves fully, holding nothing back. Freedom means following our soul’s calling and our heart’s desire, no matter who may be threatened or disturbed by that. And yes, that includes in the bedroom.

Freedom means going for our own unique brand of personal excellence, thereby making the world a brighter, more colorful and more loving place. Freedom means no longer being willing to play small or hide our light under a bushel, no matter what the consequences. It means shining bright and being the most that we can be and fulfilling our own exquisite human potential.

Going for this level of freedom is ultimately nothing less than a heroic journey. And heroism is what the times are asking of us.

So let’s get free, really free! Are you in?

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