That was me about 5 years ago, all scraggly-haired and sweaty.
I was a dozen miles from the nearest road, hours from the nearest hospital, and totally in my element.
I felt like I was free on that day…
or at least I thought I felt free.
I chose this photo because it was such a pivotal time in my life. This was my last summer on the bear project, and it would be a summer I’d live solo.
There were days I’d go without talking to a single person. Then, mixed in between those quiet days with the trees, I drove those long desolate highways that stretch out along the Rocky Mountain front, either to resupply at basecamp or get to my next destination.
Some days I’d run into people and be able to chat a little, but many days I only had my trusty ol’ work truck, Bernie. I’d tell him all sorts of stories, but the conversations only lasted a few minutes at most since only one of us could talk.
The job was definitely physically demanding with the hiking and the backpacking and the hammering, but the challenge of being comfortable with my own presence was an entirely new one for me.
On this day, I’d just hiked about 8 miles from my previous night’s camp, and I had to climb up some pretty rugged terrain so I could see across the peaks.
It was breath-taking.
At this moment I felt amazing. I’d just spent half the summer alone in areas full of grizzly bears, I was living a childhood dream of working in the woods, and I’d just climbed a big ass mountain!
I was on top of the world.
I thought I was free in that moment, and the day after, and even the day after that, until the day came when I ventured back to civilization.
A few interesting nights alone in the wilderness, a couple blisters, and two sore feet later, I emerged from the mountains and went to visit my brother in Kalispell, Montana. It’s not a big city, by any means, but traffic can still get busy during the day. Of course, I didn’t think anything of this.
I dropped off Bernie the Truck at the field office and had my brother pick me up. As we traveled back into the city and I sat staring out the window, I felt something strange suddenly come over me.
As each car flashed by the window, my heart would jump a little. Then my breathing grew heavier, and I remember thinking that it was all really weird. My head swam with dizziness while I felt deep down that there was something seriously wrong.
Little did I know, I was right in the middle of a panic attack.
I had a mild version of this happen years before while working at the front desk of a casino resort. But a few too many cars? I was shocked.
The moral of this story is that I wasn’t free.
Not in a holistic sense.
At that time, I was stuck in my head a lot and could barely express myself when nerves grabbed a hold. On that day, once the traffic grew thick enough, I had a physical/mental reaction and didn’t have the awareness to bring myself back into balance.
In those moments there next to my brother in his car, my sense of choice and ability to act became frozen by the overwhelming feelings in my body and the emotions that went along with them.
Once I calmed down and regained myself a bit, I realized instantly that I wasn’t free. This experience was one among several epiphanies I would have over a relatively short amount of time.
I’d pondered freedom for years, but never really took it that seriously.
I was a young, successful person, full of life and naive optimism. Outwardly, people liked me and I didn’t have problems making friends. But something was off.
Although I’d helped people through tough spots before and mentored with kids for years by this point, I was still very caged.
I was still struggling to free my voice.
In the following post, I’ll introduce you to the value of freedom and begin exploring the deeper aspects of what it means to be free.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of Freedom is:
the quality or state of being free: as
- the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
- liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another
- the quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous.
Is that it?
All of that can seem overwhelming because it’s so wordy. But they’re all dancing around one concept.
It’s about your experience in the world.
Being absent of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action is simply a way of saying that freedom exists in the absence of some form of limitation on your choice or action.
Free will, right?
Well, it’s bigger than that.
Aside from basic needs like shelter and water, what’s thought to be necessary is often a matter of perception.
Coercion hints at outside influence upon this perception.
Liberation from slavery, restraint, or power of others are all limiting factors.
And the quality/state of being exempt or released from something onerous is yet another description of the relationship between you and a limiting force in your life.
But what’s being limited besides choice and action?
Here’s the conundrum, though. There are always factors that influence the circumstance your choice is made in… there will always be limitations.
You don’t choose where you are born, who your parents are, or what your physiology does on a moment to moment basis. You also don’t choose many of the beliefs you grow up with, or the habits you practice, or the thoughts that pop into your head. These kinds of things are determined by other factors that you have zero choice in.
So how does freedom fit in if there’s so little choice in your circumstance?
Well, it’s there.
Squished in between determinism, randomness, and free will.
And like clarity, it starts with awareness.
Similar to the word warrior, freedom is a word that has many views. Although an absolute idea of free will appears to be unrealistic, and deterministic factors and randomness definitely play a significant role in our lives, there’s no single answer but this…
What you choose to do and how you decide to act are influenced by external factors. Yes. But, what you choose and how you act are only the surface, and outside influences… only the stimulus.
What is being influenced and where the choices are coming from is where freedom exists.
So where are they coming from?
They’re coming from your body and your mind, which are both expressions of a deeper truth.
Awareness of your truth is like having a flashlight for your soul. It helps you find yourself in the darkest places.
When your body is restricted in some way, the way you physically respond to any influence will be restricted. If your mind is full of limiting beliefs about yourself and other people, the way you respond to social stimulation will be limited too.
Freedom isn’t about avoiding the influence, it’s about balance. It’s about your body and your mind.
It’s about you.
You are free when you can still be your true self while these influences are present. Freedom is about experiencing anything life has to offer and then being able to choose how you resonate with that experience.
But this choice is impossible without awareness.
When you become aware of how a limitation affects your reality and you’re aware of the factors that determined your circumstance, you will have the tools to participate in freedom.
But it’s always a choice. It always takes action. And with awareness you actually have a choice, and you have a course of action.
Instead of being a slave to your circumstance, you can choose to participate.
Instead of being an idle passenger, you can actively engage with these deterministic factors and random events that seem to limit your free will. In doing so, you’ll be practicing the only form of free will that I know…
balance through awareness.
Many of life’s troubles are the result of losing or gaining freedom in one way or another. But how do you remain balanced?
Maybe you lost your job and the stress from losing financial freedom gets you sick. Or you may have injured your shoulder, so then your freedom to move and do things becomes restricted. Or your lover decides to leave you for someone else, so your emotions take your freedom if you can’t let them go.
Then there’s the old example of the freedom of cities, peoples, and nations. Where grand wars are waged to defend it. This is the kind of war that dominates the planet right now. This is what most people think when they hear of war… the risk of losing freedom to an external foe.
What about the war within?
This is the war to free your fullest expression of your true self.
This is the war that frees you from the tyranny of always living the external dream, instead of your own. It’s the gift every human has locked inside them, and it’s up to you to free it.
Will you choose to be a warrior for your own freedom? Or will you let yourself be defeated before you ever realize your potential?
We go back to the principle of awareness.
Use your awareness to engage your body and mind, questioning and accepting the limitations of the universe, participating in the reality you are a part of… then it becomes clear that your life is a masterpiece.
I offer you this idea to help conceptualize the creative power that you possess. The concept is that you are always dreaming. The only difference between your sleeping dream and your waking dream is that when you are awake your creativity is bound by the laws of nature. When you are asleep, you are not bound by these laws.
Lucid dreaming is an excellent example of how this works. When you’re sleeping and you dream, there’s a chance you can become aware that you’re dreaming. When this happens, you gain the ability to be a master of the creative possibilities, bending or breaking the laws of the universe at your will. Once you’re awake this ability is still there, as long as you become aware.
The only difference is that your mind, body, and spirit are existing in time with all of the natural laws in full effect. You are bound by things like gravity, electromagnetism, and friction, but you still have the ability to become a master creator. You can change your reality with awareness, both while you sleep and when you wake.
This is why you have so much power over your perception, and this is where the practice of freedom begins.
If you choose to embrace this and become the master of the creative possibilities in life, your potential becomes endless. Many people are not aware of this potential, and so they don’t express this perception power.
Once you have awareness of this gift of the dream, you can begin to unravel everything that kept you from gaining the freedom to be who you always knew you could be. But it’s all a big cycle and you must practice freedom as well.
So I ask again, what is freedom?
There are four dimensions that are present when you’re awake, and also when you’re asleep. The body, the mind, and the spirit are always there, and so is the fourth dimension, time.
The philosophy of approaching your freedom through the body before the mind is like one of those big, strong trees in an old-growth forest. Your freedom will fall under a mild breeze if the roots are shallow, don’t fit the landscape, or are too weak. But as you age, your freedom expands, becoming stronger and deeper as you practice and limited only by the physical laws of the Universe.
With these four dimensions for roots, it’s possible to make true freedom real, living life as a conscious master of your own potential. In my next blog post, I’ll expand upon this idea of the four dimensions and explore how this connects to clarity.
Stay Strong Everyone