What freedom really means

wild horses

“Unless your freedom turns into a creative realization, you will feel sad. Because you will see that you are free–your chains are broken, and you are no longer in prison; you are standing under the starry night, completely free. But where do you go?” ~ Osho

We all want it and believe it is our most basic right. We get very cranky to say the least if anyone or anything threatens to limit or take it away. We punish crimes by  putting the guilty in places where they don’t have any. We condemn those who take it away from the innocent. 

But when we think about freedom, we usually romanticize it…let’s say with a vision of ourselves running through a field or meadow without a care in the world. In reality, the kind of freedom many expect involves the equivalent of running without a care in the world on a luxurious golf course that someone else is responsible for grooming.

Because freedom is not exactly ‘free’. Just imagine that field or meadow, be it wilderness or part of your property, and all the work you must to do maintain or protect it. You’d have to clean, plant, trim…examine the trees and plantings for disease (and manage that)…keep an eye out for wildlife and its needs…watch out for trespassers, friendly and otherwise…for the neighbor’s cattle or the factory that just opened in the area whose toxic output might poison the creek that runs right through your blissful piece of land. If the land belongs to you, you also have financial issues to deal with. If it’s public, and you want it to stay protected (and available to you!), then you better keep an eye on lawmakers and what’s going on at City Hall or similar.

So yes, to have the amazing experience of freedom involves taking responsibility for and nurturing the context in which it takes place. Even if we conceptualize freedom as being inside us, we still have to work a lot on removing barriers, defeating patterns and silencing the ego.

Problem is of course many of us…perhaps all of us at times…want the experience without all the responsibility… or at least with a minimal effort. But without fully owning freedom, we can only have an illusion of it, which will do for a while, until inevitably, the edges of the fantasy start to break down and we find ourselves caged once again.

When I think about freedom, I always remember how long ago, anxiety, by taking over my life for a time, taught me all about control and responsibility. I spent years trying to get free. And when I finally succeeded and realized how much control and responsibility I actually had, I initially panicked all over again. As painful as it was, it was also seriously easier and safer in so many ways to not be free.

Freedom may break our chains but it also places the proverbial reins in our hands. Suddenly we have to examine our skills, what we can count on and what we need to master. Suddenly, we have access to manifesting the most wonderful goals…which of course require a huge and honest investment on our part, as well as significant risk. We are called to come up with purpose and sustain our motivation. We can no longer ignore our hearts, our true nature, our needs or the needs of our soul. We can no longer lie, cheat or cut corners without knowing exactly what’s going on and who’s responsible for the consequences.

With so many headaches, the grand inheritance might not seem all that grand. And so we might settle, start dividing it into little parcels we then relinquish the rights to. Much easier that way, but now that seemingly endless field or meadow is suddenly a tiny patch of fenced-in grass. Not so inspiring is it…

Osho is right of course. Freedom becomes a commitment to loneliness, emptiness and sadness without that creative realization…without purpose, without responsibility and investment. Unless we imagine that freedom means being free to waste time and just drift…in which case we still made an investment and a commitment, only not a creative one we can own. And of course we can also give up on freedom altogether by freely choosing to let our past, our fears and self-defeating patterns continue to control us.

I like to think of freedom as both a question and a challenge. A question that leads to self exploration and authenticity…to learning how to love, how to nurture and how to welcome even those things that maybe initially scare us. A challenge to pick up the tools we possess and use them to create wonderful things, so we can keep growing, discovering and surprising ourselves.

So that even though much work is required of us, when we run, we can run on that beautiful field or meadow and not on some artificial golf course that closes at 8.

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