What Does it Mean to Be Free?
Having just sat through an insipid world cup performance by my team England, I have realised how my mood can easily be disturbed by 11 football players failing to pass a football ball as well as I expect them to. I mean they were dreadful, but, should I be letting myself be affected by things outside my control? Well the world cup is only every four years, and I will always be a glutton for punishment (by nature I’m an optimist – I can’t help but always think this time we can win). But, football aside, we need to develop an inner freedom, a state of mind which can be free from the innumerable worries and anxieties of life. Real inner freedom is a state where we can remain unaffected by disturbing thoughts and ideas.
To Feel Negative Thoughts as Separate Entities.
Socrates once went to a noted sage. The sage told Socrates and his followers that Socrates had all the human limitations of anger, pride and jealousy.
His followers were shocked and interrupted to criticise the sage, saying they saw Socrates as a saint. However, the sage, said, ‘let me finish. It is true that he has all these negative qualities, but Socrates doesn’t let them affect him.’
As we aspire for a better life, human weaknesses will continue crop up. We cannot remain totally unaffected by old thought habits and emotions. However, we don’t have to give our acceptance and full support to these negative thoughts and emotions. We can feel these negative thoughts and emotions as separate to our real self. If we see these thoughts and emotions as separate and outside our self, then we can remain free from there power. We can remain centred in our real self. This is the secret of inner freedom because we can detach from thoughts and emotions that drag us down and round in circles.
We can have all the outer freedom we want to live exactly as we want. But, if we unable to let go of jealousy and insecurity, then we are not free to be inwardly happy; we will be constantly limiting ourself.
To be Free of Desires we Don’t Want.
It is the nature of desire to remain unfulfilled or be disappointed. The more desires we have, the more prone to disappointment we will be. There are still good things to aim for. There is no harm in aspiring to be a better person and to achieve worthwhile goals. But, to limit material desires, and desires from other people lifts a great pressure off our state of mind. If we have innumerable desires we always feel a sense of dissatisfaction until they fulfilled in our own way. We can become a slave of our desires, making us sacrifice worthwhile principles to get what we want. Yet, even when we get our desire, we soon realise it isn’t the secret of inner peace and contentment. Inner freedom is to be the master of our own desire.
To be Free from Peer Pressure
Friends, society and government consciously or unconsciously place expectations on our behaviour, attitude and actions. There is a pressure to conform to certain pre-conceived attitudes. If you look over the past 100-200 years, you can see how concepts of morality and reasonable behaviour are constantly changing. To be free from these subtle pressures is essential to give us our inner peace and enable us to be inwardly free.
To be free from peer pressure doesn’t mean we have to be the natural born rebel, always trying to shock people; this can become it’s own ideology. Having a shocking hairstyle is not the be all and end all or symbol of inner freedom. The real secret is the inner attitude. It is to quietly question prevailing values like materialistic goals; it is to have the self-confidence and inner faith to live as we feel inwardly inspired.
Knowing our Real Self.
“What is false freedom? False freedom is our constant and deliberate acceptance of ignorance and our conscious existence in ignorance. What is real freedom? Real freedom is our conscious awareness of our inner divinity, and our constant inseparable oneness with the Inner Pilot.”
– Sri Chinmoy (1)
To be really free, we have to be able live in our real self. The self that is spontaneous, happy, non-judgemental and cheerful. It is the childlike quality we all have within us. It is this source of human creativity and real joy. We have all felt this at some times in our life. We feel uninhibited and can access that creative aspect of ourselves. We can know this real self through living in the heart – living away from the critical mind; it is something we can access through meditation and contemplation. The irony is this inner freedom requires discipline.
(1) Excerpt from The Tears Of Nation-Hearts by Sri Chinmoy