Reflections on Freedom


Reflections on Freedom

My husband, Dan, teaches yoga, and for the classes during the week preceding July 4th, the YMCA asked instructors to mark the holiday. As sparklers and Sousa marches aren’t conducive to the Zen of yoga, Dan found what I thought was a beautiful and appropriate way to mark the holiday and address the concept of freedom.

At the beginning of class, Dan shared an invocation for peace in Sanskrit, which is similar to the Latin of India (Latin is a derivation of Sanskrit): ” Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”, and at the end of class he shared the translation:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

This invocation really spoke to me, and on this holiday where we celebrate our freedom, it caused me to think about other aspects of this important subject. The obvious freedom, and the price so many have paid for it, is one aspect. I have seen the effects of fighting in wars on my father, my brother, and on our family. I don’t wish it on anyone. Personal freedoms are another aspect, and I have witnessed my gay and lesbian friends and my friends of color struggle with the loss of their personal freedoms due to the ignorance and prejudice of others.

The last aspect of freedom that I considered, however, is more introspective, more personal, and yet it has the potential to bring freedom to every single person; the freedom of the heart and mind. This freedom is one that can never truly be taken away from us. Try as people might to enforce their will on the world day after day, our hearts and minds are still our own- safe havens and refuge. No matter what challenges our physical bodies have to suffer through, we have the power- the freedom- to experience things through a different lens.

Freedom is an outgrowth of so many things, including sacrifice and struggle. However, it also is an outgrowth of peace. If we can come to a place of true peace in our hearts and minds, we can then share that peace with those we interact with, and then they can share, and on and on. The beautiful ripples that poet Mary Oliver writes about. The idea of my responsibility to spread peace and understanding to those around me is important to me. That peace and understanding isn’t just for those who think like I do, but for everyone. Everyone. 

Our world has become so polarized that it is often difficult to find common ground to even begin a dialogue. Instead of valuing a rich pool of ideas, we see only our way as the “right” way. In growing toward this place of division, we have lost so much, losing the ability to keep our hearts and minds open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new solutions to the myriad of problems facing our world.

I don’t have all of the answers. All I know is that I can choose to be a part of the solution or not. I can use the freedom of a peaceful and loving heart to manifest change in myself that will help to open others up, or I can hold on to anger and divisiveness. And I know which path I will choose.

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”


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