One thing I’ve found that most people desire to feel is FREE. In our culture, stress has replaced all manner of being and the drive to be more, do more, achieve more, keep going, never stopping, has hit a breaking point. We want freedom and peace from the hamster wheel of achievement and ambition. We want that exhale. We want an escape from that heart-racing boom, boom we feel in our chest when we don’t think we’ve done enough or been enough or are enough of anything at all.
Yet, we don’t know how to be free, because we don’t always know what is keeping us from that exhalation, from having a sense of not feeling imprisoned to our lives. We reach for social media, television, alcohol, food, anything, to drown out the brain that we feel trapped in, and while these vices may offer a temporary reprieve, you and I both know that this is not a way of living. The numb, distraction-based part of ourselves wants to be outed, because, although we may feel a momentary hit of freedom by tuning out our brain, we want, more than anything, to not have to rely on our vices to give us the freedom that we crave.
So far, I’ve found that these five things have kept me so desperately imprisoned in my mind that I’ve been forced to examine them. If your chief desire is to feel free, as mine is, then you will be led to go deeper into what is keeping you from feeling it.
1. The need to be right
The Internet has proved to us that anyone can have a voice and, while I think there are some issues that demand attention, the ones that plague us are most likely not important enough to sacrifice our freedom for. When we need to be right, we are essentially saying that things need to change in order for us to feel a certain way. Think about the many things you feel impassioned about –that airline delay, the Comcast customer service, the treatment of you by a person at Starbucks– and how much it infects your peace and freedom to hold onto that frustration and righteousness. It’s not important. It’s not necessary. Understand that others hold themselves in a different standard, that what’s important to you is not going to be important to them, that your incessant need to be right (and to, more importantly, wrong that right) is impacting your life only.
2. The need for certainty
The only certain thing in life is that nothing is certain. We want to predict the future. We want to see our risks pay off. We want to know if we’ve reached our happiness stopping point, our limit. Is this the happiest we could be? Is this the most loved or loving we could be? Is this the limit of our lives? It all comes down, simply, to certainty. Our futures are clouded and foreign. We don’t know what comes next. We can’t know. No matter how hard we hold on tight to control and how much we plan and how much we prepare for whatever comes our way, shit’s going to happen. It just will. Our chaos is in the middle of wanting certainty desperately and letting go of it entirely. The delusion that we think we can control our outcomes and our future will constantly bring us stress and suffering. Once we can learn to accept that certainty is not something we can fabricate or catch or hold in any sense of the concept, then we can experience a true freedom.
3. The need to set expectations
At the core of every dissatisfaction we have littered amongst the landscape of our lives lies an expectation we picked up somewhere that was not fulfilled. We do this to ourselves. We collect expectations like we’d collect heirlooms and we add onto those expectations an emotion. We predict that we will feel happy when this expectation is fulfilled, or sad if this expectation does not live up. At the root of our pain and discontent is an expectation, some more warranted than others. An expectation that our lives will suddenly be given meaning with the right person, the right job, the right travel experience, the right anything we have in our minds. An expectation that a person in our lives will act a certain way, based on their past, based on who we want them to be, based on what they’ve told us. All these expectations serve to do is infringe upon your freedom.
4. The need to be “realistic”
When we think in terms of what’s “realistic” and “possible” in our lives, we are already putting boxes around opportunities. We box ourselves into what’s realistic and possible and we base these ideas entirely on what other people tell us or from our past experience. Can you think of anything less free than being boxed in like this? In our desire to be sure and to make sure our needs are fulfilled, we forget in the limitless possibility of the world we live in. It may not seem limitless sometimes and our opportunities may seem bleak, but we never really know what’s going to happen. Impossible things are made possible every day. Don’t let the world harden your chance for miracle. We do live in a limitless universe and our need to be “realistic” about it is the only thing that serves to limit it.
5. The need to be stable and enough
There is no greatness in being “enough.” We misguidedly desire to be enough and stable, but that’s not freedom; that’s being boxed in. When we decide what we need in order to be some fleeting feeling of happy, we cage ourselves in, quickly putting a stop to the possibilities and freedom of being open. Enoughness has a limit. When we say we want to be “good enough,” we are already limiting ourselves and therefore, trying to manipulate freedom. We say, when we’re enough, we will be free and happy, but freedom lies in being open to whatever comes into our lives and not giving it a stopping point or a limit. Our freedom, in this sense, lies in saying, I desire to be everything. The concept of being enough allows for so little to happen in our lives.
When we start to desire to feel freedom and to have peace of mind, many shifts happen in our lives as a result. We start to feel uncomfortable in situations or old thinking habits that serve to limit our freedom. The more we can put an emphasis on being free, the more we can lessen the hold that our stressful, frantic world puts on us.