Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

What is freedom?

November 24, 2013 0

Can freedom be found in any of these shops?

Can freedom be found in any of these shops?

I was on Facebook this morning, scrolling and catching up on the ‘news’ as usual when someone’s posting caught my eye. They said that holidays are a retreat from their “dreadful responsibilities”. I found that statement to be really strange and wondered, “If your responsibilities are so dreadful and painful, why did you create them, only to suffer day after day, week after week, year in and year out, just for a few days’ break each year?”

Is that freedom?

I’ve been thinking about the concept of freedom ever since I arrived in New York. When I first visited New York three years ago, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was amazed by everything. It was the size, speed, volume and…shiny-ness of everything that captured and held my attention (obviously I’d been out of London for way too long!).

On this trip however, New York feels different. Of course there is the fact I’m now back as a nun-to-be and all of the activities that would have previously excited me, no longer hold the same kind of appeal.

Sephora? What’s the point?
Shopping? And wear it when?
Tours? But I’ve seen it before!

Don’t get me wrong, I still see the excitement of the city, I still see the opportunities and I still see the appeal it holds to many. It is not that I deny their existence but it is that they are overshadowed by other things.

On this trip, what I see are people trapped by their obligations. Their mortgages, their car loans, their credit card payments, their attachment to making more money, their attachment to looking good, their attachments to acquiring more. Their attachment to keeping up appearances, their attachments to their families, their obligations to their children.

I see people rushing from one place to another, ignoring everything around them, earning just enough to get by. I see people putting up with substandard living conditions, just so they can say they live and work in New York.

But is freedom a two-hour commute? Is freedom an apartment so tiny, you can hardly fit one sofa in it and that’s just the way it is?

Is freedom being taxed four times for one hotel room? Nuh-uh, I don't feel so free right now!

Is freedom being taxed four times for one hotel room? Nuh-uh, I don’t feel so free right now!

America is sometimes known as the Land of the Free and in some respects, it certainly is. The beaten, abused and enslaved of other nations come here to seek refuge and a better life. They converge here for their freedom of expression, religious, belief and thinking. America certainly provides that atmosphere for plenty of the world’s downtrodden.

But does it extend beyond that? Can you (or rather, should you) equate ‘survival’ with real, true ‘freedom’? Where is the freedom if you are trapped by something else, which you don’t realise is a ball and chain around your ankle?

Of course I realise that what happens in New York is no different to what happens everywhere else in the world. Everywhere else in the world, people are just as trapped by their samsaras, deluded into thinking that way of living is freedom. Elsewhere in the world, people are trapped by their narrow view, their lack of exposure to the world at large, their inability to provide for their families, their lack of education, their attachment to being right and willingness to enact violence to prove it.

Elsewhere in the world, freedom (or the lack of it) manifests in a different form.

So where is the real freedom? How do you move throughout life and throughout world, in whatever circumstances you find yourself in, truly free from the mental restraints of samsara?

The real freedom? It’s the freedom of your mind and perspective. The understanding that all of these trials and tribulations, these wants and needs, these pleasant and unpleasant experiences, all disappear at the moment of your death, regardless of however much importance you place onto them in this very instant.

So freedom is not having money or having no money; freedom is not a big house or not having a big house; freedom is not about being your own boss or being an employee. Freedom is how you view the money, the house, your work and what you do with it.

After all, to some, freedom is not having to take orders from anyone else whilst with others, freedom is about a guaranteed paycheque at the end of the month.

Or maybe I’m wrong? Maybe you have a different perspective? If you do, care to share? 🙂

Reflections and Teachings

Leave a Reply