If we can at the very least rethink everything that we are conditioned to see as freedom, will we discover a greater, purer sense for what freedom actually is?
Last week, my friend Jonathan Mead — a leading personal development blogger at IlluminatedMind.net — argued in a blog post that the ever-popular niche movement of “lifestyle design, travel the world, location independence” blogs, books, and web-based products cannot, in fact, sell anyone actual freedom:
“Freedom is not found in patterns, nor on the edges of contrarianism. Freedom isn’t about escaping the 9-to-5, revolution, or breaking away.” Jonathan Mead
In response, I commented that perhaps the greatest value any of these books, blogs and philosophies is found less in the actually content or intended objective of each, and more in the subtle concept that the reader begins to “unlearn” the hard, confined and constrictive rules of conventional living that society has drilled into them since youth — a process that Jonathan describes as, “the absence of conditioning.”
Over the course of our lives, we’re conditioned in many ways: some explicit and up front, others subtle.
Our conditioning has been influenced by an array of personal experiences, our families, friends, education, where we grew up, when we grew up, how we grew up, and so on. With this in mind, I find myself today wondering,
“Is the key to actual freedom as simple as questioning and unlearning everything that we think we know?”
1. ESCAPE YOUR MIND / TURN OFF THE INNER VOICE
“Virtually everyone hears a voice, or several voices, in their head all the time: the involuntary thought processes that you don’t realize you have the power to stop.” Eckhart Tolle
Unlearn the incessant thought — the inner narrative voice — that critiques, judges, and comments on everything we see and do from morning until night. Rethink the assumed notion that this dialogue never stops.
Focus on nothingness. Fixate your attention upon openness. Make your mind steady and calm. Quiet the voice within your mind — tell it to shut the hell up. Let there be quiet. Find freedom within your own head.
2. ELUDE ATTENTION / LIVE TRUE TO SELF
“Express yourself completely, then become the quiet.” Lao Tsu
Unlearn living from interaction to interaction: find, embrace, and concentrate upon aloneness.
One of the greatest tragedies I see in people is when someone lives only through others — in other words, one who qualifies his or her worth, value, and life based upon a relationship or social status with others.
Human beings need others, but we do not and should not qualify our lives based upon how others perceive and accept us. Escape the eyes of others. Rethink attention. Embrace the quiet.
3. PUSH YOUR LIMITS / EXTENT YOUR BOUNDARIES / RISK DISCOMFORT
“Our limitations and success will be based, most often, on your own expectations for ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” Denis Waitley
What we perceive to be stopping us from achieving our goals, finding our happiness, and improving our lives are merely our perceptions of limitations.
Take a pen to paper and journal a list of 10 things that you identify as limiting you or holding you back.
Now that you have them listed, unlearn them: flip a fear of change into a compelling need of change; flip fear of failure into failing on purpose just so you can recover and realize failure isn’t a big deal at all.
What are your boundaries?
These limits are not breaking points — points of “no return” after which we collapse, die, or cease to exist — but merely indicating lines that show us where we can expand and extend our personal boundaries of growth and inner development.
Unlearn comfort. Risk discomfort. Push the boundaries. Rethink your potential.
4. BE FLUID / BE OPEN / BE FREE
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” Tao te Ching
Freedom takes many forms, but never just one. Freedom is openness; not a series of strategies or rules to live by.
Freedom is fluidity; not confining ourselves to perceived notions of living. Unlearn that living like a rock will protect you from the elements. Be fluid like the water, strong but malleable.
Unlearn what we call strength; rethink what we call freedom.
5. JUST… “BE”
Stop trying to be. Stop trying to be free. Just be.
Flickr photo credit: Jonas B