This article is based on our podcast episode, Make Magic: Finding Freedom in Yourself. Listen to the full episode here.
Freedom is a really big word, and it often comes up in our society in context to laws, government, and privilege. But what about our internal freedom? The kind we feel and experience within us? And what does having freedom inside of us mean and feel like?
What Is True Freedom?
True freedom is a big, spacious feeling that lives within us. When we feel freedom on the inside, we feel nourished, purposeful, and trustful. When we experience true freedom, we can relax into our own worthiness and our intuitive nature arises. This purposeful knowing feels like an inner compass, and it gives us roots and a sense of being grounded. It gives us ease.
A few weeks ago, I kept feeling a heavy discomfort in my chest. It spread into my stomach and shoulders, and eventually my head felt heavy and full. The more I tried to avoid the feelings, the bigger they got. I know by now, when this happens in my body, it is a signal that my body wants more space. I considered if I needed to lighten up my schedule and tried to do this, but it continued to grow. So, I stopped to really listen to it. When I sit and listen to myself, it's not a glamorous process. It usually requires mountains of blankets, at least 30 minutes of deep breathing, and the ability to starfish on the floor of my office when no one is home. Listening to myself literally requires silence, no movement, and the ability for me to sink layers down in myself so I can hear the original message my body wants me to hear. And when I stopped everything and listened, my body simply said, "Slow down. Go on retreat." And so, I did.
Normally when I go on retreats, they are in a community with a teacher. With very few retreat centers open at this time, I decided to dive into the Airbnb world and found a very cool location about an hour outside of Santa Fe. I chose to stay in an Earthship which is an environmentally stable household that is off the grid and sustains itself.
The first few days were awkward. If you've never gone on retreat by yourself and don't put together a meditation schedule, you run the risk of making excuses to do everything other than meditate. Meditation requires equal amounts of spaciousness and discipline, a strong back and soft front. After I found this sweet spot, I watched my usual thinking patterns arise. And they usually sound something like this, "Breathe. Wouldn't it be cool if this retreat gave me new podcast content ideas? Shoot. Noticing thoughts. Coming back to the breath. Breathe. Wow, this sun is awesome. Why don't I love the moon as much as the sun? Is this my resistance to divine feminine energy? How can I get more balanced? Shoot. Thinking again. Breathe." And so forth.
After more practice (and several days), I noticed a consistent pattern arise over and over. As I tried to sit there and breathe, returning over and over to the present moment, it occurred to me that I was consistently blocking my own freedom. I would experience a spacious, loving feeling that would arise in present time, and within seconds, my mind would fill it. I would find myself getting hooked into a past circumstance or sometimes even creating a story that didn't even exist just because it sounded nice. Isn't it strange that my body was telling me it needed space, that it was craving inner freedom, but my ego and mind jumped at everyone opportunity to fill all this space in? So, I really sat there with it, and took deep breaths into this huge, unquenchable desire for inner freedom, the true kind, that kind comes from being exactly who we are without straying into the past or future.
Have you experienced this type of true freedom? The kind where you are spacious and limitless, and you can sense a deep ocean of possibility, trust, and joy within yourself. When we experience true freedom, a type of inner peace on the inside, we begin living "in-joy" on the outside. Our bodies become tools that bring this true, intuitive freedom into the world.
A Gorilla Named Ishmael
The philosophical book Ishmael, is about a very smart teacher who happens to be a gorilla. He is looking for students to teach and give his wisdom to, so he puts an ad in a newspaper. A man sees this ad, and responds to it, but also feels very frustrated because he is older now and was searching for a spiritual teacher long ago as an adolescent and never found one.
At first, the man is very angry because he likes his teacher, but still feels that he is learning knowledge too late in his life. In one of the first learning experiences, the teacher asks him what's the best way to live and sends him away.
The narrator ends up feeling frustrated again because he questions over and over, "What's the best way to live? And how do you know that? How do we know that as a collective, as a society?" After more conversations with this gorilla, he soon realizes that most people don't know the best way to live. The narrator begins to realize that most people turn outside of themselves to find answers on morality because they are not in contact with their own inner knowing.
Freedom is a huge, expansive energy that lives within all of us, and when we sit in the present moment, contacting this true freedom, we feel relief and our inner compass rises. When we live from true freedom, we contact a deep, inner goodness that resides in the heart, and we feel an ocean of possibility and joy within us. But if we don't experience our own freedom, our own sense of inner knowing or trust, we start looking around us and we give other people and bigger systems the power to govern us, inside and out. For good, and for bad.
Feeling Into Your Freedom
Sometimes people find that history, mythology, and religion help us make meaning. We are creatures that crave purpose and finding this in our ancestry and society can help us feel connected and safe. However, if we don't learn the tools to hear our unique truth, the kind that lives within our true freedom inside the body, we give our power away. We begin living from a place of doubt and mistrust, and we look to the society around us to govern us. As much as technology connects us, it also teaches us to reach outside of ourselves for information rather than asking our inner knowing. Oftentimes it causes you to be a passive receiver of information, rather than helping you learn how to question and see yourself, which builds trust and confidence.
If you get home from a day of work and immediately fill your time and energy with television and social media, you are programming yourself to be a passive receiver of information. You become what you invest your time into, and if you invest your time into constantly following other people's lives, you don't tap into your own creative energy. You invest in someone else's life rather than your own. You are accidentally filling in your own freedom.
Sometimes technology becomes a hobby and people will say their phone "takes the edge off" or a movie helps them relax. I agree, it probably does. But these kinds of statements always draw bigger questions in my mind, "So it helps you relax, but from what? What are you trying to move away from? What feeling is so hard to be with that you rely on this to have space away from it?"
It can be scary to tap into the real reason behind filling in our inner freedom. And I'm not separate from that. The mind constantly tries to fill the spacious freedom within us and sometimes we become so used to not having freedom that we forget these spaces even exist at all. When you're saying you want to relax or want space, you're actually saying that you don't have enough inner, true freedom. When did we become so afraid to really stop and listen? When did we become so afraid of ourselves?
As people are moving farther and farther away from religion, we are looking for teachers or guides to tell us what to do. Although I think it's great to have people to listen to and share ideas with, your internal compass, your inner knowing, your inner freedom is going to teach you the most about joy, happiness, and purpose. To me, inner freedom and joy are the same coin.
Where Is Your Desire For Space Coming From?
Part of my own desire for inner freedom stems from my body becoming full of what is happening around me. As an empath, a psychotherapist, and psychic medium, I am constantly tapped into other people's spaces, feeling all sorts of emotions on a very big level. When my inner freedom becomes blocked, it is a sign for me to slow down and empty out this energy inside of myself, which often naturally happens when I turn to meditation practice. Meditation is a grounding practice, and with time, allows us to see the difference between our energy and others, the programming we have taken on, and the true freedom within us when we let foreign energy go.
When you're present with yourself, you don't have to go outside of yourself for things. There are many beautiful resources in our culture that help us survive, guide us, and bring ease to our lives. But if we're constantly going outside of ourselves and looking for someone else's validation and permission, this is not actually real freedom. It's false freedom.
Contacting Your Freedom
Try asking yourself some of these questions to discover whether you are connected to your true freedom: When you sit down at the end of your day, what are you trying to relax from? Do you feel anxious or pressure to pick up your phone, turn on the television, think about a lot of things, or make lists? Do you trust yourself right now? Do you feel permission to let go of things and sit in a quiet space for a few minutes? If you could have freedom from any thought or emotion, what would it be? To learn more about how to give yourself the space and time to tap into your true freedom, check out my blog on permission energy.