Finding Freedom in the Least Likely Places

Finding Freedom in the Least Likely Places

20th October 2015

By Jack Adam Weber

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

By “freedom” I mean the capacity to live a full life. Living a full life depends both upon external circumstances as well as internal capacities, or psycho-spiritual resources.

Many spiritual paths claim that all we need for freedom is not to be perturbed by life’s ups and downs, to abide in the unchangeability of consciousness, so to be in eternal peace. While I find worth in this state of mind, it also denies many other freedoms, is impractical and unrealistic, and is far from all we need. I find such to be a disengaged disposition, especially because it denies our humanness, living in the world, being in dynamic relationship, appreciating art, and creating justice for all.

Some think the other extreme: that freedom is simply an external experience, to do what one chooses. This seems equally, if not more, problematic and leads to excessive selfishness, consumerism, and a lack of compassion for the biosphere we all share. Indeed, a middle-ground between internal detachment and external attachment would allow us both internal and external freedom, in both easy and difficult circumstances.

This essay will discuss crucial aspect of the inner qualities necessary for freedom, for “wholeness,” or the capacity to live a full life, both internally and externally. And be prepared, because freedom hides in the least likely of places.

Let’s begin with an inquiry. What essential inner qualities for your wholeness — your joy, your thriving, your passion, your enjoyment of and service to life — have you thrown out, denied, run away from? Do you feel you lack motivation, courage, risk, boundaries, speaking your truth, assertiveness, humility, privacy, exposure, compassion, dedication, or commitment? Before reading further, consider grabbing a pen and paper and writing out your answers to these self-inquiries. Then, for each, write a little bit about why you think you lack these qualities. Then consider the rest of what follows, or you can choose to keep reading and return later to this short exercise.

Emotional Freedom

Indeed, one way to view freedom is the ability to feel everything, to reflect on these feelings, to heal from what has hurt us and shut us down, and thereby reclaim the vital inner resources from our pain necessary to live fuller lives. This is emotional freedom — a path to inner freedom that has immediate effects in the material world. and in our relationships.

When we are hurt by certain experiences, we often will often disavow (deny, shun, or negate) these aspects of ourselves, unless we heal from them. Part of this healing is to claim the essence and vitality of that quality and employ it towards good in our lives. Unfortunately, our psyches usually do not automatically separate out the helpful aspects of difficult emotions that we deny. We have to consciously do this. When we do not consciously work with our emotions, we therefore tend to throw the baby of vitality out with the bathwater of pain. When I deny sadness, for example, my unconscious tends to also repress my capacity for self-reflection, relaxation, pause, care, love, and empathy. I thereby lose out on these crucial qualities and experiences. Let’s look at some other examples.

If I grew up with an angry parent, I might squash my anger later in life, secretly or openly vowing not to be angry. Yet, when I deny my anger I also deny some of my passion, vitality, boundary-setting, assertiveness, appropriate control, speaking up for myself and others, and passion to effect change. I might even repress my creativity, as creativity is intimately connected to the energetic of anger.

Anger’s energetic is outward and forceful. Making a living, communication, work, getting stuff done, assertiveness, setting boundaries and exercising control also (to varying degrees) require an outward effort. Expressing joy also requires an extroverted effort, however mild. A pervasive disavowing of anger, therefore, can also lead to depression, because we are repressing the categorical energetic of anger, the whole gamut of our “outward and forceful” expression. If I work through the pain of hurt from anger, however, I can embrace my own anger and release much of its sting. Once I embody my anger, I have owned it, along with its positive aspects. I can thereby use these positive aspects for good, including the appropriate expression of anger.

Consider another example: if I was overly-controlled as a child, I might reject boundaries and assertiveness in my adult life, which can leave me less fulfilled, less appropriately protected, less productive and powerful. I might also fail to provide adequate boundaries and control of my children. Or consider secrecy. If I was not told the truth when it mattered to me in the past I might adopt a policy of “no secrets” later in life. I might think that we should all be honest and divulging about everything. Yet, this fails to appreciate tact and timing and appropriate withholding of information at appropriate times when our business is not someone else’s.

In other words, such unilateral, black-or-white approaches usually stem from unaddressed wounds. When we act oppositely to what hurt us, chances are we also create wounds and problems of the opposite extreme. Ironically, we create violations in equal dose to what we have vowed not to be, or to express. And the horror of recognizing this is often kept at bay by our denial and false beliefs about our actions and our life. The way out is to embrace and work through the original wound, not ignore it or do the opposite extreme of acting oppositely to what we disliked once ago.

If I feel that I was denied attention and admiration as child and simultaneously experienced my parents more concerned with material wealth, I might develop the story that money and materialism equal no affection and attention. I might therefore shun the power and the necessary, even sustainable, benefits of making money, business acumen, competition, and developing a career. I might also lack assertiveness when focus, follow-through, and goal orientation are needed — the absence of which also can leave me less satisfied, healthy, and fulfilled.

Another example: if I received less emotional nourishment than I needed and perceived my parents and other primary influences as intellectuals or “in their head” too much, I might conclude (accurately or not) that thinking and intellectualism necessarily correlate with less ability to love. This is not true, and in fact can be blatantly false, as I discussed in the article Re-Thinking Love: Why Our Hearts Must Also Be Minded. As a result, I might reject intellectual pursuits, logic, planning, rationality, and critical thinking in unilateral favor of intuition, feelings, going with the flow, and feelings of love to be more important than loving acts. In reality, all of the latter, feminine, Yin emotive qualities are intimately intertwined with the Yang aspects of mind, logic, and reason. Yin and Yang aspects of us enhance one another, and one without the other is less robust and sustainable.

So, if my parents were overly protective and controlling, I might grow up to shun control and protection, which leads to a host of other problems. If, on the other hand, my parents were not protective enough and gave me too much external freedom, which scared me or made me feel unsafe, I might grow up to shun freedom in favor of excessive control. Either extreme has its dark side. Yet, what we think is dark and only painful has hidden gifts, as described in all the above examples. When we embrace the dark in the form of our own hurt, we can integrate the dark into the light and reclaim a full palette of psycho-spiritual qualities that make life better, more integrative, and more fun and fulfilling.

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Reclaiming Our Freedom

What we are hurt by, we usually deny in ourselves and others, until we heal it. This healing involves feeling the loss and any other emotions associated with our loss of love. More, when we release a significant amount of charge and “grudge” (resentment) of being hurt by that quality, we reclaim the energetic of what we have denied and can harness its energetic as a vital part of our wholeness and thriving.

If I have anger issues, healing my past by processing it allows me to embrace the energetics and associated qualities of anger that I unconsciously shunned because I was still hurt by anger. In brief, processing means accepting, feeling, expressing appropriately, grieving what we did not get and what needs to be let go. If I perceive I was hurt by material wealth, after working through and grieving my emotional vacancies, and discovering after all it’s not material wealth that truly hurt me, I might be able to embrace more financial or material success in the world and better provide for myself and family. From the other example, when I heal my wounds from being over or under-protected, I can embrace the boons of protection and create more appropriate security for myself and loved ones, and whatever else I want to protect.

What we deny grieving in reaction to our wounds — and whether or not we think it is positive or negative — becomes our lack of freedom.

So much of our freedom revolves around healing the wounds that have caused us to disavow important aspects of ourselves. Too often we unilaterally gauge freedom in terms of being able to do and have things: lots of money, being able to travel, or being able to act as we like. These are external, feel-good freedoms. But how often do we gauge our freedom by the inner freedom we get to experience from imposing certain external limitations and making sacrifices? — such as being able to commit to a project, dedicating ourselves to a cause, building a business, raising a family, feeling difficult feelings and staying through tough times in relationships, being able to say “yes” when a situation is not perfect? All these are freedoms, and when we find freedom to experience what is difficult or painful, our feel-good freedoms get richer and deeper and more frequent. This is especially true when we find what we thought would be negative turns into something beautiful, which is certainly the case with emotional healing taken to its end.

As the great poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran said:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The mark of our healthy integration of core psycho-spiritual qualities such as assertiveness, control, boundaries, self-esteem, freedom, privacy, critical thinking, and attentiveness, for example, is when we can easily express these to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and thereby experience more fulfillment, love, compassion, purpose, meaning, and service to life.

So my invitation is this: which emotions do you unilaterally stay away from in others (and thereby likely yourself)? Are you able to hear another’s appropriate expression of anger? When a friend is grieving, are you able to be with them and accept their sadness without needing to change it? When you read about people’s fear, say, about ISIS or the effects of climate change, are you able to appreciate that fear, especially when it is based on evidence? Can you feel yourself genuinely join in the joyful experiences of others? All these inquiries help us identify what emotions we deny, outside our possibility, and therefore our freedom.

When we can’t mirror such emotions, this usually indicates that we are denying these vital experiences for ourselves. We can use this inability as a clue, a messenger, to examine our own lives and make changes to recover what we deny. This requires some humility, honesty, and courage. This way, not only do we get to look at and reclaim the positive aspect of vital emotions, but in the process we also get to cultivate humility, honesty, and courage — a win-win! Indeed, self-awareness and inner work are a win-win for everyone and everything, even though they can be challenging. Do we have the freedom to accept the challenge to gain more freedom?

The freedom to embrace challenge delivers unexpected freedom, in spades. Alas, true freedom is paradoxical. For when we are truly free we dedicate ourselves to the world we love, because we have found genuine love and compassion that needs to reach out.

The Nourish Practice

The Nourish Practice for Deep RejuvenationJack Adam Weber’s “The Nourish Practice” is an easy, guided meditation-Qi Gong practice in radical gratitude and self-love. It is an Earth-based, body-centered practice — at once physiological and ecological — that is deeply relaxing and replenishing, especially for modern-day burn-out syndrome, and requires little physical effort. It “resets your nervous system” and fosters a rich inner life.

You can purchase The Nourish Practice as a CD or Digital Download here.

Previous articles by Jack Adam Weber:

About the author:

Jack Adam WeberJack Adam Weber, L.Ac. is a Chinese medicine physician, author, celebrated poet, organic farmer, and activist for body-centered spirituality. He is also the creator of The Nourish Practice, an Earth-based rejuvenation meditation. Weber is available by phone for medical consultations and life-coaching.

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