This Fourth of July let’s do more than celebrate our right to pursue happiness – let’s go deeper. Take a moment to consider – what makes you truly happy?
If any of your answers boil down to freedom then you’re in good company: the founding fathers, the Buddha and saints of many faith traditions. Why is it then that the American population, which holds this value in such esteem, exhibits overwhelming rates of depression, anxiety and obesity?
Perhaps we’ve forgotten what freedom really feels like, confusing it with wealth, fame or power.
With the accumulation of material things to manage – do we feel more free? With growing responsibilities do we feel liberated? With increased celebrity – do we feel less inhibited?
I look to movie stars dodging paparazzi and stressed millionaires with no time for families. It’s clear to me that the pursuit of money, fame and power can, in fact, inhibit freedom.
The Buddha said, “living simply, having few desires, leads to peace, joy and serenity.” Though few of us are cut out to be a monk and own only one bowl and three robes, this advice is very valuable to us.
Consider how empowered you feel when you tactfully refuse an invitation that would have left you exhausted or over-extended. Consider how light you feel when one cookie is enough. Consider how liberating it is to clean out your closet.
Find freedom in simplicity.
As in all effective processes, allow each step to reflect the goal. Start simple. Clean out the junk drawer, de-clutter your closet, remove all items from the kitchen whose ingredients resemble nuclear code.
Sit with your breath. Allow your brain to slow, steady and calm. Each moment of the day our brains are hard at work. Carve out a few moments of freedom – just for you – to sit and simply breathe.
You may say to yourself:
Breathing in is simple,
Breathing out I am free.
Photo Credit: lrargerich