“…people are as free as they want to be.”
– James Baldwin
FREEDOM. How free are you? Is your freedom dependent on someone else? What are your divine rights?
When I was in China in 2006 I was struck by the display of prosperity in places like Shanghai, with its large LED screens touting the latest fashions and movies. It was like New York’s Times Square on steroids. It had the veil of democracy and had come a long way from when my mom started doing business in the People’s Republic of China in the 1980s. However, looking beneath the surface of the bright lights, I realized that it was just a good face-lift. As Gandhi indicated, poverty is certainly a form of violence and oppression. But economic progress, particularly among just a select group within a country, is not a clear sign of freedom. Although their 1982 constitution technically guarantees certain human rights, it does not translate well in reality. From being regulated to one child and having to register religious groups with the government to living under a corrupt legal system and being subjected to detention for “unpatriotic acts”, those in the PRC are far from free.
The United States offers considerable liberties to its citizens relative to other nations. We expect such democratic ideals as “freedom of speech,” and “freedom of religion.” However, our very culture — driven by values of material comfort and external conformity — can also enslave us. We tend to be followers; slaves to our jobs, our lifestyles, family expectations, and media images. Those who break through are called “stars” or “mavericks.” In a country so rich, we can be seen as morally and spiritually poor given our current healthcare system and rates of homelessness. The right to breathe, think, eat, speak, pray, move, gather, work, procreate – and simply be yourself – should be considered divine rights. However, from a global perspective, there seems to be “degrees of freedom” depending on where and who you are.
The Divine Plan is one of complete freedom; bondage is not God-ordained. But, here’s the rub. We are bound because we are first free; the power which appears to bind us is the same power which can free us – as individuals and as nations. On a very basic level, it comes down to the powers of thought, belief and choice. As W.E.B. DuBois said, “Freedom is a state of mind.” Think about why children smile so often. They live in the present moment and are not afraid to express how they feel. They haven’t been shackled by judgment and cultural norms. Ask yourself: “Do I have an open mind? Are my current choices enslaving me or freeing me? Do they reflect my core values? Am I living the consequences of poor decisions?”
If you’re alive, there is always something you can do to better the situation. It starts with your perspective. That’s how a person can be free even within prison walls. It’s about spending time being still, defining your core values, and adjusting your vision. Once you claim emancipation, however, understand that you are then accountable to your own choices. With this realization, you can not play victim. If you’re feeling trapped, know that thought by thought, step by step, choice by choice – you can break free. Develop a daily ritual of reflection – it may include prayer, contemplation, meditation, journaling. These practices can be a gateway toward self-awareness and self-realization – the ultimate expression of liberty.
Choose wisely. Live your own truth. Be thankful for the civil liberties you enjoy. Make a declaration of war against negativity. If you witness oppression, take action. Unlock the chains of fear and compliance, and allow your most divine self to emerge. Only then, will you truly be free.
Today, I claim my freedom.
I walk my own path determined by my Creator. I do not allow my thoughts or cultural beliefs to enslave me or block my blessings. I have a divine right to joy. I do not judge myself by others expectations. I am free to be me and use my own mind to express how I feel.
Today, I claim my freedom.
Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy. Power Living® Column Vol. 12.03/70.08, originally published July 6, 2003; updated July 2008. Teresa Kennedy has written over 70 “The Power of…” columns that are a part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series and available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.
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