I know the 4th of July has come and gone – a day when we, as Americans, celebrate our freedom. It was such a lovely holiday and my first 4th living in small-town Santa Barbara. I spent the day with a friend riding bikes, seeing a parade, watching an outdoor concert, going to the movies, visiting the beach, cooking a delicious meal, seeing fireworks and having awesome conversation…all in one day! I had an innate sense of freedom all day long, and felt so grateful for being able to follow my dreams and move to Santa Barbara back in March of this year. I really felt so much gratitude for being able to live in America and have the freedom to live a life that I am passionate about.
Something interesting happened as I was watching the Spirit of 76 Parade make it’s way slowly down State Street. As I sat there on my bike, enjoying the parade and taking photos, a woman passed by me on foot walking her dog and very matter of factly, said, “there is no freedom without blood shed folks.” At first I judged her as a “Debbie Downer” of sorts, and then I really thought about what she said, and I thought, wow, that is SO true. Why does there have to be blood shed to be free??? Why do we have to FIGHT to obtain freedom? Isn’t it just something that is inherent as an American? To me, there seems to be something backward about all of this…Fighting for Freedom.
As the parade proceeded, there were war officers, depictions of war heroes from times past, lots of guns, army vehicles, etc. and I started to feel sad and depressed. Not a lot of people were smiling, and there was a melancholic overtone of the whole procession. And as the parade continued on past me, I thought to myself, “Why does our freedom feel so fleeting? Are we really free, or do we just have an idea of that? And why do people have to die for us to obtain freedom?” All of these questions felt very heady and a bit overwhelming for a holiday that is supposed to be celebratory. And as I stood there, I thought about all the courageous men and women, out there in the trenches, that fight for our freedom and our country every day. And then I wondered: how did it get to this? That we have to kill others to feel free? And that we have to make others feel smaller, so we can feel bigger, to experience a sense of freedom. Seems kind of hypocritical and backward to me. I wondered then if all of those soldiers felt free, and what I concluded was that they had the freedom to make their own choice to join the military and from that conclusion I started to go deeper into what freedom really meant to me.
In my eyes, true freedom comes from within and there is nothing outside of us that can really give us the sense of freedom, even though it may seem that way. But as most of you know any time you have to deal with insurance companies, the government, health care, the food industry etc. doesn’t it often feel as though your hands are tied and you aren’t really free? We have to abide by rules, laws and follow what is the “norm.” The food industry is especially one area where I especially don’t experience ANY freedom at all, unless of course, I grow my own food and never visit another supermarket again. Big corporations are taking away our rights as humans, by creating genetically modified foods and overtaking and contaminating smaller farms. So as I thought about all of this and started to become more depressed, and reel in my headiness, I decided that I needed to change my mindset to experience that sense of freedom inside of myself and not let my negative thoughts and outside circumstances control how I much freedom I personally experienced.
Because the truth is, freedom really only comes from within. We can have a false sense of freedom by what is or isn’t around us, but our true freedom comes from that place inside were we get to choose how we react or think in any given moment. We get to choose to love instead of hate. To forgive, instead of judge. To accept instead reject. To choose a life of joy, over a life of suffering.
So often we hold ourselves prisoner by the choices we make in our heads. When we drop into our hearts and the true Authenticity of who we really are, that is where the real freedom resides. I know this to be true from my own experience, especially with regards to my body and how I feel about it. When I am stuck in criticism and hatred toward my body, I am a prisoner; but when I am in the present moment, enjoying life and appreciating all that my body gives to me, I am FREE! And I’d prefer to feel free, wouldn’t you?
So, where can you shift inside of yourself to create freedom today? Who can you love instead of hate? And who can you forgive instead of judge??
With gratitude & Love
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Melissa is personal chef, wellness coach and nutrition educator. Check out her website here.