Want to Feel Free? Look Within.
“The fact is, freedom is a BIG idea. It’s what America was built on. It’s the reason that people fight on behalf of our country, and it’s what people come here in search of. Yet, what I’ve come to realize over the course of my own life is that if you really want to find freedom, then your search must start within.”
Do you feel free?
Free to follow your own path? Free to love who you want? Free to vote for who you want? Free to believe what you want?
If you do, then you are one of the lucky ones.
In the days leading up to this Fourth of July weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of freedom—yours, mine and ours. I’ve been especially thinking about what freedom feels like on the inside.
We can talk all we want about the intellectual idea of freedom, the political idea of freedom, or the professional idea of freedom. But, if you feel trapped, stuck or afraid on the inside, then you’re anything but free.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
There have been times in my own life when I didn’t feel free to pursue an idea. When I didn’t feel free to step out on my own. When I didn’t feel free to say what I really thought.
I’ve come to realize that holding my breath doesn’t serve me or anyone I care about. I’ve realized that dimming my light makes me feel contained, and that isn’t really healthy for me or those I love. (To that end, I hope the president takes a moment this weekend to think about his own use of his free speech, particularly when it comes to women. I wonder if he would like what he says about certain women to be said about the women in his own life. I doubt it. It’s unnecessary language, and it’s unattractive.)
Using your voice is a step toward freedom. So is making your own decisions, following your heart, doing what you love, and speaking your truth. These are the paths to finding the freedom that resides within each of us.
There have been many times in my career as a journalist when I have found myself looking at someone else’s life path and remarking at how free they seemed. I have interviewed people who on the surface seemed free since they had money, power and fame. And yet, they told me they felt trapped.
I’ve also spoken with people who on the surface looked anything but free, and yet they said that they were. I’ve interviewed people in prison who felt free. I’ve interviewed people who were poor and felt free. I’ve interviewed people who were down and out, but were able to bounce back and feel light and free, after doing everything from selling their possessions to quitting a lucrative job to moving to a far-away place.
On this holiday weekend, it’s worth noting how lucky we are to live in America. We do live in a free country. We are free to practice the religion of our choice. We have a free press. On paper, we are all “free.”
But, so many people I speak to say they feel anything but that. They are drowning in their bills, their responsibilities, their debts, and their obligations. They’re drowning to the point where they can’t even breathe.
It’s a lot to contend with.
The fact is, freedom is a BIG idea. It’s what America was built on. It’s the reason that people fight on behalf of our country, and it’s what people come here in search of. Yet, what I’ve come to realize over the course of my own life is that if you really want to find freedom, then your search must start within.
So many wise people have written about this (like Architects of Change Jack Kornfield and Meg Worden, who we share with you today), that it’s worth noting that freedom really does reside within each and every one of us. We just have to dig in and find it.
At any time, we can focus our minds on our sense of freedom. We can reflect on times when we have felt free. We can imagine the type of freedom we want in our lives moving forward. And, we can do what it takes to put practices into effect that help us stay grounded in that emotion.
Now, as a reminder, chasing one’s own freedom shouldn’t come at the expense of the other values we want to see in our society. Kindness, compassion, love, acceptance, and the other pillars I’ve written about are all required of us if we want to achieve the kind of collective freedom that we as a society deserve.
America is the land of the free and the home of the brave (thanks in part to veterans like our Architect of Change of the Week Travis Mills). You have to be brave to fight for freedom—your country’s freedom, and your own. Trust me, this is a battle worth waging.
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
THE FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT IN THE OPEN
As Senate Republicans struggled this week to garner support for their health care bill, Rep. John Lewis and Sen. Corey Booker gathered on the Capitol steps for an impromptu rally against it. Within four hours, nearly 300 people had joined them. Watch the video above to see how democracy was taken out from behind closed doors and brought out into the open.
THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS TO FACT-CHECK ITSELF
Just as the media has the right to report on what it deems newsworthy, it also has a duty to call itself out when it gets something wrong, as CNN did this week. (For another fascinating look at the challenges facing the media today, check out this Netflix documentary that’s getting buzz: “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.”)
THE FREEDOM TO LOVE WHO YOU WANT
Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki made headlines this week for denying communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages. As a Catholic myself, I have to say: this is the antithesis of what I believe and what I was taught. It’s also the antithesis of what Jesus Christ believed and how he behaved. Thankfully, Pope Francis and other Catholics agree.
THE FREEDOM TO CHASE AFTER YOUR DREAMS
Olympic runner Alysia Montaño is five months pregnant, but she didn’t let that stop her from competing in the USA Track and Field Championships on Thursday—in a Wonder Woman outfit, no less. Watch Montaño’s inspiring post-event speech above about how grateful she is to be a female athlete in America.
And, speaking of female athletes, I LOVED this picture of a pregnant Serena Williams on the cover of Vanity Fair. It’s a reminder of our freedom to show up and pose however we want. Take that.
PASSIONATE VIEWS & POWERFUL PERSPECTIVES
FROM ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE
JACK KORNFIELD: “DON’T WORRY WHEN FREEDOM SEEMS DAUNTING. … IT’S AN ADVENTURE WORTH TAKING.”
World-renowned spiritual guide Jack Kornfield reminds us why chasing the unknown can be a good thing. READ MORE
MEG WORDEN: “EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT FREEDOM, I LEARNED IN PRISON.”
Writer and health coach Meg Worden shares how incarceration cracked her open and showed her how to tap into the inner freedom that resides within us all. READ MORE
PICO IYER: “AMERICA’S ONE GREAT AND UNRIVALED QUALITY IS REMAINING IRRESISTIBLE TO PEOPLE FROM ELSEWHERE.”
Essayist and novelist Pico Iyer has traveled the world many times over and has a powerful perspective on why America is still at the top of his list. READ MORE
ARCHITECT OF CHANGE OF THE WEEK:
TRAVIS MILLS: “WE WANTED TO CREATE A VACATION RETREAT WHERE MILITARY FAMILIES COULD FEEL AT HOME.”
Travis Mills is a quadruple amputee vet who is using his incredible story of survival and perseverance to pay it forward to others. Mills recently opened a vacation retreat in Maine where America’s military families can relax free of charge.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
SHOP FOR YOUR MIND
“My First Coloring Book Is On Sale Now!”
I’m so excited that Color Your Mind” is now a national bestseller! If you know someone with Alzheimer’s or another brain-related challenge, or if you know someone who is a caregiver, I hope you’ll consider gifting them with a copy. It’s designed with love.
WHAT DOES FREEDOM
MEANT TO YOU?
This week, we partnered with our friends at Ideapod, a social platform for idea sharing, to ask the question: What does freedom mean to you? Check out some of our favorite responses below, and share your own thoughts with us here.
“I feel like being an American means respecting freedom of speech and expression, and personal space. And, the most important thing is to have it in your heart that those freedoms deserve defending and protecting.” —@CodyMcCleery
“Freedom is permission to live and think differently, in order to thrive in our own way and to dissent if we feel that it is necessary, especially in order to protect those who are less fortunate from malice. In other words, the right to live is inseparable from the duty to let live.” —@Jean-VictorCôté
“Freedom is not a perfect constant state. It is a continuing struggle not to regard anybody as more precious or less worthy than another human being. If we see this conscious effort from another, we experience freedom.” —@Jocelyn
“I would say that being an American today is exhausting. You’re either left or you’re right, but what about the people who are neither? It has become the Divided States of America. Freedom to me is the feeling that you belong. The feeling that you can be yourself, without having the need to be defensive all the time just because your parents are immigrants.” —@BoonHem
“Freedom to me is the dignified, respectful and gracious space within to be myself, no questions asked. No fear of ridicule, no fear of judgment, no fear of prosecution. No masks to hide behind. Simply it is just being and allowing for space for others to do the same.” —@Yasmin
A SUNDAY REFLECTION
We also share with you today the lyrics to one of the most famous songs about America. Woodie Guthrie’s words have been sung many times over and have, in fact, evolved over time as original lyrics that weren’t recorded got discovered. Do you have a favorite song or poem about America? Tell us.