Throughout history, great thinkers, writers, artists, and philosophers have debated the meaning of freedom. Everybody loves freedom. Everybody wants it. At least, that is a common assumption.
Yet, freedom is such an abstract concept, that if each of us were asked to give a detailed description of it—we’d all come up with a completely different image. Freedom means different things to different people. As much as we say we want to have the freedom to self-express and be ourselves,deep inside of us is a “do-it-yourself” attitude that we believe constantly needs fixing. We fix our bodies, our minds and our souls seeking the ideal version of ourselves. It appears we’re never satisfied. Instead of appreciating what we’ve accomplished in our lives, or allowing ourselves to feel good about our bodies, minds and spirits, we put our attention on all of the “unfinished” projects we believe will make us happier and more prosperous.
Yes, sometimes we look at ourselves the same way we see a project. How many times have you taken on self-improvement like a major project? Perhaps you started the newest miracle diet, or decided to take on the task of writing the novel you’d been talking about for years, or you took on changing a particular behavior that was causing you and others stress. You started out excited and feeling a great sense of freedom in your new growth—only to end up becoming obsessed and feeling your new found freedom slipping away. It’s like you took over the project of YOU with an all-or nothing or change the world attitude that ended up consuming you instead of bringing you pleasure.
Once trapped by an obsessive need to fix ourselves to reach our ideal, we find it easier to give up. We find it challenging to accept set-backs that occurred primarily because of our unrealistic perceptions when we started the “project”. We lose touch with what we were even trying to accomplish and we abandon the whole thing. Looking back to our initial idea, we can probably see that our obsession with the project was far more challenging and possibly unfeasible in the timeframe we anticipated. That’s because we over estimated what it would take to really make the change—we lacked the patience and persistence it took to remain focused.
Inevitably, the moment we run into trouble, we quickly give up and then search for a new self-improvement project that looks easier. We start all over and pick up where we left off—with a new project that we believe is it, the one that will be the fix.
It is frightening to think about how much money we spend a year in our do-it-yourselffixer upper lifestyles. When was the last time you spent thousands of dollars taking one workshop after another—or buying dozens of self-help books—or hiring a coach with no real clarity of what you needed and then found yourself “wandering” all over the map? Our fixation with perfecting ourselves leads us to wasting our money, time and precious energies. We are at the whim of every new miracle diet, the next personal or professional coach, the next person who tells us they can help us write our best selling novel, lose the weight, become rich, get healthy, etc.
Real change leads to freedom. The kind of inner freedom that lasts a lifetime and outside circumstances have little control. Here’s what it takes to really make the kind of change that is lasting—that will set you free in living a life filled with expressions of your unique talents and gifts bringing you inner peace and harmony.
1. Patience: The cultivation of patience is a prerequisite to authentic fulfillment. It is suggested that a quality of patience is like emptying the ocean with a teacup. Instead of being overwhelmed by how much water there is, we pleasure in each moment of filling the teacup.
Patience is a confidence in the heart, trusting in its own good intentions. And, confidence deepens our faith, which leads us to gratitude. When one is working with, rather than against change in whatever theme and variation, there is tremendous freedom in the faith that everything is allotted a certain amount of time. Long enduring patience is a timeless attitude that allows everything to take the time that it needs to be complete.
2. Self-acceptance: Without accepting that you are a naturally flawed human being, life becomes one of a battle instead of a life of bliss. Unconditional self-acceptance goes deep to the core of who you are. To accept this absolute love about oneself makes us immune to the demands of others’ approval, and gives a greater freedom to act in a way that is authentic. A person who accepts themselves does not sacrifice his or her own interests and desires in order to be admired, but rather strives to express their unique talents with out-flowing creativity. This self-acceptance means to be interested to know ourselves without avoidance, without denial, without disowning, without intellectualizing, without changing the subject. The ability to be aware in the fullest sense without judging or condemning or selfrepudiating.
3. Self-forgiveness: Self-forgiveness is the most difficult aspect of spiritual growth for the majority of people. For example, it is not always easy to forgive ourselves for putting ourselves in a situation that wounded us. Or, perhaps for something we did that was not good. Self-forgiveness is an act of the imagination. It dares you to imagine a better future, one that is based on the blessed possibility that your hurt will not be the final word on the matter. It challenges you to give up your destructive thoughts about the situation and to believe in the possibility of a better future. It builds confidence that you can survive the pain and grow from it.
The next time you tell yourself you want to change something about yourself, make a different choice. Instead of quickly adopting the do-it-yourself-fixer-upper attitude, try trusting yourself to make real change over time. Set a clear intention that allows you to move forward in your desire for growth and improvement with patience, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
Take a teacup and begin emptying your doubts, anxieties, challenges, limiting beliefs, angers, frustrations, and any other human malaise that you want to shift from unhappiness. Empty them one teacup at a time and watch how your life goes from an ocean of tears and illusions to an ocean of possibilities, hope and trust that bliss is yours for a lifetime, anytime you choose.