It’s the Fourth of July, our country’s 245th anniversary of independence and separation from the British Empire. It seems only right to dedicate my blog this week to “freedom,” but I don’t want to revert to the usual clichés and stale definitions. The word is far reaching with so many different interpretations, it deserves much more than a perfunctory and simplistic reference. So I thought I’d look into some contemporary examples of this elusive and powerful word.

What initially comes to mind is the lyric in Janis Joplin’s hit song. Me and Bobby McGee:: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Janis died a few days after recording the song, fleeing her body and demonstrating the lyrics literally, even though she didn’t write them. A little known fact is that the song, part of her posthumous album “Pearl,” was written by Kris Kristopherson and Fred Foster about a studio secretary, Barbara McKee, but they had misheard her name.

We have such programmed and varied ideas about what freedom means. Some people see it as speaking up while others see it as staying quiet without the need to defend oneself. Some people see it as an unlimited bank account, the ability to buy whatever they want to have and go wherever they want to go. Others see it as giving up everything and having no ties or obligations. The Hindu word
“Sanyasin” refers to someone who renounces the world and abandons all claims to society and family. A Sanyasin wears orange, the color that represents spirituality in that culture, and lives deliberately separated from society at large.

Buddhist nun Pema says, “This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted and shaky – that’s called liberation.”

Jim Morrison, said, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”

Poet Laureate, Toni Morrison, said, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

I see wisdom in all of these definitions, I don’t see one as any truer than another, so I’m exercising my personal freedom by defining the word on my own terms, the way I see it and the way I don’t. For me, it isn’t about stepping out of my comfort zone because my athletic
background was all about physical discomfort and learning to tolerate pain and loneliness. I’ve had enough of that. I don’t feel the
need to give up things and separate myself from the secular world. Rather, I feel free when I am satisfied with what I have, when I live in the world the way I want to and adopt a lifestyle that makes me happy and encourages an open heart and mind. For me, being free means that I get to choose what I do, who I allow into my inner circle, what I eat, what and whom I listen to and how I make my living. It isn’t about clinging to people or things. I’m talking about standing up for who I am are, loosening my grip on the idea of perfection and approving of myself exactly as I am.

I see freedom as a mental and spiritual concept that means letting go of negative thinking and painful stories that aren’t real. It’s a state of mind where I can unburden my heart and do the things that make sense to me. We are born free, but we have to practice it in order to live it. When we find the courage to figure out who we are, what
matters to us, and how best we can gracefully embody the truth about ourselves, Then we are free to simply be.

What does freedom mean to you?