Freedom is having choice in each moment. The highest truth is that mo matter what our external situation, we always have choice. While we may not be able to choose what is happening in any particular moment, we always have the choice in how we respond to it.
One of the most graphic teachings around choice in difficult situations comes from a psychologist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl. In his book Man's Search for Meaning Frankl shares how those living in the Nazi concentration camps who found a sense of meaning or held hope were more likely to survive. He affirmed that even the worst-case human situations cannot take away freedom. Frankl writes:
"We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."
We are blessed to live in a time of great external freedom. We may have limitations on our resources - financial, emotional, health - but we are graced with many many freedoms in most places in the world. So let's start there: having gratitude for the freedoms that we do have. Take a moment to look around your life and name the freedoms that you do have, and to honor all the beings that helped create the freedom you are enjoying. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and the beings that walked before us that struggled for basic freedoms. Thank you, thank you.
Now from that place of gratitude, let's explore personal choice. While we always have the theoretical ability to make any choice, we may not have the energy or support or skills to make the choice we would want to make, or to make the actual best choice for us.
But we always have the choice to find the energy and support we need to come into more choice.
So to get to choice, we need to befriend discipline.
Discipline is not a punishment, but an ally to help us focus and direct our attention exactly where we want it to go.
I love this quote from empowered fitness guru Patricia Moreno: "Discipline is freedom. It is you getting yourself to do what you really want to do."
The truth is I'm not the most disciplined person. I'm more a wait for the inspiration to come and then stay up all night completely excited about the project I am working on sort of person. And while I'm learning to rest into the ebb and furious flow of my creativity, there are some places that more discipline would be well-received in my life.
And here we are, another year starting, another opportunity to join with millions of people around the world to start over, to turn over a new leaf, to become a new me. Yay!
Every day we have the opportunity to make a new choice. And New Year's is a party of people rocking out to new choices. But how to make those New Year's goals last? That takes discipline.
Here's what I'm exploring for 2014:
Focusing more on the why of making change than the how. Why do I want to write regularly, exercise more often, and eat foods that my body likes? When we jump right to the how sometimes we create unrealistic goals that we then judge ourselves about not completing. But when we focus on the why, and really get clear with ourselves about why we want something, we can then guide ourselves to better choices from a place of love and acceptance. Then discipline shifts from being something we push ourselves to do and becomes a gift we give ourselves every day.
I'm also starting with "for today" goals. My intent is to have more energy when I wake up, and so my goal for today is to not eat any sugar and see if that supports my intent. My intent is to finish my book and write regularly; so for today I'll work on chapters 5 and 6. Tomorrow I'll reset my goals and priorities, based in my overall intent, guided by how I want to feel, rather than what my brain thinks is right or wrong.
Add a pinch or a pound of discipline into each day, and invite your own sacred why and intent to bring you more and more freedom to do what you really want to do in 2014.
Blessed New Year!