As I travelled to Singapore recently on a day trip from my current home of Bali, I found myself thinking that I would like to write something about freedom – including the freedom of being a solo traveller. I’ve been thinking about freedom quite a bit recently and realised that I haven’t really written much about this subject yet, even though it is now such a big part of my life and a big contributing factor in my happiness. At the airport, I silently observe the interactions of others. I avoid the dramas of families and friends travelling together. I am very much in the present moment and just enjoying the act of travelling – being ‘in limbo’, in transit and in between countries. Travelling abroad was nothing like this when I was with my family as a child: it was stressful, chaotic, demanding and tearful! Now I glide around, blissfully unnoticed. I am peaceful and flowing – unhindered by baggage or companions. When I get on the plane and open my new book – “Conversations with Richard Bandler” by Richard Bandler and Owen Fitzpatrick – I am struck by the phrase that appears in huge bold letters on the very first page: “Freedom is everything and love is all the rest”. As I took in the synchronicity and was further inspired by the first few pages of the book, I realised that everything was lining up perfectly and that freedom would indeed be the subject of this article. Just like during other flights I have taken in recent years, as soon as we take off, words pour out of me and onto the page. I am in flow – in an ‘altered state’, as Richard would say, and experiencing complete clarity of mind. It’s as though the words are not coming FROM me but THROUGH me, as I scribble quickly to keep up with train of thought. This is freedom to create and here is what I created…
Control is over-rated:
Osho said: “Don’t call it uncertainty – call it wonder. Don’t call it insecurity – call it freedom”. Whilst having a set routine or regular job provides us with structure and can offer a feeling of security (although not as much as you’d think, because we then spend all our time worrying about losing the things we have!), it doesn’t give the sense of expansive freedom that comes with not knowing what your next move is and just going with the flow. If you had told me this a few years ago, I would have thought you were crazy, as I was somebody who valued structure and security more than most other people! However, it is liberating to trust you can handle any situation that comes your way, rather than trying to control every little thing. Trying to control the uncontrollable only causes headaches and frustration. Ironically, by frantically trying to hold onto everything because we think it is part of our identity or gives us safety, we actually build up a huge reservoir of fear that shows up in all areas of our life. Control is a con. It doesn’t make us feel better. Letting and trusting are the way forward. (Read my blog post on letting go.) When you let go and treat life as an adventure, you start to find that things are not nearly as scary as you thought. In fact, they are pretty amazing. Every day can be a new discovery if you choose the way you look at things.
We are in a prison of our own making:
Richard Bandler said; “To me, people who make life more miserable than it needs to be are chaining themselves to the belief that life is suffering. They forget that life is not about remembering and reliving unpleasantness from the past, but instead looking forward to look at life as the adventure it can be”. It is only us holding ourselves back from freedom and happiness – keeping ourselves stuck. We built up these limiting beliefs from society or from our early experiences – but more important than where the hell we got them from, is the fact that we need to stop hanging onto them and know that there is much more out there than we have been led to believe. We need to wake up from this torpor that we have been in – this so called life that has been prescribed to us because it is supposedly how we ‘should’ do things. Instead. Let’s start to think for ourselves, ditch the over-rated concept of the ‘safe’ career, the nice house in the suburbs, the ‘perfect’ partner and the 2.4 children – it’s an illusion that these things will certainly lead to your happiness. Before you rain down objections on me, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this IF it makes you happy and you consciously chose it for yourself. What I am saying is that you don’t have to believe the hype and fall into a trap just because everybody else is doing it. Just be aware that if you WANT something else, there is more out there than you could have imagined and it is all available to you. In the words of Zig Ziglar; “Far too many people have no idea what they can do, because all they have been told is what they can’t do. They don’t know what they want, because they don’t know what is available for them”. I would say that it’s not just that they have been told they can’t do things, but because they are also telling themselves this!
A life without limits – freedom to choose your attitude:
We all spend a lot of time preoccupied with our limits, thinking about what we can’t do rather than that we can. Really though, the possibilities are endless! These days, we can travel the world easily and cheaply, we can communicate with people millions of miles away in the blink of an eye, or we can think of an idea and turn it into own own business. Have you ever considered just how freakin’ amazing this universe is that we live in?! As Einstein said: “You can live your life as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle”. And it really is! Go out and experiment. Try skydiving! Try a day in bed! Try a day of not planning, but just doing whatever you feel like (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone)! Push your boundaries and enjoy doing it. Play with life. Be like a child in a playground. (Read my blog post on learning this skill from children.)
Your limits are only in your mind and the great thing about your mind is that is belongs to you, so you can change it! So many of us get caught in the trap of not realising this. We think it is all these external factors causing us problems and if only everything in the world would line up for us, THEN we could be happy. We don’t realise that it’s what we think about these our circumstances that causes us problems, not the circumstances themselves. We have the freedom to change our attitude. In the words of Owen Fitzpatrick; “One of the most important freedoms we have is to see one situation from multiple points of view”. If you think that life has dealt you a rough hand and there is just nothing you can do about this but suffer, then you have made your choice and that is what your brain will be programmed to do. You have given away your power and you are a victim. Sure, you can choose to think like that, but it’s not going to make you feel very good. Or, you can choose to think differently about your situation and actively choose to make yourself feel good. The trick is to realise that you have a choice about how you decide to feel and your freedom is so much closer than you think – it’s in your hands. The Ashtavakra Gita sums up this powerful truth that thinking something makes it so with the line; "If one thinks one is free, one is free; and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound".
Freedom leads to creativity:
As I found out on my plane journey, having freedom and space leads to creativity. If our life is so full already and we are stressed out of our minds worrying about everything, there is no room for great ideas to come to us. Richard Bandler said; “To me, freedom is the single most important experience that human beings can have. It is the act of creation itself – not just creating great things like art and music, but creating the great moments of your life”. Freedom leads us to being inspired and gives our incredibly powerful imaginations space to work. Too much structure, stress and worry stifles this creativity. I find this with how I write: I let the words tumble down onto the page and then bring a little structure to them later. If I tried to order them rigidly from the start, it would stop the flow. We need to allow our brains some freedom – to let go of the reins a little.
It takes courage, but life will look out for you:
According to Thucyclides, “The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom, courage”. It is true that it takes courage to be free. It is always available to us, but first we need to step away from our sense of duty – from we feel we ‘should’ do. We worry about the outcome of moving away from the norm. Instead of visualising all the possible things that could go right, we make huge pictures in our heads of what could go wrong and we scare ourselves senseless with them. No wonder so many of us never act and stay stuck in our ruts when we are constantly beating ourselves up in this way! We are terrified of what might happen if we step out of line – if we move away from the ‘shoulds’.
Fear is the enemy of freedom and it keeps us well and truly stuck. However, fear only has power over us if we let it. Here’s the trick with fear: to realise it is not real! I like to remember the acronym for FEAR as False Evidence Appearing Real. Have you ever noticed that your worries about something are far scarier than the thing itself? Once you face your fears, you realise this fact and you make yourself stronger. Or, as Jim Morrison said; "Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free!” Nobody is fearless – and that’s a good thing as fear evolved for a reason, but we just need to realise that fear doesn’t need to stop us acting and has no power to take away our freedom. Only we can do that. (Read my blog on fear.)
Freedom in relationships
In his book: “Love, Freedom, Aloneness – the Koan of Relationships”, Osho talks about freedom as an essential component of relationships. Whilst this might seem odd to many of us, it really is important to have freedom in all areas of our life and relationships are no exception. Healthy relationships are not built on need and holding tight, but on giving each other the freedom for personal growth and creativity. Khalil Gibran puts this more elegantly than I ever could, when he says; “Let there be space in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love”.
Or, choose not to be in a relationship for a while. There is something remarkably liberating about not having to think about another person’s needs for a while. I have also found it to be great for personal growth – particularly if you are somebody who has previously ‘lost’ themselves in another person. Just to explain here that I don’t mean we shouldn’t ever have relationships. The feeling of oneness and connectedness with another human being is part of the ‘rich tapestry’ of life, but be free to choose it. Don’t chain yourself to relationships, but instead know that when you wake up each morning next to someone that every day you choose to be there. Freedom brings choice.
Freedom to live your best life or even to find your calling:
Another quote from Richard Bandler that really hit home with me was; “Most people have difficulties and limit how much joy they have in their lives because they don’t grasp opportunities available to them or maximise their resources. The very way people think about things and the very beliefs they have prevent them from being able to achieve the best that life has to offer”. Because we keep our minds in the chains that we put there ourselves, we are actively stopping ourselves experiencing joy and having the best life we possibly could. Wow! That’s huge! What are we doing?! These beliefs that we have are limiting us and holding us back from everything good that is available to us.
For me, this is why I love what I do with my life now. By stepping into my freedom, I found my calling and my passion – the way I can be of services to others. Through coaching people, including using the NLP methodology co-founded by Richard Bandler, I help people move past these limiting beliefs and into freedom to get the best out of their lives. When I was chaining myself to a corporate job, I didn’t get to support people in this way. Now I have found my freedom, I can spend the rest of my life helping others to find theirs. How awesome is that?!
I don’t often dedicate my articles to anyone (or anything), but I am FREE to do so and why not?! So, this post is dedicated to Richard Bandler – the man who taught me techniques to improve my life and other people’s, as well as to ask myself the question: “How much fun can I have? How much pleasure can I stand?” Also, to my beloved island of Bali, which has taught me so much about freedom.
I would like to end this post with a quote from Owen Fitzpatrick, which I believe provides a lot of food for thought:
“If you want to become free or if you want to bring more joy into your life, you must choose to change in certain ways. You must choose to learn about freedom. You must choose to learn about change. You must choose to learn about how your experience your problems. You must choose how you experience your relationships. You must choose how you understand the universe. You must choose how you act, how you think and how you live.”
And one final wish from me, which comes from a Sanskrit mantra: "May all beings everywhere be happy and free".