The Paradox of Freedom

Freedom is a paradox.

To have freedom of body is to recognize the body’s limits and simultaneously requires building strength, stamina, flexibility and vibrancy within the limits of our body to exercise body freedom. As Anishinaabe teacher, Kathy Abeleson, once said, “you can only be where your feet are” (and to that I add, ‘and where your hands are’).

To have freedom of spirit is to know the restraints of ego. We can only know the beauty of freedom in our spirit when our egos are constrained and restrained in a balanced state, where its authority on any matter is subject to the wisdom of a Higher Power/our spirit/our higher consciousness. To truly have freedom of the spirit, we need to cultivate a spiritual discipline and practise virtues such as compassion, patience, integrity, gentleness, moderation and temperance.

To have freedom of finances, again, we need to practise restraint and balance and awareness of our spending habits, our income/earning potential which needs to include our values, our vision for the future as much as the basic needs of the present moment.

To have freedom of the mind, there is so much we need to release — expectations, shoulds, judgements and resentments, just to name a few. And yet, freedom of the mind requires a willingness and commitment to stay open-minded to differing ideas and agendas, resisting the ego’s need to narrow and close down to protect our status quo and privilege.

To have freedom of the heart requires us to forgive, to release our resentments and hatred. It requires that we let go of our emotional attachments, especially to outcomes even as we channel our passion for what we value most. And freedom of the heart calls us to expand our capacity to love, our empathy towards suffering as well as our inspirations.

Freedom to be an individual is rooted in our interconnectedness to everyone and everything. Everything in Nature is balanced in reciprocal relationship within the ecosystem that surrounds it and everything within it. Freedom to be an individual is both liberated and constrained by the community/ecosystem they are part of and being sustained by within that community/ecosystem.

Freedom of speech is only as free as it gives life to the whole (Charter of Human Rights article 2 comes after article 1, for example). As I posted yesterday, the words you put out there meet the echo chambers of the ecosystems that surround us. We do and will sow what we reap. Nature is created in such a way that we will be held responsible for our words that we put out into the universe. At some point, toxicity implodes, killing itself, a natural occurrence in Nature (ie. cancer). Speech that is truthful and clear, simple and uplifts the whole sustains itself with ongoing life into the next generations.

In other words, freedom is paradoxically balanced by the laws of its ecosystem. Freedom is a powerful experience when we humbly and paradoxically accept that we are part of the whole. We belong to the whole and are in reciprocal relationship to the whole. If I’m ‘free’ but my neighbour is denied their ‘freedom’, then some part of me cannot be fully free because some part of the whole (the ecosystem) I live in remains ‘unfree’/out of balance. And yet, I alone cannot determine and define when my neighbour is free. Both my neighbour and the land they live on and the whole must contribute to what determines their and my freedom.

This is quite the paradox the universe has set up for us. We may have been given the most advanced reason and cognition of the species as a form of intelligence. But we are also the only species to be given ego. And we won’t be completely free of ego except through death. As I recently read, we are free to choose but we are not free from the consequences of our choice. Interesting, isn’t it, this way of freedom?

Just some random thoughts for today…. but certainly not all inclusive. Peace.

©Shirley Lynn Martin

February 2022