What it means to be truly free?

by Anita Menon

I am enjoying my Sunday for the first time in 8 months after joining work. I had no plans for this Sunday and it was a day full of possibilities. I could do what I wanted to do or not do it at all. It was a queer thought really. The thought made me uncomfortable and I wondered why that was. How was it possible that my day wasn’t dictated by the wants and the needs of my family, friends and work? I make it sound like it is a bad thing. No, not really, I look forward to a day when there are things to do around my family and friends ( but definitely not work on a holiday). It gives me a purpose and the day seems sorted. Now sitting propped up by pillows on my bed, I am wondering what to do with my day. I could go to the beauty parlour or may be not, perhaps bake something or maybe not, read and while away my time in front of the tv or read to my daughter. All the options seemed interesting but I didn’t feel compelled enough to do any. I felt increasingly muddled for I wasn’t able to make a choice and I wondered why. I imagined it had something to do with the fact that usually whole  of my day was governed by everybody else’s choices.

Then I wondered what it would be to feel truly free?

It was an insane thought in itself. My thought process went on a overdrive. I could do anything I pleased:  like walk out of the door and start running or go and shop endlessly or book a room in a hotel and start writing never to stop or simply take the next plane to Paris to see the magnifique city. So many possibilities and so many opportunities,  all fecund and waiting for me to grab them with both my arms. Yet I do nothing but just think about them and let them pass like those million wishes I might have made in my life before. What stops me from reaching out for chances that my mind lays down in front of me with throbbing intensity. Why can’t I lead my life with the spontaneity that life itself is defined by? Bizarre  as it may sound, these were my thoughts on an early Sunday morning.

Did I feel free at any point in time in my past? I could  draw various instances from my past and more strongly during my pregnancy when the hormones were performing their duties rather well. I experienced a state of constant bliss at all times (barring a few odd mood swings here and there). I was in Birmingham (UK) and the weather was amazing during July and every day was inviting me to experience it to its fullest. I took off from home and got on to a bus and rode around the city. Finally I would get down at the City Center where there was always something interesting going on. It was life literally offering me a new experience everyday. A World food festival one day, museums the other, the library on some and simply strolling on the cobbled streets of the city center, aimlessly, looking at people and the pigeons. It was awfully good, that life. It is the closest I felt to being free, I think. I feel enormously happy that I could share it with my unborn child, as I took in the beautiful weather, the occasional unannounced shower, the summer blossoms, the stranger’s smiles and the whole idea of being purposeless. I am sure she absorbed some of that free- spiritedness in her while her mum enjoyed her moments of being supposedly free.

The other nearest instance I can think about would be the time I practiced breathing exercises and meditation with the Art of Living (2007). It was a blessed experience while I was on it. The meditation brought about a deep-seated tranquility in my whole being whilst making me aware of my self and my conscious. I wish I had practiced it more often to experience the same feeling of being free. I wish to feel that connect again which I feel is depressingly missing in my life right now.

In both of these instances, I realized one common facet that made me feel free. The lack of conscious thinking. I kept the clutter of my mundane life out of these experiences and focused only on absorbing the beauty of the life around me and the beauty of what my conscious had to offer. When  I related this to a person whose opinions I value a lot, I was told, its nothing but escapism. This wasn’t being truly free and rather I was just running away from responsibility. The responsibility of consciously thinking of my impending labour in the first instance and in the second instance, the desperate attempt to dislodge the stress of my work life for a few measly hours by forcing my mind to stay blank.

Perhaps that is true. But it made me happy. I was happy when I felt truly free.

As usual I was curious to know and understand what other people thought of this concept of being truly free. I got many responses but only these three made more sense to me than others.

1. The whole concept is a big fallacy. There can’t be a state ever where one would feel truly free. We are bound by the rules and restrictions of the society and our own sense of responsibility towards the world around us. We would be kidding ourselves if we were to think that we could be truly free. Ever second is bound by a purpose, a choice and a consequence and hence freedom has no place there. In our moments of extreme stress we resort to wishful thinking to escape the difficulties of real life. So true freedom is as real as a mirage in a desert.

2. One can only wish to be truly free. But if such a thing was possible it would be easy to live life, and to live it more confidently. So in essence it means that being truly free gives that huge surge of confidence to face life.

3. Being truly free is like being in love. Infact it is one and the same. When one is in love with his/her subject ( which could be a person, his/her craft or life itself), every waking moment is a free one. This incredible passion for a subject can give one the confidence to be spontaneous. For eg, a lover in love with his lady would not deter to move earth and heaven to keep the one he loves, happy. To love fully, wholly, passionately and unreservedly can come only when one’s intentions are pure like the smile of a baby. If one can love like that, then one can be truly free. Freedom is in loving someone/something with all your heart.

My personal favourite is the 3rd response. Sounds to me like Freedom itself. Almost like the definition of freedom. It is ironical that I should even talk about defining freedom as it is against the very nature of it. 🙂

Also, I realize that Freedom is situated, in a time and place, and in a context. Moment after moment there is a CHOICE to do something and at the same time not to do it; to be free. It all lies in that precious word called choice. The real sense of freedom would be experienced only when one feels free to make a choice without any binding of any sort and guided by one’s own free will.

I thought and thought on this beautiful Sunday morning as I heard the early birds chirping and singing their love songs. Just then I heard the garbage truck pull in through the window of my bedroom. Instinctively I got up and headed to the kitchen to pick up my garbage in order to dump it in the garbage chute. After I was done with that, I heard my daughter waking up and calling for me. She wanted me to sleep with her because in her opinion morning was Time to sleep. I cuddled with her under the blanket feeling her heartbeat and feeling her fingers curl around my index finger. She was fast asleep in matter of seconds. I decided to make a choice and that choice was to sleep some more with my baby because that very moment was special, happy and felt like the perfect thing to do on a Sunday.