I have always associated freedom with external factors, like living in a democracy and being able to worship how I please. I do not take these freedoms for granted.
But lately, I have been pondering what freedom means from a more spiritual lens. It’s a word that can mean different things to different people, and for me, it’s always been a bit sticky.
For context, I grew up within the Mormon faith and have always been taught the value of free agency and how essential CHOICE is in God’s plan for us. Being able to choose for ourselves is the whole point of earth life, and we can thank Mother Eve for the ability to experience the whole spectrum of good and evil, choice and consequence.
But the concept of free agency gets dicey, if one is a literal thinker like me. See, I spent my life following rules and checking off boxes, always pining for another gold star. Our culture at large, and the sub-cultures that exist within it–such as Mormonism–primes young girls for people-pleasing. Why wouldn’t it? If a girl internalizes the message that her worth is tied to her efforts, how righteous and pure she is, and how much she can give to others, then the Patriarchy wins.
Every. Damn. Time.
In my paradigm, happiness and freedom were inextricably linked, yet my happiness wouldn’t be real unless I fully participated in my religion, accepted the truth claims, and was obedient. As long as I stayed on the path carved out for me, my family and I would make it to the top-tier kingdom in heaven. Rules were there to keep me safe and help me earn my reward.
So, freedom and free agency. Did they REALLY exist for me, growing up in a high demand religion? Or was I just made to think they did? Is a girl really free if every choice she makes is tied to a larger institutional expectation, has some type of external reward? These are the thoughts I started to wonder…
Like a good little soldier, I have always played the game, but true freedom was elusive; looking back I can see that I always yearned for it, but I became an expert at gaslighting myself by downplaying the pangs I felt from within. It’s not really freedom you want, it’s rebellion. And rebellion will only lead to misery.
Now, on the outside, I see it all for what it was: a package deal sold back to me after I “willingly” made covenants with God at the tender age of 8. It was always about transaction. Do this and God gives you that. I was only as free as the loosest rule, so I made all my choices within a framework that was handed to me at birth. My whole entire worldview was shaped within a system that defined happiness for me. I was supposed to LOVE this system; it gave me everything!
But who benefitted from me following all these silly rules? I had never asked myself that question before.
Cue feminist awakening and earth-shattering faith crisis. Upon waking up, I realized my upbringing was not free; I only thought it was.
I cannot tell you how many times a little voice has entered my head after healing from my faith crisis, and said to me: you are free, and you always have been. This voice wanted me to know that radical freedom has been available to me every day of my short life, and that nothing had ever separated me from LOVE.
Religion did a fantastic job of making me feel separate from God and my fellow humans, and of course it did. If it didn’t, why would I need it?
A liberated person knows that separateness is an illusion based in fear. We are not separate from divinity or from each other.
This freedom and love were there all along; all I had to do was gain the courage to take off the blindfold.
Barriers In My Mind
Life is so much about un-learning and surrendering. We never need to hustle, believe other people’s claims, or prove ourselves by following prescriptions.
To some extent, humans must assimilate to culture, as we are beings who need safety and belonging. Joining with the tribe feels good.
But I believe there is a stronger desire within us to be authentic and march to the beat of our own drum.
The barriers that keep us from true liberation exist within our mind, and they are planted there by others and passed down through generations. They aren’t real, and they’re based in fear and control.
For so many years, man-made constructs kept me from accessing the God within my soul.
Painstakingly, I have found my way to freedom by believing myself and surrendering into what is. Letting go and accepting what is has opened up my world. I woke up.
Being free doesn’t require any action. It’s just a release.
It’s the ability to ascend culture and be at peace with yourself.
It’s that enlightened knowing that you’ve always been free, you just needed to remove the blindfold.
I once heard a woman say that her faith crisis felt like a terrifying free-fall, but then the reward that came later was freedom, and that felt like flying.
Whatever hard things you’re free-falling through, whatever limits you are placing on yourself, whatever constructs you’ve become a slave to, and whatever false beliefs are keeping you stuck…I hope that you can do the inner work to find that first taste of freedom.
I hope you you can eventually liberate yourself so you can liberate others.
I hope you will someday know what it feels like to fly.