Freedom. It’s a word that people tattoo onto their wrists, paint onto their dream boards on their bedroom walls, and doodle in little swirling letters on their work legal pads during team meetings. We crave a life of boundless space to move, and dance, and run like the wild children that live deep inside us. But where do we find freedom? Does it live in our long weekends off from work, those 8 day vacations to Hawaii, or in that time at the end of a long day where we choose a bubble bath and wine? Or does freedom lie within, a product of the beautiful cohesion of mind, body and heart?
Many of us believe that freedom is found within, and have gone out in search of their own personal redemption. Our culture has come a long way to embrace the spiritual, the emotional and the more esoteric elements of our beings. We feel there is something, a soft pulse that whispers in our ears as we fall asleep at night, wanting more.
And so today, more and more pockets within our society are hyper focused on spirituality. People are diving into meditations and practices in the attempt to go higher and higher, and some are even are even quitting their jobs and moving to ashrams. In the world of spiritual seekers, the internet is filled with talk of astral projection, soul telepathy, and communion with the archangels. And while much of this may be possible, we forget one key factor: we are physical beings living in a physical world. We are fighting to go higher while we should be expanding ourselves inward.
In response to our culture’s strong tendency towards the material- be it our obsession with social media and external presentation, or our almost manic fixation on food and bodies- a new wave of being has been born, one that rejects physicality altogether. And while the intention behind this approach has a commendable goal, we are escaping something fundamental to who we are: our humanity.
Healing can only begin once we realize that we are not healing ourselves out of being human, but rather into being human. This is where freedom lies: in the truest embrace of our human experience. Each and every one of us is comprised of layers of fears, and beliefs, and emotions and pains that follow us around, take up space and scare us. Often we build a wall around our hearts, adding bricks each and every day, afraid of the pain, afraid of the potential imprisonment within ourselves. Yet paradoxically, it is when we create space for our painful beliefs and trapped emotions to be acknowledged and validated that they lose their power over us. When we dive into the parts of our inner worlds that have stolen from our authentic selves, we take back control. And this power is not found through force, but through our own self-love.
The fight does not need to occur within us. We are not made to be war zones. Our natural state of being is alignment, and each part of the self wants to return to a state of harmony. We don’t have to live with the duality of choosing one part of ourselves over the other. They are not mutually exclusive. And while not every painful feeling or destructive belief should be allowed to flourish, in order to let go of them, they must be acknowledged.
As always, the first thing we must do is show up for ourselves. We must feel safe being present in our own bodies again. We must listen. We must quiet down the outside voices of the world around us, with its judgments and standards, and tune in to what is happening inside ourselves. But we must remember that we show up as the observer, not the experiencer. We no longer need to re-experience the trauma of the past or the pain of and old feeling. If we return to these places within ourselves in our present self, as a witness instead of a victim of our past pain, we can acknowledge our experience without becoming it. We are not our thoughts and emotions. We have thoughts and emotions. We are not our experiences. Experiences happen to us. And so, we do not need to identify with them as being us.
We become enslaved when we are stuck in the illusion of having an internal oppressor, allowing it to become a part of our identity. We are enslaved when we find ourselves tiptoeing within the confines of our own being, afraid to wake the sleeping dragons of fear and pain. The nuance is that we are no longer running from something, rather towards that very same thing with open arms. We are no longer trapped in the tiny safe space we have retreated to in our minds, rather ready for expansion. When we learn to approach the dragon with open arms and defenses down, that façade of the dragon disappears, and we are standing face to face with our very own selves. And those selves deserve love. They deserve recognition of the pain, a hand to hold theirs, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to wipe away the tears. And we each can be that for our very own selves. We need to learn how to become our own parents, our own friends, and our own lovers.
Judaism teaches us to integrate the spiritual and the physical. Not only must we uplift the physical, but we must ground the spiritual. We must bring God’s light into this world, creating a ladder from earth to the heavens with continuous flow in both directions. It is our intention that creates holiness in material things, just as it is our experience of physicality that allows us to tap into a fuller spiritual world.
As we journey from Purim into Pesach, may we take with us the beauty of the physical, of the hidden Godly light that eternally surrounds us. The wisdom of Purim teaches us to infuse the physical world with holiness. May we come into the season of redemption with this expanded consciousness, and with an appreciation for all parts of the self. Pesach teaches about a national redemption, and yet we are taught that the work we do to attain personal freedom becomes part of the collective whole. Especially now, in times of uncertainty, of isolation and aloneness, we are blatantly being asked by God to take the time to look within and heal. Each and every one of us is responsible for our own experience of freedom. No one else can do the work but us. And with that, we have the power to create ourselves. Stop and recognize the freedom that lies within us.