It was difficult.
I go to an ecstatic dance meetup regularly, as part of my self-development and community practices. There are many of these “ecstatic dance communities” all over the world, each with its own unique culture. These groups consist of the most lovely variety of people engaging in free-form dancing, alone and/or with each other during an hour or two of conversation-free, drug-free, good ol’ booty shaking.
I’ve been a regular attendee for over a year at various groups, and I absolutely love it. It is such a joy and consistently one of the highlights of my week. (If you aren’t already part of one, Google ecstatic dance in your city and check one out or start one!)
Often, the music sets feature diverse and beautiful tunes from all over the world. Usually, the music starts slowly and gradually picks up pace and intensity, building into a fun, chaotic crescendo, before gradually tapering back off into slowness and eventually stillness.
Sometimes the DJ, or the person in charge of the playlist announces a theme before we start grooving.
Yesterday’s theme was freedom.
And I feel so heavy about freedom.
I want freedom so badly, both inside and out.
A few months ago I was re-reading the US Declaration of Independence, pondering the ardor of those souls who dared separate from their oppressors, and I literally sobbed.
They were willing to risk everything, and, of course, they did. Lucky for many of us they did.
And not so lucky for many others, too, for example, the people whose land they stole and pillaged in the name of their God and their “righteous” cause.
I’m speaking of the indigenous Americans, of course, who are still routinely oppressed and pillaged today.
Freedom is such a loaded word, because, on the one hand, we all want to be free, but on the other hand, many people are willing to ENFORCE their version of freedom onto other people.
And a freedom which does not respect individual freedom and property rights is no true freedom.
If it’s only freedom for you but not for me: That’s not freedom.
Freedom always comes with responsibility. Without taking responsibility, there is no freedom. Without an individual taking self-responsibility, there is no individual freedom.
Part of that means dropping our entitlement ideas that anyone owes us anything.
Taking self-responsibility means accepting that no one owes you anthing.
And that’s another problem with popular ideas of “freedom.”
Freedom is usually terrifying, because it entails waking up, facing reality and taking self-responsibility. This applies in the internal and external worlds.
Freedom is terrifying in our own physical bodies, which is why we so often constrict them and hold tension in them in a desperate attempt to avoid Nature in her naked truth and raw intensity.
And it really does cost everything we have, or at least everything we think we have (our ego, our self-concept must die and be reborn for freedom to flourish).
Let’s first talk about freedom in the external world:
Real freedom, true freedom, a deep, radical, self-responsible freedom is one which lets go of ALL attempts to control others, to manipulate and deceive others, to take advantage of others, or to take rightful property from others. None of this is tolerated by true freedom. Otherwise we wouldn’t be free.
Freedom will not tolerate lies. Lies are the stuff of fear, of control, and ultimately, if perpetuated, of violence.
Albert Camus famously said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Real freedom is downright offensive to those who wish to control and to oppress and to maddeningly equalize.
There are many people that speak of freedom who want nothing more than to command you to obey.
But that’s not freedom now, is it?
There are many people with beautiful intentions, with souls that long for peace and for paradise, whose idea of freedom means your censorship, your oppression, your obedience to their ideals and their god.
But that’s not freedom either!
That’s oppression idealized and masquerading as freedom.
That’s Utopia’s empty promises of “do what I say” and “enact my committee’s plan” “don’t go too high or too low” and you will finally be free.
See, the concept of radical freedom can be really hard for those who want it only for themselves and their own select, chosen, inspired and enlightened group of people…
I advocate a deeper freedom, a freedom based on individual self-responsibility and a respect for sacred Nature, starting with our physical bodies and extending to the World.
A freedom which does not transgress the self-sovereignty of the individual. A freedom in which your consent is NOT optional!
(I’m speaking of adults here, there are, of course, some obvious responsibilities that parents have for their children, and I’m not addressing those separate issues here.)
I’m talking about a freedom which does not say “because you are peacefully excellent, you must pay me a tax, you must pay your ‘fair’ share, (and fair is whatever we deem it to be!)”.
This is based on the non-aggression principle (NAP), which essentially teaches that the initiation of violence or the threat of violence on an individual or their property is a violation of basic human rights. Violence is only permissible if used in self-defense.
There are many people who see the world only in terms of win-lose, which says, “If I win, then someone, has to lose.” This is a childish worldview.
Do these types of transactions happen? Obviously they do. But they are far from the norm, and they are unsustainable in a free world where free people will choose to work with those who do not repeatedly deceive them.
The more transparency and responsibility people have, the less often these win-lose transactions happen. And the world is clearly trending up in transparency and freedom, and therefore also in prosperity and in reduction of violence. Look at the transparency that is demanded of many companies these days–MUCH more than ever was in the past.
This will continue as long as we promote freedom and self-responsibility, and detest control and “power-over.”
Many people see the world mostly in terms of power-over: “In order for me to be more powerful, you must be less powerful.”
It’s an elementary worldview, with a distracted focus because, even though this is the case sometimes, it is not sustainable. A socioeconomic structure based on “power-over” others will not last.
The reason it won’t last is simple: The more people wake up and become aware, the less they will tolerate being controlled.
The only way to control people is to lie to them, and to keep them in resistance to fear, to manipulate them.
Control, the path of violence, is only maintained by deception. There is no other way to control free people. And as human beings, our birthright is self-sovereign, self-responsible freedom.
Freedom, on the other hand, the path of peace, is only maintained by self-responsibility, truth and transparency. There is no other way to keep it from those who would attempt to control us and make us do what they think is best for us whether we like it or not. (Think: taxes, forced equality, ideological oppression and forced conformity, censorship of free speech and of art).
In a horrifying, maddened quest for equality, and in a well-intentioned but violent attempt to end suffering, many people impugn free speech and privilege as grounds for oppression, while glorifying and exalting sickness and mediocrity, simultaneously downplaying the evils of censorship and oppression. The world really has gone mad.
And this is not what freedom looks like!
Freedom is not glorification of sickness, as we hear the youth of this country exclaim, “Sick!” as a slang stand-in for when they mean something is “great!”
I 100% respect their right to say that.
Censorship of speech and the criminalizing of any non-violent actions is one of the tackiest, most offensive, most ridiculous forms of attempting to control others. These tactics are employed by desperate, control oriented, immature people who are terrified of words and ideas and free people, and essentially conflate words and ideas with actions.
And, of course, words do have meanings, and my point here about the slang “sick!” is that it is essentially exalting sickness AS health: That’s a symptom that something has gone awry.
We’ve forgotten what is real freedom.
In an attempt to escape a “freedom” which persecutes those who are different (an ethnocentric freedom–“my culture gets freedom but not yours”), some of us have simply gone too far and elevated equality before individual freedom.
The astute Milton Friedman observed, “The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.”
So do we stand for real freedom or not?! Do we value individual property rights or not?! Do we respect the consent of each other or not when it comes to taking from each other one’s life, limbs or their rightfully earned living?!
Or has our idea of external freedom been reduced to a politically correct, bastardized form of “consent” barely even masquerading as equality that says, “I won’t hurt your feelings if you don’t hurt mine.”
I’m talking about FREEDOM: self-ownership of our bodies, of what goes into them and what we do with them, and individual property rights, based on a nature-honoring paradigm which necessitates deep self-responsibility and transparency. THAT, is FREEDOM.
We’ve got to know what we stand for in this crazy place.
REAL freedom that includes the rights to our bodies and our spiritual development, because, of course, that is what this is ultimately all about.
A few words about Freedom and the Body:
Freedom is so often terrifying to most of us because we’ve got our bodies themselves on lock-down, tightly controlled by the incessant dictator voice in our heads.
Every place in our body that we are contracting with tension and resistance to the flow of nature is a place that we are attempting to control Nature, as opposed to honoring Nature. An attempt to control Nature, as Ayn Rand says, is an attempt “to assert the primacy of our consciousness over existence” instead of surrendering our consciousness, our self-concept (our ego) to the fierce and wonderful and terrific nature of reality and the REALITY OF NATURE itself.
Wherever we try to control our bodies, our internal worlds, with tightness and tension and resistance to fear, this shows up in the external world around us.
As above, so below. As within, so without.
It has been said that enlightenment is simply being totally relaxed.
And there are studies which have demonstrated that when there is no tension in any of the muscles of the body, it is physiologically impossible to feel fear.
So, of course, it is up to us, as self-responsible leaders to become free first.
That is what leadership is: going first. Real power, real leadership sees the world in terms of win-win, of self-responsibility and of excellence through peaceful, freely offered service–the only sustainable way to excellence and to being fully ALIVE.
Real freedom knows that unless you win, I don’t win.
I only win if you win, too. “Win-win.”
SO HOW DO WE CREATE THIS WORLD?!?
Sometimes I really just don’t know.
And sometimes I feel exhausted just thinking of it, like when I was dancing yesterday–exasperated because sometimes I just don’t fucking know.
And many times I feel hopeless when I think of all the people who want to control others and extract resources from others through FORCE; when I think of all the people who want to censor each other and command each other to obey instead of invite each other to enjoy.
How can we cultivate real, self-responsible freedom?
I do have one suggestion:
Meditate with your body. Feel more. Feel the tension, the spots of resistance, where you are attempting to control Nature, where you do not trust Nature, where you would rather believe the distortions, the lies that nature is not for you. And relax those parts. Over and over and over.
Start with a few minutes a day.
Recognize that fear is not the enemy. Your resistance to fear is the enemy. Fear is simply a strong sensation, an impulse which has been clamped down upon in your nervous system, creating chronic contraction and resistance, and if sustained, bodily sickness.
Fear does not exist when we embrace it, because it instantly transmutes itself into an energetic force which impels us into excited action.
Have patience with this process, because our bodies are often genuinely TERRIFIED of freedom. Freedom, real freedom includes self-responsibility and transparency, realization, and many of us are not ready to be free.
There are many parts of myself that I still keep constricted, controlled, on “lock-down.” Those parts of myself aren’t ready for freedom yet either. That’s why I meditate pretty much every day and work with healers and teachers and I thirst for knowledge and vitality. Because I want to be free. I want to be fully ALIVE.
Becoming free is a process that takes DEVOTION.
Becoming free takes persistence, mentorship and training, tolerance for risk, a thirsty-as-fuck curiosity, a willingness to try new things, to read new things, to listen a little more closely, to speak a little more loudly, to be the truest version of yourself and, ultimately, to let “who you think you are” die.
Be patient with yourself because to die can be terrifying, and it is what real freedom asks of our self-concepts, our egos: “who we think we are.”
Freedom really does cost everything we have. Real freedom, which starts internally, in the body, asks of us a sacred ego-death which welcomes and transforms us from who we thought we were into whom we are meant to be. And then it asks us to keep doing that. Over and over and over. Then it spreads to the external world.
You will not become free by feeling like it might be nice.
You will neither attain nor keep freedom by always being nice to people and tolerating their attempts to control you.
You will not become free by making others obey your version of freedom.
You will not become free by accident.
Freedom, like self-responsibility, is a choice.