simpson

True Freedom

Last week I introduced my favorite Greek philosopher, Epictetus. The passage I read today from The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness seemed perfectly suited for our current world. Note that the writing I am going to mention was originally written 1600 years before the founding of the United States of America. Epictetus was neither a liberal or a conservative, nor had any view on American politics, because there was no America.

“Understand what freedom really is and how it is achieved.”

Epictetus invites us to look at the truth of freedom. I looked up the definitions of freedom and thought it was interesting that most of the definitions, including the Cambridge Dictionary, defined freedom as “the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to without being controlled or limited.” I think many of our Don’t Tread on Me neighbors have latched on to this definition. But Epictetus does not agree with that meaning.

“Freedom isn’t the right or ability to do whatever you please.”

I am sure that doesn’t make a lot of people happy, but to me it is an important point of freedom. Freedom is not a three-year-old throwing a tantrum because she wants candy for dinner or the driver who cuts me off because of his right to drive fast and dangerously. Freedom is not Bart Simpson do-what-you-feel, but a state of acceptance and responsibility focused on more than our selves. Epictetus invites us to see freedom based on knowledge and deep understanding.

Simpsons

“Freedom comes from understanding the limits of our own power and the natural limits set in place by divine providence.”

Epictetus’ view of freedom is based on a realistic view of ourselves and acceptance of our limited power. As a society we have agreed that, at least in most of the world, we drive the right side of the road. If we want to be part of society, we are limited in where we drive. Our external power is limited. Our internal power is unlimited.

The true core of freedom is in the mind, not in our actions. As Epictetus said,

“By accepting life’s limits and inevitabilities and working with them rather than fighting them, we become free.”

By accepting the truth of life, society’s rules, and the way things truly work, we find freedom. Freedom is a state of mind, not a state of action. We find freedom in acceptance, not defiance. We lose freedom when we fight against reality. Much of the anger and fear that people feel these days is because they are fighting against “life’s limits and inevitabilities.”

“If, on the other hand, we succumb to our passing desires for things that aren’t in our control, freedom is lost.”

I want the freedom of perfectly sunny days, each and every day. The truth is there are hurricanes. I can not control the weather. I can not stop an advancing storm. That does not mean I don’t have freedom. It just means if I want to experience freedom, I need to stop being Don Quixote fighting battles I can never win. This goes back to the serenity prayer – knowing those things I need to accept and those I can change, and having the wisdom to discern between the two.

How do you view freedom? Is freedom the action to do just as you please, without thought of those around you? Is freedom the serenity which comes from accepting reality? Is freedom a state of mind or a state of action? What responsibility do you have for your neighbors when your view of freedom infringes upon their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

walking in the good

Don’t Bring It with You

My life is perfect. I am blessed in so many ways. And yet I focus so much and so unnecessarily on the one thing that is not so perfect in my life. My neighbors smoke. A lot. All the time. Constantly. Which is their business, and they have a right to. But every time they smoke it comes into my house. I choose not to smoke. I don’t want it in my house. I don’t want it in my lungs.

Lately I have become obsessed with their smoking. I was as addicted to the irritation of them smoking as much as they are addicted to the nicotine. I was making myself very unhappy by constantly retelling myself about the injustice of them affecting my life negatively. I told myself I could not be happy until they stopped smoking. All day long I work in my home office and have to deal with their smoking. I felt justified in being angry. My wake-up call was when I came home after a beautiful walk with my dog through the local mountain trails and my husband saw the anger and upset on my face. When asked what was wrong, I talked about the smokers. Their smoke may be in my house, but I took my indignation about their smoking on my walk. I was making my life unpleasant even when I was not being directly affected. It was time to choose differently.

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

We have a responsibility to speak up

Much of my anger came from the belief that they were doing this purposefully to me. I assumed that my life and my experience should be the first thing on their minds. False. Most of the time people hurt us, they have no idea they are hurting us and feel justified themselves in their actions because they are doing what they need for themselves. We all go through life this way. Even though I pride myself in thinking of how my actions may affect others, and sometimes see this belief going too far into the role of martyr, I still do not really know how my actions affect others. I am using my own filter, my own perception. We can never know how another is affected unless they tell us.

My first mistake was waiting way too long to tell my neighbors that their actions were affecting me. We can not expect change unless we make a change. If I don’t admit to others how their actions affect me, nothing will change. If we don’t speak up about injustice, injustice will still happen. If we don’t make a change, change can not happen. Look at your resentments, discomforts, and how you may be harmed right now. Have you shared this with anyone? Have you shared it with the other party affected? Have you changed how you act or react in the situation? If you have not, then expect the same scenario to play again and again. It did for me until I spoke up.

We can’t change others

Speaking up does not mean that our needs will be met. The other person may not be capable or willing to provide us with what we want. We can not demand that others will act or be differently. We can not make anyone do what we want them to do. What we can do is change ourselves. We can change how we act and react to others and the situation. In my case, the smokers still smoke but I have placed a fan in my window to keep the smoke from coming into my house. It has not solved the entire problem, but it has definitely made it better.

We can choose our experience

Whether my neighbors stop smoking, whether my fan works or not, none of this matters. What changes the experience most for me is how I think about it. If I continue to dwell on the inconsideration and injustice of the situation, I will continue to feel victimized and filled with self-righteous anger. Instead, I have chosen to embrace my power in my voice and in my actions. I have made my needs know. I have made changes to my circumstances in buying a fan and may invest in an air purifier. I consciously choose to celebrate and enjoy the clean air available to me when I am not at home. Most importantly, I embrace the calm and peace I want to experience, and as much as I can, I keep my anger at bay.

Where in your life do you need to acknowledge that your needs are not being met? Where do you need to use your voice to make your needs known? Can you stop expecting someone else to change and instead make changes to your actions and reactions? Can you embrace your ability to experience different?

from type a to type me: how to stop doing life and start living it

What is Type Me?

Type Me is uncovering and following your own unique definition of success. It is releasing the roles and responsibilities others have for you. It is bravely living by your values and what brings you joy. Type Me is your own unique life separate from any expectations attached to your title, status, or function. Type Me is your own definition of how life should be lived.

from type a to type me: how to stop doing life and start living itType Me is putting yourself first. It is experiencing life, not flying from task to task. Type Me is putting yourself back in the driver’s seat of your life. It is reconnecting with your inherent power and inner knowing.

Becoming Type Me means gaining more of life. You gain the space to find more time, more joy, and more ease with your projects. Type Me reduces stress, allowing for better health mentally and physically. As a Type Me personality, you will gain more joy in your relationships, and in all you do.

Type Me allows you to:

  • Feel you are in control and contributing to the world without having lists and deadlines rule your life.
  • Complete everything needing to be done, but in a way which is much better for your physical health and your enjoyment of life.
  • Enjoy life instead of feeling you are flying through it task by task.
  • Experience and enjoy accomplishments without having to burn yourself out.
  • Be less of a victim of circumstances, and more of a conscious chooser of your experience.
  • Fulfill your obligations, and still have time for yourself.
  • Maintain a sense of self while still being a caretaker.
  • Receive what you desire without guilt or justification.
  • Remain powerful, calm, and energized, even in the face of incredible challenges.

Type Me is a new way to approach life. Instead of trying to control every situation and everyone around you, you can learn to control how you experience what is happening around you. True freedom and joy lies in changing how you approach life, in your own unique manner.

Join others on their journey to becoming Type Me by contributing and receiving support on our Facebook Group Page.

trying to control the uncontrollable

When Control Is Out of Control

Margie was the best hostess. She greeted everyone at the door. She passed appetizers and offered drinks. Margie ensured that everyone had a good time and that absolutely everything was perfect. The problem was – this was not Margie’s party. She was a guest at the party like everyone else and yet she acted as if she owned the place. Margie is a control freak. She needs to be in charge. She needs to be in control. I used to be like Margie.

trying to control the uncontrollableWhen I was in the height of my Type-A days, I was a major control freak. I felt responsible for the feelings and actions of all those around me. I felt responsible for ensuring everything within my view went smoothly. My body ached due to the weight I put on my own shoulders. I was in a constant state of alert watching for something to be out of alignment for me to fix. My adrenals worked overtime as the stress I created never receded.

Finally on day while I was out with a friend, I finally realized how far my desire for control had gotten. As I talked to my friend, a stranger’s towel five feet away from me was picked up by the wind and almost fell in the water. I gasped and lunged in vain for the towel. My friend called me on it and I finally realized the extent my sense of responsibility had gotten. I was no longer living my life. I was living solely to care for everything and everyone around me. Realizing my desire for control and responsibility smothered my ability to enjoy life, I had to make a change.

Why do we feel we need to be in control all the time and in every situation?

For Margie, her intent was not to be rude to the actual hostess. The reason Margie took on the responsibilities of the hostess, and the reason many of us do it, is to feel safe. If she could ensure everyone was happy, no one would attack her. If nothing broke, she couldn’t be blamed. If nothing went wrong, there was nothing for her to feel guilty about. If she took care of everything, then she was safe and secure. Control is a security blanket in a scary uncertain world.

Did you know there is a better way to feel safe? Do you know there is a more relaxed way to be productive?

Instead of holding an iron first around everyone and everything around you, try letting go. Control binds us keeping us closed off and small. Releasing our feeling of responsibility and misbelief in the power of control, we can actually find real contentment.

If we turn to nature, we see that it does not fight to control. A maple tree does not feel responsible for its saplings; the tree naturally releases seeds trusting they will fare well. A stream does not try to direct its course; water simply flows the path of least resistance. A bird does not create an exact flight plan; taking flight the bird trusts its internal guidance system and adapts easily to new wind currents and obstacles.

Next time you catch yourself trying to control the uncontrollable, next time you feel tightness in your back as you strain to make something bend to your will, take a breath. Relax. Wait. Instead of forcing what you believe must happen, relax into the flow of what is emerging. We always have choice and action but instead of misbelieving we can create the outcome, relax into the truth of the situation and then like the river choose the path of least resistance. You will find that things happen for the better, with less effort, and in amazing ways you could not have imagined. And you fill find a love of life again.