“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I can be a prisoner to my own thoughts and forget that I have the freedom to choose. Choose a different thought. Choose a different experience. Choose a different interpretation.
I remember having a coach that used to listen to me rant. I would be sure I was the victim of something that was happening to me, and I would tell her all about it expecting sympathy.
She would listen patiently and then say, “Yeah? And what's another way you could look at it?” I would pause to come up with some different interpretation. And then she would say, “Good. And what's another way you could look at it?”
I would really have to stretch, because I was sure that the first way I told her was the only way it happened.
Her point, of course, was that there are a number of ways you can interpret things. And we have to watch our stores—the stories we tell ourselves.
How many of us are prisoners of our own thoughts, our own stories?
This week I found myself going into a tail spin about something. And even though the situation justified my being upset or at the very least feeling taken advantage of, I could have still looked at it in another way.
If I did—if I was able to catch myself sooner—my experience about it would have changed.
But I didn't.
I was pissed off for a week. And it clouded my judgment about everything else and made me feel wronged, upset, and irritable. I finally decided by Thursday, as I took myself on a road trip (my form of meditation), to change my perspective.
Because it always comes down to this, when I have to make the choice for myself:
Who is controlling my life, anyway: me or my thoughts?
Sometimes my thoughts are just well practiced habitual ways of thinking. But that doesn't always mean they are right.
I have been, at times, a prisoner to my thoughts. But I've garnered enough awareness to know if what I am thinking is serving me or not. And when I get to this place, I have a decision to make:
Which thought feels better? What interpretation serves me the best?
Because honestly, “things always work out for me” and “I just got screwed” can be equally true.
But which thought serves us better? Which one puts out the kind of energy we want to embrace in the world? Everything can be a jumping off point for something new, if we are willing to choose the best interpretation and move forward.
If “I just got screwed,” it means someone else takes dominion over my life, and that is a stance that is not empowering. But if, “things always work out for me,” then I dictate my life because I know my future holds a different experience.
To come to this juncture where we can choose—where we have enough awareness to recognize that our thoughts do not run our life, that we can choose differently—this is freedom.
Freedom of interpretation, freedom to dictate our own lives, freedom to choose thoughts that work for us can liberate us from our own limiting self-made constructs.
The other day, I got a call at four in the morning from a woman on the east coast. We'd been emailing. She was going to be speaking at an event with me and I happened to be awake. She called me to go over details instead of going back and forth with email.
After we were done, she asked if she could give me a session (she’s a healer) so I could experience her work on a personal level.
Yes, I said. Of course. Why not?
The session was short, fifteen minutes, but we got to the conversation that followed that had her talking about Locus of Control. She said:
“If anyone wants to be successful, they have to maintain their locus of control. Bill Clinton maintains his locus of control. Donald Trump maintains his locus of control. Oprah Winfrey has maintains her locus of control.”
She didn't have to elaborate. I knew what she was talking about. You can call it self-containment or self-direction. It's the ability to work with what has been handed to us and turn it into something else.
We have the freedom to decide what we do with information, how we interpret our life, how we dictate our future, change our minds, or make new decisions.
All of it is a choice. Our choice.
And in choosing, we find freedom.
One of my very first teachers used to tell me, when I would be stuck in a rut, interpreting something, getting in my own way, she'd tell me, “Change your mind.”
It was such a novel concept. Change my mind. You mean there's another way to see this? Invariably, when I changed my mind, I had a new purview and in that, a new experience. One of my own choosing.
And I realized that I could do this in every area of my life and come out ahead.
This is freedom.
This is your freedom.