We all want freedom, but we are not always so sure about what it is or how to attain it. If freedom were merely a matter of not being in a prison cell, then the vast majority of us should be free, but we often find ourselves imprisoned by internal anxieties, worries, habits, compulsions, fears, depression, addictions and false assumptions.
That wisdom is offered by Dr Craig Hassed, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Monash University in Melbourne. Hassed has acutely described the dilemma of many people in our culture who feel emotionally imprisoned. Here are six effective ways to have more freedom using these stress management techniques.
It’s not only challenging but impossible to feel free if your body is damaged and diseased. Caring for your body isn’t merely about beauty and appearance but also to prevent illness and injury. If you become unhealthy and sick, freedom disappears. So discipline yourself to move your body daily for a prolonged period of time at whatever form of activity appeals to you.
2. MOVE FROM FEAR TO FAITH:
Fear is highly constrictive. Faith is greatly expansive. Moving from fear to faith can be surprisingly simple. Therese J Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety And Making The Most Of Bad Genes, tells of suffering a massive nervous breakdown and being rushed to hospital by her husband. “Fear consumed me. Until I saw Jesus.”
In the hospital was a three-metre marble statue of Jesus. “His arms extended toward those in desperate need of healing,” she noticed. On the pedestal was this inscription: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Weeping before the image of Jesus, Borchard spoke quietly: “I believe, Jesus. I believe.” Her fear disappeared.
3. MANAGE YOUR MIND
“Are you managing your mind or is your mind managing you” is a common contemporary proverb. Many people are unaware of the dangers that lurk when the mind is unhinged.
That’s likely why the apostle Paul cites the importance of mind management: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
“Whether we use our life to benefit or to harm self and others depends upon the state of our mind,” says author Glenn H Mullin.
Here’s an unfortunate example of a mind causing self-harming. In the days before World War II, a widow in America had a small cleaning business. One day during her absence, the shop caught fire and when she returned, only smoke and ashes remained.
In shock, she was seen walking in circles around the ruins. Three days later, she was discovered dead. Sadly, the distraught woman had taken her own life. Those who knew her said she had a huge distrust of banks and likely had cash hidden inside the laundry, which, of course, was destroyed with the building.
Though the death certificate cited “suicide” as her cause of death, a closer examination could conclude her cause of death was weak mind management. Her thoughts focused entirely on loss and destruction leaving no opening for thoughts of rebuilding and restoration. Many others experienced complete financial devastation, forced to file for bankruptcy, but managed to survive and come back from their losses. It all comes down to skillful mind management.
4. FOLLOW YOUR OWN PATH
Too often, our life direction is placed before us by others. If you’re not doing what you feel is meaningful and important, then any sense of freedom will be absent.
Consider the experience of Tanaaz Chubb: “I remember being in school and the pressure that was put on you to get good grades so you could go to a good college, get a degree and get a good job. At the time I didn’t really question the truth of why any of that was important. I just believed that I had to because that’s what everyone was telling me and that’s what was expected of me.
“It wasn’t until I had my spiritual awakening that I realised life is so much more than that, and good grades and having a ‘respectable’ profession were pretty meaningless to me and the type of life I wanted to lead for myself. I wanted to forge my own path, and I wanted the freedom to follow my own intuition and creativity.”
Consequently, she left her job, became a successful blogger and has written several books including The Power Of Positive Energy.
5. RECITE THIS STATEMENT: “NOT SO BAD!”
Author Natalie Goldberg shares about a grandmother in her family. When she was 26 and living in France, the Nazis came to Paris and one of the first things they did was take the woman’s parents. The Nazis explained they were going to work camps to help the war effort.
Then the Nazis came and took all the men in the family so soon the woman’s husband and brother were gone as well. Again, the Nazis came, this time taking women and children.
The woman realised that everyone was being taken and she understood that nobody was coming back. So, before they came for her and her five-year-old daughter, she made contact with resistance movements who helped them go into hiding for three years. The woman worked with the underground, hiding out in small French towns and villages doing whatever she needed to survive.
Goldberg says the woman made her way to the United States and today is in her late 80s. Whenever any of her grandchildren or great-grandchildren come to her with an issue saying, “I was downsized today and lost my job”, the grandmother listens quietly, carefully, respectfully, and then simply says, “Not so bad!”
6. DEFUSE ANGER
Those prone to anger generate additional stress in their lives as well as in the lives of others. It doesn’t have to be that way. “Anger doesn’t just happen to us. If we’re able to catch an angry thought as it’s budding, we can let it go,” is a reminder from author John Daido Loori.
Here’s a story that’s instructive for defusing anger. With permission from the monastery, Abbott, a monk, borrowed an old boat and rowed out into the middle of a lake for his afternoon meditation time. It was a truly peaceful place to meditate as the boat gently floated.
After more than an hour of undisturbed silence, he felt the bump of another boat bang against his. With eyes still closed, he could feel anger swelling within himself at the careless boatman who didn’t prevent the lake collision.
Upon opening his eyes, all he saw was an empty boat which he realised had obviously become untied from the dock and merely drifted out into the lake bumping up against his. Immediately, the monk experienced a flash of enlightenment, one which would serve him well for the rest of his life.
The anger is within me, he thought to himself. All anger needs is a bump from the outside to be triggered and provoked out of me.
From that moment on, whenever another person irritated him and he could feel even the slightest anger rising, he gently reminded himself, The other person is an empty, floating boat. The anger is within me.
Finally, trust yourself and your intuition about the way you need to live your life. Be motivated and guided by this wisdom from psychiatrist author Judith Orloff: “You possess an intuitive intelligence so powerful it can help you heal, relieve stress and find emotional freedom.”
Victor Parachin is an ordained minister, bereavement educator and author of several books about grief. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.