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Freedom isn't something that should be taken for granted. Many people yearn for it, while others don't realize the how precious it is. Ed and Deb Shapiro explain why it's good to not only treasure your external freedoms, but to discover inner awareness as well.
Are you aware of how fortunate you are? People in the west are blessed with freedoms that many people in other parts of the world can only envy, such as the freedom to say what they want, to practice any religion that turns them on and even to wear whatever clothes they like. It is very easy to take your freedom for granted, as it is so integral to your daily life. Those who travel beyond these borders are often amazed when they experience how much other cultures differ and come to appreciate how precious such freedom is.

Yet, does your independence and freedom bring you any more happiness than the lack of it? We have visited many poverty-stricken countries and found immense happiness and freedom in the people, even though their physical lives were filled with hardship beyond measure. We have been in places where Deb had to wear a headscarf and long sleeves, where bare ankles are seen as more provocative than a bare midriff or where we had to be very careful of what we said. But always the genuine smiles and laughter that greeted us were overwhelming.

We are not saying that other cultures are freer than ours, but we constantly find ourselves coming back to asking: How do those of us in the land of the free actually find and express our freedom?

People tend to have a limited idea of what freedom means. There is a myth that freedom is unattainable, that it lies somewhere ahead of you, or that once you have done this and achieved that, then you can be free. And, yet, so often, as soon as this first obstacle is out of the way and freedom is looming close, another obstacle immediately comes along to delay it once more!

We were teaching a workshop outside of London when Marie told us she was very happy to be with us and was learning a great deal, but she knew she could not be at peace until her daughter was. She didn't get it until we shared that by first discovering your own inner peace, then you can help others to find theirs.

There is also the myth that happiness, independence and freedom are contingent on favorable external circumstances. Yet, you only have to look at examples, such as some of the Tibetan refugee prisoners held in jail by the Chinese for many years in the most atrocious of conditions, who later emerged from their captivity in a state of inner peace and tranquility to see that the freedom you really need to be talking about is not one that is dependent on external conditions, but is the freedom within you, regardless of circumstances.

How to find freedom within

Ed and Deb Shapiro
Photo: Courtesy of Ed and Deb Shapiro
True freedom enables you to accept both good and bad without identifying with either. It is seeing things as they are and not being attached to your own preferences. Freedom is an inner awareness, a knowing that nothing can touch the truth of who you are; it is the "I am" that is within you and everyone.

For many people, some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation, can be very helpful. This doesn't have to be religious in any way and can be as simple as taking three breaths with awareness and intent. It is any activity that connects you to your inner heart and the magic of being alive. In this way, you can enter that place where you know yourself as truly free.
Stop and Pay Attention Meditation
Freedom is in every moment, not in the future, not in the past, but right now.

Every so often throughout the day, just stop what you are doing and look around you. Breathe, smell and be aware of this extraordinary world you live in.

Each time you stop, pay attention. Notice how easily your mind takes you into mindless thoughts, dreams and dramas, past or future fantasies—anywhere than just being here now.

Be aware of what is right in front of you and the wonder of it all.

Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. They are featured weekly contributors to, and Ed and Deb write Sprint's The Daily CHILLOUT inspirational text messages. They have three meditation CDs: Metta: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness, Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight and Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation. Deb is also the author of the best-selling book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award.

Keep Reading More from Ed and Deb Shapiro:
Make friends with your life
The beauty of living in the moment
Why being in your heart is better than being in your head


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