I've just come back from visiting two of my three older brothers after several years of missed visits. We had a great time reconnecting.
Driving back from Cape Cod we experienced a ton of Fourth of July traffic, everyone eager to get away from it all, if only for a few days.
Sitting in slow traffic that was barely moving, I started wondering about independence..
What are we all so eager to escape from?
If we're affluent enough to be mobile and have the means to go someplace other than our own homes, what exactly is it that we're getting away from?
Or, to use the framework of this upcoming holiday, what is it that we want to be independent of?
The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day, celebrating the separation of the US from the British Empire with the Declaration of Independence approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
These days we have governmentally-approved permission to take a day off from work. Great!
But we can explore the idea of independence on another level?
In whatever way we're able, most of us take a few days off from the routine of our everyday lives and get a chance to recharge our batteries, so to speak.
As I started thinking about it, getting away or being independent gives us the chance to drop our usual way of doing things, with all its fretting over deadlines or responsibilities, worrying about ourselves or our families and friends or the state of the world.
We relax. We stop thinking about life in the usual "need to get this done or else" way.
That kind of thinking gets oppressive, just as the rule of the British was oppressive to the newly formed colonies in America.
If what we're seeking is freedom, one of the greatest freedoms we can have is freedom of thought.
We don't often stop to think about the fact that how we think and why we feel the way we do can either free us to move independently in the world or keep us bound in a way that's restrictive and limiting.
Now, most of us don't think twice about whether our thinking is reliable or consistent. Yet that is exactly what we need to become aware of when we're stressed out, under pressure, or simply moody.
Who among us has been taught about the effects of our state of mind on our ability to respond to life creatively, effectively and with a sense of adventure and competence?
Precious few. How many of us are aware that we actually have the potential to have a fresh perspective on things that have become mundane, repetitive or unpleasant?
Instead of stepping back to see whether our state of mind is causing that sense of resistance or overwhelm, we habitually react to what appears in front of us as the cause of our discontent. We don't question our thinking and we blame what's happening "out there" as the real cause of our inability to thrive.
But once we reverse that perspective, we immediately get the freedom to look behind the curtain (remember the Wizard of Oz?) and see how our thinking has created the illusion of what we think is going on.
Thank you Toto for pulling back the curtain!
Once we see what's really going on, we have the opportunity to become independent of our habitual thoughts and feelings and a new way of responding is possible.
Inner freedom! Inner independence! Who doesn't want that?
Who wouldn't want freedom from the kind of thinking that makes us grouchy, quick to criticize or judge, caught in a very uncreative lifestyle and unable to love or take delight in what we have right in front of us?
It all begins with noticing that we've lost the liberty of free thinking.
Free in that we're no longer bound to slavishly believe everything we think.
Free in that we don't have to take everything on face value.
Free in knowing that whatever we're feeling that isn't open and receptive doesn't have to be taken so seriously that it prevents us from enjoying life.
Do you have to let rainstorms ruin your holiday?
Do you have to let thoughtstorms ruin your life?
Nope. Not at all.
Thoughtstorms (and the feelings that accompany them) may have a temporary effect on your mood or your plans but you have within you the capacity to (forgive me for using a rather hackneyed phrase) make lemonade out of lemons.
Think of it as your beverage of choice as you celebrate the holiday weekend.