This was my fourth visit to Washington D.C. and it was such a treat to see the new Martin Luther King memorial in West Potomac Park. The memorial was established in 2011, honoring what Dr. King stood for—freedom, justice, and equal opportunity for all.
As I slowly took it all in, I began to reflect on the very concept of freedom. What does it mean to be free? It certainly means not being behind bars…no kidding! It means having equal opportunities available, honoring the uniqueness of all races, creeds, and colors, and finally the ability to choose…notions that are inherent in our current society and seem rather obvious.
However, what may appear less obvious is that freedom can still keep us imprisoned and be just as precarious as not being free. What do I mean by this? Take the notion of being a prisoner to one’s own mind, through stress, anxiety, worries, fear and doubts. Over time these negative states can run rampant and quietly hijack our peace and joy in insidious ways. This cancerous thinking can hold us captive and lock out loving and empowering thoughts, changing the very core of who we are. We are no longer malleable with the ability to grow and flourish, but harden, as identified with criminals.
Are you happy most of the time in your life? Are you living the kind of life you want for yourself? If not, take a moment to reflect on where any of these familiar emotions have occupied your thinking. What have they brought into your life? What have they cost in terms of your happiness? The starting point of being able to change what we don’t want is to be aware of the repetitive thoughts that precede more of it. Then it is up to us to make a different choice—an empowering choice. One that we must repeat over and over until new thought patterns have formed and can be strengthened.
Meditation can help by bringing such awareness to the forefront. It can help reduce the density by calming the nervous system, relaxing the body, and loosening the identification with old programming. With consistent practice, this new foundation can be established and continuously available to us.
For example, let’s say you are someone with severe anxiety and your go-to is to eventually shut down and wall off, even when you know, intellectually, that this does not serve you. First, recognize that this is a pattern that runs on autopilot. Then create time and space for meditation. Over time, you will be better equipped to access higher cognitive functioning by challenging your existing position and shedding light on an otherwise dark path, moving towards true freedom.