No man is free who is not master of himself.
No man is free who is not master of himself.
We love stories.
Not just stories told in books, or on film, or in conversation. We love our stories about ourselves.
We don’t speak them out loud often. We don’t act them out on stage or on screen. We don’t share them with the world, in our workplace or at home. Rather we tell them to ourselves. Quietly. So quietly they are merely whispers. To those around us, these stories have no discernible words, no beautifully drawn pictures to admire, no compelling narrative to hook our attention, no plot, no beginning or end.
Instead the stories play out in our thinking, in how we behave, in how we are in the world. They show up in what is possible and what limits us. They control us. They become a self fulfilling prophecy. We become the actor, the main character in our pastiche of ourselves.
And we run our stories over and over. Day in day out. Week in week out. Inside.
Your past is just a story…
and once you realise this, it has no power over you
What we need is freedom from the story of our past.
Freedom to write a new story of our future.
You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star
There are many interpretations for this quote. My meaning I take to be…
Only with a freedom in your heart, a freedom to be yourself, to discover and embrace your existence, with all the chaos and complexity that might bring, only then can you bring your dancing star to the surface. A free, expressive version of your ‘self’ that brings light and wonder to the world.
You’re not the mistake you made.
You’re not the failure of your most recent project.
You’re not the loss of your job.
You’re not that indulgence you should have resisted.
You’re not the disappointment at not having come first.
You’re not that missed deadline or average result.
You’re not your success, your fame, your glowing reputation, either.
You’re not the letters after your name, your job title, your exam results, your qualifications, your place in the organisational hierarchy.
You’re not your bank balance, your debt, your smart suit, that designer frock, your car, your house.
You’re not your ability, or your disability.
You’re not your weight, your muscles, your illness, that blemish.
You’re not your happiness, your sadness, your rage, your shame, your dream.
How could you be any of these, given that any of them are liable to change at any time?
Any of them.
These things are all a blink in the timeline of your life.
It’s a huge misunderstanding of what humans being are, and one that your inner critic can go wild upon. That voice can be demanding that you fix, or change, or hide, or be ashamed of these things. Or that you hold on ever so tight to what you’ve got, for fear of losing it, and what it represents.
You are not your circumstance.
Perhaps there is a new kind of freedom you can find from knowing this? A new kind of acceptance of the transience of the world, and a new recognition of your own strength and constancy, a new discovery of your essence, your soul… a new kind of hope.
image by: GranitKrasniqi – deviantart.com
I stumbled upon a small graveyard today in Oxfordshire. It was squeezed between some houses and seemed somewhat out of place.
A pair of wooden gates were invitingly ajar, snug beneath a small lychgate.
Wandering in, I discovered it was a war cemetery, with headstones for fallen RAF crew from the Second World War. Many were 18,19,20 when they lost their barely begun lives.
Under the lychgate was a laminated notice detailing the ‘rules’ of the cemetery. It spanned three portrait A4 pages.
Gazing upon it, some of these rules intrigued me…
“Toys may only be left at the graveside for a period of 12 months after burial.”
“Silk flowers, appropriate to the season, may be used, but must be removed when they become faded or bedraggled.”
“Nicknames or pet names may be used in addition to baptismal name, but only if placed in inverted commas.”
We like rules.
Our lives, our society, our organisations are riddled with them.
It seems even in death, when you have given up so much, rules are to be obeyed.
Ironic since these brave young men lost their lives in the name of freedom.
I watched a few minutes of Crufts the other day.
Handlers parade their dogs around a ring, holding the lead taught and seemingly uncomfortably high, so that the dog’s posture looks good. So that they can be displayed at their best.
Outside just now, across the street, a man was walking his dog on a lead. One of those retractable leads where the dog’s freedom can be moderated; the lead shortened or extended at the push of a button, curtailing the extent of the dog’s freedom to roam, bringing it to heel.
I wonder if as human beings we hold our own lead sometimes?
Sometimes pulled taught to show us off at our best, yet maybe inauthentic? Sometimes reining us in from our full potential? The lead, or leash, often invisible to us.
Where would freedom take us?
Apparently someone is selling jars of fresh air to the Chinese.
The world has become so commercial we are now selling jars of air. Mind you, that’s a small step from selling bottles of water I guess.
How much for a smile? What price a hug? Ten pounds for 30 minutes of daylight? Should it cost more to breathe in than to breathe out? Twenty pence a wink? Shade costs a pound a minute, unless you trade it for a cool breeze.
Let’s just hope love and human kindness remain no cost options.
Mountains and rivers know the secret.
Pay no attention to boundaries.
Move as your heart takes you.
From that place anything is possible.
Only your mind tells you the limitations, that you shouldn’t, that you can’t.
Flow like a river. Rise like a mountain. Blow free like the wind.
Out beyond ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Judgement stifles freedom, space, uniqueness, diversity, acceptance…
Let’s meet in the open field.
If you watch The Big Bang Theory, you will know about Sheldon’s breakfast routine. For anyone who doesn’t, Sheldon, the main character, has a set breakfast on each day of the week. It’s an occasionally recurring comic theme. In one episode, Penny, a neighbour, is over in his flat cooking French toast for breakfast. Sheldon points out that Monday is oatmeal day. At the end of the scene Sheldon throws the French toast in the bin, remarking “smells good, what a shame it’s Monday”.
Today is New Year’s Day. Happy New Year.
I have just been out. I passed a large number of people walking, in groups. It seems customary that we go for a walk on this day, either to visit friends or relatives, or maybe just to walk off the Christmas excess.
In a few days it will be Monday, and for many of us we will return to work. That’s the routine. Work during the week, weekend off – for most of us anyhow.
Does it ever strike you as strange how we structure our activity around the structure of the day, week or even the year?
Why do we walk on this day, not on the 4th or the 19th or March the 8th? Because this is New Year’s Day, and custom says we have it as holiday and we walk.
Why do we start work on Monday? Because that’s what we seem to have set up as the norm. Sunday, the day of rest. Handed down from religious belief over centuries.
I notice at work how it has become quite commonplace for people to work from home on a Friday. An emerging time bounded custom or practice.
How much is our activity, our freedom, our choice governed by routine, custom and historic ritual structure I wonder?
We largely get up at the same time, maybe retire to bed at the same time. Eats meals to a schedule. Do things on certain days, at certain times. This is fine if that works for us, but I wonder how much of this is without conscious thought? Just a pattern, a ritual. How much is driven by societal conformity, by organisational rhythm, by peer expectation?
Maybe we should more consciously choose what we do and when? Do what we want or need, right now? Do what makes us happy in the moment?
It doesn’t have to be oatmeal Monday. You can have French toast, just because you feel like it and it smells good.
Happy New Year everyone.