By literal definition, we almost always use the word freedom to connote the meaning “to be free from”.
In other words, freedom is being free from painful experiences like sorrow, grief, etc.
This desire to avoid pain by desiring to be free from painful experiences is universal.
Every one of us is striving day in and day out to attain this state of freedom.
However, as we all know in our heart of hearts, that try as hard as we may, we are as far away from attaining this freedom as we were at the beginning of our endevour.
Why is it that we never really achieve this goal?
This is because the very struggle for freedom from something puts us in a different kind of misery which may even turn out to be more traumatizing than the painful experience we seek freedom from.
So, we usually end up creating newer and more problems for ourselves than those we faced at the time we began with our efforts to gain freedom from them.
In this context, let us contemplate on this famous quote that gives us an insight on the real reason behind these several unsuccessful attempts at gaining freedom from something or the other
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.
More often than not, we try in vain to gain freedom from our problems through the same pattern of thoughts used to create the problem in the first place.
Becoming thus entangled in this struggle for freedom, we forget that
“Insanity may be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
So, in the end, it all boils down to the fact that should we truly desire freedom from anything at all, we will have to look at the situation from a totally different perspective, involving different thought patterns that are ‘solution oriented’ rather than ‘problem oriented’.
In this manner we may become successful in our goal to achieve ‘freedom from’.
Let us now look at another form of freedom and define it as “free to be”.
What is “free to be” and how is it different from “to be free from” discussed above?
To reach the state of freedom where we are “free to be” we need to reach a state of consciousness from which we can constantly watch the mind made up of thought patterns, beliefs and emotions.
This state can be reached through persistent efforts and practice, the essence of practice being creating a new identity for oneself that constantly endeavors to quietly watch the mind and its contents, without making any attempts at interpretation or judgment.
At this level of consciousness of watching or witnessing the mind, one is completely centered in a place of absolute silence.
From this place of stillness with which one is aligned, one just watches the thoughts and emotions making its appearance and disappearance in the mind, like the clouds passing by in the sky, without becoming identified with them and getting involved in the turmoil they usually cause.
In this manner, we can remain “free to be”, meaning completely free to witness the mind and its contents (thoughts and emotions), in a state of equanimity.
In this state we can be free to be sad, angry, happy, cheerful, etc. without getting identified with them as and when they make their appearance in the mind.