Looking out upon a sky full of colorful bursts of light, I found myself thinking about another kind of independence: the independence of mind. One of our most sacred gifts, this is the freedom we each have to interface with the present moment and to direct our thoughts within it. It’s a gift that has always been as readily available to the king as to the pauper–the original equal opportunity!
Often taken for granted (human nature is great at that), this incredible power drives even our most mundane decisions. I’m talking about basic autonomy: she likes her coffee black; he prefers it with two sugars and a cream. Or consider my views on roller coasters, which have shifted twice! As a child, I loved them; later, I found them terrifying (likely linked to adrenal fatigue)… but then recently, I learned to love them again! Which goes to show how something we didn’t like last week might appeal to us tomorrow.
Yet beyond the concrete world of experiences, our independent minds can do so much more. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are not fairy tales; they are the co-creators of our lives! And, as Kabbalah teaches, our thoughts are always ours to change. We can accept, reject, adjust, or revise any of them. Even the staunchest of opinions still has inherent flexibility. There’s a porous quality within most, if not all, ideas and ideals.
This doesn’t mean we can’t hold our most sacred principles close or that we shouldn’t fight for them when necessary. But we are all the wiser and more connected to the Creator when we open ourselves to see the full view–to do our best to understand both or all sides of a situation. When we keep the windows open, the breeze can blow through. We cool our judgments. We can both stand strong and bend and grow through the gentle movements of life.
When things are difficult or seem overwhelming, we still have a choice as to how we will meet the moment. Reflecting on his experience in Auschwitz, survivor and psychotherapist Viktor Frankl described how “it is possible to practice the ‘art of living’ even in a concentration camp.” Frankl realized that, although everything else had been removed, the freedom to choose his attitude could never be taken from him! He survived unbearable conditions while surrounded by hopelessness and fear because he knew that neither they nor anything else could eradicate his fundamental freedom of thought.
Although this is an extreme example, it underscores what Rav Berg meant when he said that “Consciousness is everything.” Still, it’s a side effect of being human to feel helpless at times… to react rashly… to give into fear, insecurity, or judgment too easily. A few years back, we discovered that our daughter Abigail’s struggles with reading were due to dyslexia. Rather than sinking into a textbook diagnosis, we saw it as a difference with many positive aspects. (Not to challenge the clinical validity of the term; it’s just that a slight shift in labels can greatly affect outcomes!) Since then, Abigail has embraced the “superpowers” that have come with and through her difference. In fact, she and I are co-writing a book series on how your differences can be your greatest gift. Change the story, change your life!
Your own life experience is a marvel of potential. It’s your trademark and your treasure. Because your version of events, your opinion on this or that, and your version of this day is singular in the entirety of creation!
What are YOU choosing to notice, connect with, and be grateful for in this moment? And, if you are facing a challenge in your life, how might you redirect your thinking to bring more light and positivity to your handling of it?
As Eckhart Tolle wrote in his book The Power of Now: “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
This week, remember that no matter where we are, we are always free in our minds. In that freedom, we can roam and daydream and imagine and create. We can move crowds with our passions and change other minds with our reason. We can waste our time looking for all that’s missing or wrong in the here and now, OR we can work with it and make it better. Make it matter.
In doing so, we grow to epitomize the spirit of true independence. We create a “land of the free” within ourselves. And when we light up inside, the whole universe lights up with us–just like fireworks in a summer sky.
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