Freedom takes practice

By Vishwam Heckert Published on 27th December 2021 in Bella Caledonia

Probably as readers of Bella Caledonia, we all want to live in a free Scotland. But what does that mean? And is independence enough for that to happen? Perhaps that day we’re all waiting for is just one step on the great road of freedom for our beautiful country.

If we ask aunty Google what the word freedom means, the first definition she offers is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Of course, we probably all know what it’s like to be a slave to desire. Whether it’s reaching into the fridge (again) or falling for people who aren’t good for us, what we ‘want’ isn’t always liberating.

In fact, the word itself implies something is lacking, as in the phrase ‘found wanting.’ Whenever we want something, it’s because we seem to imagine on some level we are missing something. Capitalism, of course, relies heavily on continually producing this emotional pattern. Encourage people to think they are missing something and then offer to sell it to them is pretty much the driving force for ‘the market’. Whether it’s a material possession, a certain shape of body (look out New Year’s ‘health’ fads), or the perfect partner/job/home/lifestyle, someone will try to tell you yours isn’t right and the one they are selling is the one you really want. If we’re not careful, we end up on an endless treadmill chasing dream after dream.

And as we watch the current UK government shenanigans, we see how entitlement is presented as freedom. My heart teacher, Padma Devi, offers a simple definition of entitlement: “I want, I grab.” Whether it’s land, body parts, or material possessions, entitlement is embedded in our colonial legacy. If we wish to live in a free Scotland, we need to unlearn this pattern – both when we’re the ones enacting it and when we’re feeling like we need to go along with it.

One of the most pernicious elements of the unfreedom of this profound inequality is the emotional pattern of resentment. The philosopher poet Nietzsche pointed out that resentment is the moralising power of the weak. In other words, when we feel powerless ourselves, we get up on a high horse and point our fingers at others. We see this pattern on what we call the Right who target immigrants, gender minorities, etc and on the Left where rage is directed toward governments, corporations and the privileged. With practice, we can be both clear-eyed about what is happening and discover our inner strength.

Perhaps freedom might mean turning resentment upside down and rediscovering our responsibility – our ability to respond. Once we focus on what we are able to do, we’ve moved away from wanting. Instead, we’re taking a step in freedom. Including the freedom to make mistakes! They seem to be a pretty essential and unavoidable part of learning. We might even decide to enjoy them. Why not?
Looking around at the conditions of where we each live, what can we do to respond? What do the people around us need? Is there anything we can offer to help? Focusing on others is a great way to get out of the mindset of wanting things for ourselves! This doesn’t mean we don’t also look after ourselves. We can’t really help others unless we do.

In fact, radical self care is a key to freedom for this is how we develop our ability to respond. By nourishing ourselves, resting well, looking after our bodies and minds, and having plenty of good fun, our ability to respond is transformed. When we support each other in this, as well as helping in other empowering ways, something really revolutionary happens. We start to see we aren’t wanting after all.

When we feel this sense of completeness in ourselves, we’re not going to be pulled around by the emotional manipulation of carrot (reward) and stick (punishment). Instead of resenting authority figures who are trying to use these patterns to control us, we can see clearly what they playing at and not join in the soap opera of it all. Our precious life energy and well cultivated skills can be dedicated to real life.

The great news is, we don’t need to wait for independence to practice freedom here in Scotland – or wherever we might find ourselves. Each moment offers the opportunity to notice when we feel we’re wanting and redirect our attention to what we can offer instead. That might mean offering rest to our bodies or a kindness to a stranger. It might be starting to plants seeds, giving yourself time to meditate or checking in on a friend you’ve not heard from for a while. Perhaps it’s adding an item to the food bank collection when you do your weekly shop or learning a new skill.

However it might look for you, may you enjoy your practice of freedom! And if you like, feel free to share your discoveries – we can inspire each other in beautiful ways.