Of course it’s July 4th everywhere, but if you are living in the United States, you know that today is Independence Day. For most, it’s the first holiday of the summer, marked by picnics, outdoor festivals, ball games and fireworks. And there are some more solemn ceremonies observing the greater importance of the day and the establishment of a young country which would function independent of the English crown.
All of that came about with a great deal of struggle, idealistic differences of vision, and loss of life. Certainly our visions and ideals continue to differ, and no shortage of argument and conflict goes on as we continue to shape our governing laws and the environment we live in.
What we can appreciate is that we have the freedom to express our differences, persuade others if we care to, and ultimately decide at the voting booth. And although I get as aggravated with the endless debates as anyone else, I deeply appreciate that we can argue and vote and change the politicians in play if we choose to, without fear of recrimination or blood in the streets.
There are some other kinds of independence that I celebrate today. You may notice that while we have these freedoms, we don’t always claim them. What kind of differences would it make in your life if you did? Maybe you can add some of your own to this list. I would love to hear them.
- Independence of thought: much of our thinking is still intact from our early life; you know the attitudes and beliefs that you absorbed even before your birth from your family. And we are constantly exposed to beliefs and habits of thought by the media. Some of this may serve your life; but much of it doesn’t.
- Become independent of the good opinion of others. This is an empowering one! How much do you wonder what people think of you? How much do you tailor your behavior or speech to being pleasing to others? Are you wearing camouflage in order not to be noticed? Do you spend a lot of energy to avoid rocking the boat?
- Free yourself from your own Inner Critic! The chronic, perfectionistic, harping voice in the head that most of us carry around with us is responsible for most fear, pessimism, doubt and depression. And stress, for that matter. Formed in early life, this voice becomes such a constant companion that we aren’t even aware of it…unless we make an effort to tune in. Your fourth grade teacher, or your dad might have said some mean things to you, but you have internalized those voices and act it out as if it were true. It’s not! Time to declare your independence and live the life you intend and desire.
- Be courageous and examine your lifestyle; your job, your relationships, your state of physical health and well being; your intellectual life; your spiritual life. Is it all that you want it to be? Are you going along out of habit or real choice? Are you settling for something because it’s easier than shaking your life loose a bit? Are you having new experiences that stretch your awareness and your sense of being alive? When was the last time you were filled with joy? Is it possible that your own fear is holding you captive?
- Are your habitual patterns limiting your quality of life? The part of our brains that we have in common with the rest of the animal world likes routine and finds it comforting. Many of us have a routine that takes us from morning to night in a pretty predictable way. Does that include zoning out in front of the TV every day? Do you walk in the door from work, go to the fridge, open a beer or pour a glass of wine? Do you comfort yourself with a big bowl of Ben and Jerry’s even though you aren’t in the least hungry? Do you go shopping even when you don’t really need anything, or it’s not in the budget? If you think that none of your routine is a problem, try changing it by doing without, and simply observe your reactions, thoughts and feelings. You might want to go talk with someone about what you observe.
The beauty of independence is that when we claim it, we are open to fresh insights and new possibilities and the infusion of new energy that emerges. Claiming our independence brings with it responsibility and if we can handle that, great empowerment.
Happy Independence Day!