A journey that lasts a lifetime (part one)
Today I have a choice
to rediscover myself and all I can do.
I sit on my mat scanning my mind – Wait,
Is that mindfulness I see?
My thoughts blurred
like the visions I view this morning
through my rain splattered window.
Moving and breathing and beating
to the rhythm of the drops
hitting the growing pain.
Don’t fight it – an inner voice whispers:
You are a Life in motion.
Are those trees a reflection of me?
Steady feet rooted to the ground,
Sturdy limbs becoming one with gusts of wind.
Allowing and open, eager
to discover a new space.
A bit transformed, but also the same –
I sit on my mat with my beginner’s mind
leading the way.
Deliciously unsure and fearless.
Abandoning to this moment
and just choosing a brand new, freer me.
Remember those days when you were just a child? Everything was possible. You woke up in the morning with that incredible burst of energy only known to a child’s, or beginner’s mind*. Sun, rain, wind or snow! You were excited every single day, and every single day you were ready to go out and create, out of absolutely nothing, an unlimited amount of fun and adventure for yourself. A backyard, a field of grass, a front stoop, an empty carton box, a bicycle, a dirt lane. And, if you actually dared to wander down the road or one block over, it was as if you were entering an entirely different country! No gadgets. No special effects. No limits. No fear. Just freedom to be you… and life… well… life was real.
Then something happened along the way.
Someone transformed you into a responsible, enslaved adult (just think, from the age of 5 or 6, 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months a year, we are forced to wake up early to sit, most of the time behind a desk, and prepare ourselves for our future -productive, working (and stressful) adulthood).For most, those carefree days are gone forever. For a courageous few, the search to regain that lost carefreeness is a journey that will last a lifetime.
Real freedom is rare in this crazy world and the journey (back) to freedom is an extremely curious thing. People from all walks of life seem to be interested about the way my family and I live. Andrea receives countless numbers of emails from readers asking him for advice on how to free themselves from debt, work, family expectations and judgment, stress, material desires, the System, fear. I have perceived this inquisitiveness from old friends, neighbors, mothers and teachers from my daughters’ school, the owner of the local bookstore, the baker’s wife, strangers in the airport… all pleased to sit and chat for a while about this other way to live that seems so distant, but in reality exists right next door. It seems mysterious to many how we manage to work so little and travel so much. How we have the time and the money to visit my parents for a month straight.
How we live most of the time in a camper and are invited to stay -free of charge- in so many amazing places between one festival and another. How we have found a way to economically sustain our family and enjoy ourselves at the same time. They can’t understand how we can afford to eat organic food on such little income. How we survive the continuous change of “address” and the packing and unpacking, the organizing and reorganizing. How we don’t kill each other living in such small spaces with very little privacy or private time (although sometimes we go close). How our girls deal with all these “drastic” changes – schools, homes, friends, countries, languages. How they accept our choice of no television, no personal tablets or cell phones, no electronic gadgets or toys, no junk food (except of course, when our “no exceptions” have exceptions!).
The list goes on … this exoticness about how and what we eat and why we fast, our views regarding medicine and illness, why it is so important for us to show gratitude for food and water, trees and clean air, our adaptability and openness towards new people and situations, our eternal search for a richer, realer and lighter life despite all the challenges and obstacles, and our desire to be true to our beliefs, to respect others, to learn from experience, and to find this thing called freedom in a world that claims to be free, but is actually based on terror, lies, and ultimately control.
Our journey as a family started just about 11 years ago with a baby in the belly, lots of baby steps and a few temper tantrums. Andrea began the journey several years earlier. Driven by confusion and a whole lot of anger as a reaction to 9/11, he realized that his entrepreneur for fun lifestyle no longer fit him. He started questioning what impact our lifestyle was having on the rest of the world. Once he got over the “rage stage”, he began to focus positive energy on preparing the road for our family… it just felt natural to follow his lead towards freedom literally one baby step at a time.
Our story, like that of many others, can be an inspiration for you to find your own way to a freed existence, but it can never be yours because we all experience it in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons. Ours too, is continuously evolving. The good news is that we all have the possibility to be freed – to free ourselves. The first baby step however, is to stop acting like a slave and instead start reacting like a prisoner…
In his book ‘Crisis is a fairytale’**, Andrea talks about the difference between a slave and a prisoner:
“The slave is not necessarily a person who has chains around his feet, but one who is incapable of imaging his freedom. The prisoner lives a similar existence – he too is locked up. However, the prisoner does not feel fortunate or thank the person keeping him captive (in our case, the System). The prisoner suffers from his captivity and wants to escape his condition. The prisoner dreams of his freedom …. The slave, on the other hand, is similar to a lion who has lived his entire life in a cage at the zoo. Open the cage and he doesn’t run out. He doesn’t know that just outside of the bars there is something miraculous called freedom.”
A slave or a prisoner? You just need to decide. You need to stop accepting, thanking and blaming the System (and others) and start using a prisoner’s mentality to figure out how to re-own your freedom.
No matter what your situation (debt, illness, a bad relationship, family obligations) there is always something you can do one baby step at a time. So, you have two mortgages, a school loan to pay, a job that you despise with all the benefits, a high maintenance-shopaholic spouse, an ill parent, everyone thinking that you have gone absolutely insane because of your strange, newfound ideas. Just start taking the baby steps…
Maybe you aren’t in the situation to all of a sudden leave the job that you hate, but you can take control of how much money you spend and how you spend it (Is there anyone forcing you to buy that new car or change your smartphone every couple of months?) This is one situation where every no is a yes to life. Then, perhaps when you have reduced your expenses, you may be able to change jobs, work less, or even earn a living doing what you are truly passionate about.
Maybe you feel alone and exhausted because the System has put you in a situation where you are obligated to work full time for minimal pay instead of being able to dedicate your time for the caring of an ill parent. Although you feel guilty for leaving this person with a caretaker all day long, you come home too tired to provide this loved one the attention he/she needs and instead, relax while gulping down half a bottle of freezing cold Pepsi and eating lukewarm pizza or an entire family-sized bag of greasy chips while watching a reality show on TV. A small change in attitude can change your situation from stuck and feeling enslaved to loving and free. Seeing this time spent caring for your mom or dad, reading a book or reliving a beautiful memory together, listening to music, simply telling him or her about your day as your relax time, transforms the entire experience into something magical and real (unlike the fast food and reality show) and will create a lasting bond that will make both of you feel special and even free.
Maybe you are just overwhelmed by your family life (the endless housework, the nonstop schedules of 2 kids, weekend dinner guests) which at times seems to devour all of you. In this situation, it appears that you have little choice but to be busy. However, it comes a time that we are so devastated that we need to ask ourselves why we continue to speed around at such an inhumane pace. Is all of this running around truly necessary? What would happen if the kids did one less after school activity and stayed home a couple of days a week just doing nothing (which is really something!)? What if the house wasn’t so immaculate (which is a lot different than dirty!)? What if you invited guests to dinner, but didn’t make everything absolutely perfect? What if you asked them to prepare something to contribute to the dinner as well?
Are you burying yourself in activity and obsessing about perfection to avoid facing the more difficult to face questions regarding discontentment, frustration and the fear of freedom? Do you hide behind your busyness – anything to escape from having to face time alone with your bizarre, unconventional thoughts? Do you fear that if you do start questioning certain aspects of your life you may have to change what you do, how you do it, who you do it with- all of which seems more overwhelming than remaining discontent, frustrated and fearful?
It all comes down to choice… this is an amazing example:
Jerry owns a restaurant. He is always happy and always has something positive to say. A stranger once said to him “I don’t get it! No one can be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”.
Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and remind myself that I have two choices. I can choose to be in a good mood or I can choose to be in a bad mood. I always choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I always choose to learn from it…”.
“But it’s not always that easy,” the stranger protested.
“Yes, it is,” Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how people will affect your mood… You choose between being enslaved by your life or being free…”
Several years later, Jerry left the back door of his restaurant open and was robbed and shot by three armed men. After 18 hours of surgery and months of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
When the stranger, now a friend, saw Jerry after the incident, he asked him how he was. Jerry replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins…”. Then he asked him, “What went through your mind during the robbery?”.
“… that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, after they shot me, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared?” his friend asked.
“… when they wheeled me into the Emergency Room and I saw the expressions on everybody’s faces, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to REACT”.
“What did you do?”
“Well” continued Jerry, “there was a big nurse shouting questions at me. She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped what they were doing and waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Please operate on me as if I am alive, not dead’…
The moral of the story is:
Every day you have the choice to either enjoy your life or to hate it,
To embrace change or fear it,
TO LIVE AS IF YOU ARE DEAD OR ALIVE,
TO REMAIN A SLAVE OR REACT LIKE A PRISONER with A PLAN TO GET FREE.
Take the next week to… Stop, Breathe, Observe, Ask, Listen…. CHOOSE.
Here’s to the Choice, the Journey and the Fearless Prisoner in all of us!
Ps: Follow this blog to read more about Baby Steps to Freedom (part two) (and getting past the fear).
This post was written stress-free and without taking away from any of my freed time!
*Having a beginner’s mind means having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and freedom from preconceptions when approaching anything. Beginner’s mind is actually the space where the mind does not know what to do. It is that wonderful state when you are sure of nothing, yet completely fearless and completely available to the moment.
**Original Title: La Favola della Crisi – Sull’economia e sull’opportunita’ di farne a meno, published in Italian in 2013, Edizioni Enea.