"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Galatians 5:1
Freedom is a funny thing. Like oxygen, its intangibility makes it easy to take for granted until it's gone and suddenly you cannot breathe. Although slavery has become passe, there are people in this world who still toil in bondage, forced to work in a mine or factory or brothel against their will. For those of us lucky enough not to live under such circumstances, we might feel as though we are quite free, and relatively speaking, we are. However, all but the most enlightened of us are bound in other ways that limit our choices, creativity, honest expression and vision. Some of these binds are innocuous or necessary, but others are unhelpful at best, deadly destructive at worst. How are you bound? Where do you give away your freedom?
Step 4: Make a searching and fearless inventory
If we are to be free, we must first determine how we are not free. For some people, this is easy. Their shackles have grown to such an obvious size and weight that they cannot deny them. They are stuck on a big hook, they made a big ol' mess while wriggling around, everyone around them has noticed, and their loved ones (and sometimes a judge) hold them accountable for the clean up. With the sudden recognition that they've lost agency in their lives, this is often when people go to rehab, into therapy, into AA (and start smoking), find religion, get in to yoga (and become raw macrobiotic vegans), etc. It's socially unacceptable to make a mess so large, and to do it so publicly. But what about the secret, quiet messes? The smaller, normalized hooks?
Most people aren't hooked on crack, but everyone has a hook or two...or ten. What are yours? In what ways do they limit your life? Can you live with that?
In the spirit of being searching and fearless, I'll go first. I'm hooked on all kinds of things! Sugar/fat/salt. Control. Personal and spiritual exploration. Complication. Shame and guilt. Anger. The list goes on...
All my hooks have to do with the conditioning I've undergone throughout my life that taught me how to be and how things are. With the exception of personal and spiritual exploration, which enables this sort of inquiry, all my hooks hold me back in some way to some degree. They have become like masters to me, but only because I have allowed them to be. I have been a willing slave, closing the lock and swallowing the key to my own freedom.
The time has come to choose new masters. I want to be mastered by and be a slave only to that which is committed to my freedom. Grace. Beauty. Truth. Ease. Surrender. Peace. Goodness. Reality. Deep Love. Yoga. God...to name a few. I will wriggle off the hooks that harm instead of help, and choose to align myself with people, emotions, ideas and experiences that elevate and evolve my consciousness.
There is another part to this. We have identified the ways in which we are bound and chosen new masters that are committed to our freedom. Now, how can we help free others? If our loved ones are on a harmful hook that they haven't identified as such, we can lovingly bring this to their attention. And if we are the hook that someone else hangs on, we can do everything possible to compassionately let them off. "But wait!" you say, "I can't control how other people feel!" No, we can't, but we can become masters committed to freeing anyone bound by false ideas of who we are and what we offer. If they remain on our hook once they know the truth of our feelings and intentions, that is their choice. At least we have tried, and try we must.
With honesty, with courage, with clarity...All beings rise up free.