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There is a wonderful formula for anyone who is figuring out how to take the next step in his or her life: inner freedom. It is more than a formula, it is a state of being.
Most people who prepare for the “what’s next?” find it difficult to find this state. Some want to know exactly what’s coming, and precisely what to do. Some resist the very idea that change is happening to them. Others are afraid to leave the familiar and venture into something else. And yet it’s clear that our lives have different stages throughout, with many transitions in between – some short, some long.
Inner freedom means free breath, free body, and free mind. It means relaxation, or self-freeing: dropping the tension we all tend to carry. Notice that if you relax your face and eye muscles, you can go through your work day without getting tired. Learning to relax your muscles throughout the day, being relaxed and alert at the same time, is one of the ten essential skills that all of us need to have. Yoga and similar traditions is a good way to start.
Breath is another building block. Breathing is a shortcut to putting yourself in a relaxed, yet alert state. Sending more oxygen to your body, taking a few long breaths to change your mood and release tension is a wonderful habit. When your body feels free of tension, it is so much easier to handle life.
Here’s another advantage of putting your body in a relaxed and alert state: your attention and focus become more powerful, and so you can evaluate any situation on a deeper and more precise level, and think through the alternatives so much faster.
And what does the free mind mean? It means feeling psychologically independent – knowing that you are your own master or your own boss, the winner of the overall game of life, even if any specific round did not work out. It is so easy to fall into the fallacy of attaching yourself to the results you wanted to get, trying to control the outside world, or shirking responsibility for your own actions – all three is what we yearn to call “freedom,” but it isn’t. It is grasping, or running away. It is the opposite of walking through life relaxed and confident.
When I coach people, the majority want answers to questions like, “I stopped working, what do I do now?” or “I have a list of things to do, is this the correct list for me?” What I am more interested in is their state of being. Does their body look tense or relaxed? Are they breathing? Do they feel like they can take on any challenge? Do they feel they can afford to try something out and drop it if it didn’t work? Experiment with something new? Is the goal to feel good, or is it to check another task off the to-do list? Getting them to the state of inner freedom is the first step, and any decision that happens out of that place – guaranteed – is a step in the right direction.