What does it mean to be free? I think by nature of being human in many ways we are confined. Our soul is sort of squeezed into our body – we are restricted into human form. Perhaps then by nature of being human we are not free. We are in a certain reality and we are experiencing that reality from within a certain body, through the lens of our current personality. When I first read Rudolf Steiner’s book, The Kingdom of Childhood – this is a collection of the training lectures Steiner gave to the teachers at the first Waldorf school 100 years ago, I remember finding Steiner’s description of a soul incarnating into a new born baby very captivating. He said, it’s actually quit restricting and even painful – for a soul to come into a body. A closed space. This was a wild concept for me when I first started reading Steiner but now that I have a deeper understanding of the continuous cycle of life death and re-birth that souls go through from my own awareness of a past life, it makes sense to me. So from that perspective I guess we are only truly free when we die and leave our body.
Steiner said the goal of the Waldorf schools was to educate children in a way that allowed them to unfold naturally and retain their questioning and curious nature as well as their self esteem so that they could be free human beings. I think I am now understanding what he meant by this in a deeper way. That although our souls are restricted into our current earthly experience, we should strive to remain free of the additional restrictive patterns and programming that society puts upon us and that we put upon ourselves and hand down to our children.
I think most of us recognize that we have patterns that we need to overcome. Like always dating that same type of boyfriend that really isn’t good for us. Or addiction, abusive patterns, all those things that self help books help us recognize and overcome. I also think though that there are even more limiting paradigms that we are not all conscious of that limit our freedom. I recently stepped off the treadmill of work. I used to go to a workplace that had a certain structure and I had to perform in a certain way in order to keep up with the ever increasing speed and expectations in order not to be thrown off. I was so afraid of being thrown off. When I was on the treadmill everyone around me was also on the treadmill and so there was this illusion that we have to stay on, to keep up. Imagine – you could step off and rest. And everyone around you would be right there still next to you – cause they aren’t really going anywhere – it was just an illusion. I think fear (of falling behind, separation from our friends) and greed or maybe fear of lack – keep us on the treadmill.
I quit a job that I dearly loved a little over one year ago. When I talked about it with my psychic friend she said I had stayed too long and I knew that was true, I had waited until the stress was unbearable and was starting to affect me physically. She said I was replaying a pattern from a past life where my current boss was a prison guard and I was a prisoner. She said that he was particularly cruel to me, barely giving me enough food to keep me alive but acting as though he was being generous. And I was trying to help him to become a better person – she said there was a way I could have left the prison, I could have walked away but I stayed, I perpetuated my own confinement because I wanted to help this guard. Even though he was cruel to me. Somehow in him I saw the connection to all of humanity. This is how psychologists describe Stockholm syndrome.
In a way we all have Stockholm syndrome. We’ve accepted our lot in life, perhaps even found a way to fall in love with our own particular prison and prison guard. We’ve turned lemons into kool-aide. Right?! We all do this to some degree.
When I accepted a job this year after taking some time to recover from my last job, I found that I had again entered into a prison of sorts. There were controlling people and rigid rules and it wasn’t fun. As fast as I could – I stepped off the treadmill again. I quit. I gave two weeks notice and walked out. There are no chains on the doors, we just think there are. Someone told us we can’t quit. We believe we have to keep going even if every ounce of our being is screaming, No! We drown out the anxiety with medication. Why? And we do it to our kids too. We drop them off at their own treadmill every morning. School. Why? We tell them they have to go harder and faster until they can get on the great College treadmill so that they can graduate and if they’re lucky they’ll get on another treadmill with a bigger carrot in front of it – a paycheck and maybe even a pension carrot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still dropping my kids off at the Waldorf school daily but I’m starting to recognize it for what it is. A treadmill. It’s been a lovely treadmill but I see how important it is to teach my kids that they can also step off that treadmill. We’re going to homeschool next year – we may not homeschool forever, it might just be one year but I hope it will show my kids (and me) that we can question the status quo. That we don’t have to stay on treadmills to achieve great outcomes. We have the freedom to move about the planet and go in different directions. We have to start by thinking freely. Freedom starts with opening our mind. Thinking about things that we don’t. Questioning why we shouldn’t. Exploring where our thinking and ideas come from – what is influencing us. When my husband says, “but the children have to go to school” I say, why? Really. Why?
My son expressed his dissatisfaction with his current work treadmill. He’s 24 and not loving it. He struggles with anxiety. We talked about identifying his passion, what he is truly aligned with and we figured out a radical plan for shifting his finances in such a way that he’ll be able to quit his job in three months and focus on his passion. I said, there is a way you can do this but you have to be open minded to it. He listened and he’s taking the opportunity to change his reality. To realize he is free to take risks, seek new opportunities and leave the prison, the door is wide open.
My best friend also has an opportunity right now to dramatically shift her life. It’s not easy – everything tells us that we can’t possibly step off the treadmill and walk strait out of the prison into paradise. She might not do it. She might stay in her struggle. I’ll be sad because I’ll miss her – but I’m not staying, I’m moving into paradise. I hope she can overcome her limiting beliefs, I guess it’s like a death of her previous way of being. It’s hard. And scary. Like incarnating into being human was painful and hard for our soul, dying can also be a fear filled prospect. Freedom is complicated it involves dying in a way and re-birth into another realm, another way of being, of thinking about what is possible- a new perspective. Let’s do it!