I wound my body up into a tense ball of muscle and bones and fat. I controlled my breathing as I rolled myself forward, focusing on reaching my mind past my hands, which were firmly planted on the ground, centering my weight exactly on the spread of my hands as my feet left the floor. I was balancing on my hands in the Kakasana position for the very first time. And though my body was tense and my mind was focused solely on one thing, I felt freedom in those moments off the ground.
It is like when I spent six concentrated months learning a piece by Debussy. I knew every note on every line of staff until finally I had memorized the whole piece and could play it with confidence. When I don’t have to stare at the page, but am only focusing on the movement of my hands and counting the rhythm of the notes inside my head, I feel freedom.
Or when I create the space inside my own head to meditate – which although it has been fewer and farther between lately because of my own negligence, creates a hollow in my heart that floods with peaceful patience. There I feel freedom, too.
Sometimes our fast-paced, ready-made culture misses out on freedom because it’s too focused on being free. It strives to be free from accountability, morals, struggles, and any more labor than is necessary.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy convenience. But convenience is not freedom.
It feels free, when I can order Chinese over the phone and pick it up, ready-made, ten minutes later. It feels free, when I decide what morals are convenient for the situation I am in. But it turns out that when I am most trying to be free that I am the most a slave. I am a slave to my phone and my selfish self. I am dependent on a culture that is insatiable. I require the constant up-keep of a thousand conveniences to make myself feel free.
But freedom comes from confines.
Does that seem counter-intuitive? It is, of course. No one sells responsibilities as freedom. But it’s structure that allows me to be free.
I am thinking specifically about God. It is not a conventional idea of freedom that makes me cling to a God that demands my life from me – heart, soul, and body in one all-encompassing package. It’s the gradual realization that when I give myself as a slave to God that I can find freedom which makes me put those boundaries on myself.
When I am a slave to God I am free to be filled with love. I am free to desire pure things. I am free to extend grace and reach for forgiveness and fill my life with things that matter. I am free to leave bitterness behind me and I am free to worship Someone other than myself.
I find these truths to be self-evident echoes in my yoga, music, and prayer. The emptier I am, the fuller God can be manifest in me. I find my freedom in that place where God asks everything of me so that He can become everything for me. I find freedom there.