America will celebrate its independence on Thursday. The celebration not only represents America’s separation from England, it marks its contribution of what it means to found a nation based on spiritual ideas and ideals. In order to make that contribution, America had to release itself from the bondage of its past. Without that liberation, it would have merely reacted to the yoke of its history rather than freely choosing from the myriad of possibilities for its future.
As spiritual beings, no matter what we may be going through or growing through in life, we have the freedom to choose how we will respond to our circumstances and what our inner attitude will be. Many folks believe they are making a choice, but often they are merely reacting to the situations they face. To have genuine choice, one must be aware. Without awareness, there is no choice.
The Dalai Lama demonstrated how powerful choice can be. His Holiness was before a group of Western reporters when he was asked, “I notice that you have this countenance of joy even though your people in Tibet have gone through and continue to go through horrendous atrocities at the hands of the Chinese government. How is it that you are able to maintain such joy, and more importantly, why is it that we in the West, who have so much, are often unable to have the joy that you have?”
The Dalai Lama responded by saying, “Wrong Mantra.” He went on to suggest to the reporter that what you focus on and allow to pass through your awareness on a regular basis is the negativity that you are experiencing in the world. As a result, you say to yourself: “Life is hard. There is not enough to go around. There is not enough love or not enough jobs. It’s impossible. It’s incurable. It can’t be done.” He was letting the reporter know that what he was giving his attention to, thinking and choosing to speak about, was a “wrong mantra”.
The Dalai Lama was reminding us that we want to lift our attention and awareness so that what we are constantly saying to ourselves is the truth of our being. Divine solutions and the power and the presence of God are everywhere. Therefore, it must be where we are. We want to practice the Dalai Lama’s way of being with such conviction that a seed is planted in our subjective or subconscious mind and it begins to grow. We then find that we no longer react to circumstances or situations but respond from deep eternal place within us.
When we respond from that place, we will look back to an experience that was not to our liking and realize we acted differently. Instead of being totally upset or blaming or accusatory, we discover something else taking over. We move into prayer or meditation, or get an insight that helps us respond in a higher way. Such is the power of choice and taking control of where our attention goes.
We may ask, “How can we begin to cultivate our freedom of choice?” We start by not looking back all the time. A statement in Proverbs reminds us “without vision, the people perish.” Ultimately, we must be captured by a vision for our life. A genuine vision pulls the highest and best out of us – our capabilities, our powers, and our dynamic energies.
I recall when I was in high school, I attended a summer debate camp at a university in Washington D.C. While there, I mentioned that I wanted to go to a certain college. One of the students who knew my background, finances, and how difficult it was to get into that particular school, said it would never happen. I nevertheless held that vision and was ultimately accepted by the school in question. In my naïveté, I was not concerned about the seeming facts or my history. The vision pulled me forward.
Vision motivates us from within and directs us to our new future. When we exercise true freedom, we no longer live life with a backward glance. We stop living in our own metaphorical prison with the doors wide open and we cease preventing our greatness from moving in, through, and as us.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of America, said that we must know the bright constellations to which we must aspire. America emerged and was founded upon a set of core ideals. Despite its flaws, America’s governmental system was based upon these ideas that arguably are unmatched by any other government. It is neither flawless nor has it fully manifested those ideals. But the founders did not say “here’s a perfect nation.” They said here’s the blueprint for a perfect nation, now make it happen.
Despite the challenges and stresses our democratic institutions face in the current political climate, as citizens and spiritual beings, we have the freedom to move this country toward that more perfect nation. Moreover, with our freedom of choice, we can do the same in our individual lives as well.
Peace and Blessings,