Independence or Freedom on the Fourth?

Independence or Freedom on the Fourth?

Independence or Freedom on the Fourth?Independence or Freedom on the Fourth? This is the question I ask myself today.

As a young child, my experience of the Fourth of July included the smell of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, the sound of sizzling bacon on top of baked beans, the sweet/sour taste of slaw that Daddy made, and the crunchy potato salad that Mom made. For dessert we had sticky watermelon slices, accompanied by a few bees buzzing around. If we were lucky, Mom and Daddy would load the four of us girls in the Pontiac station wagon and tote us out to see the fireworks from a huge field near Bowman Gray stadium. All I knew was that food, family, and fireworks lit up the night and my life.

Today, I sit on a boat named Freedom docked at Sunset Cay Marina in Folly Beach, SC. I’m contemplating what Independence Day means to me. I know the history—that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, and that we in the U.S. celebrate this day as the birth of the United States of America. So, by virtue of both country and family of origin, I feel fairly independent. Personally, though, what is independence?

Independence, to me, means the freedom to choose to be dependent or not. I actually do depend on others to grow my food and fix my car. I make those choices. I could plant a garden and learn how to work on my car. I know I won’t. I support the farmers and auto mechanics. I’m thankful for their skills. Perhaps they take yoga lessons and appreciate the benefits from those classes. Ultimately, through these interactions, we choose to become interdependent.

While writing this essay, I realized that I have equated independence with freedom. What’s the difference?

By one definition, freedom means lack of physical restraint. I find freedom in the ability to get in my car and drive to the beach. Others don’t have that liberty due to where or how they live. I have a friend in prison that recently wrote, “We both have had hills to climb in the last year, but it only makes us stronger right? It’s been a game changer for me but I’m learning more about freedom—internal freedom.” So he finds mental freedom within himself as he lives behind the barbed wire of a prison wall. Can I do that from behind the walls of conditioning and karma that hold me stuck in places in my life? I aspire to that.

I feel like I should go back to hamburgers and hotdogs before I write myself into a corner of no escape. I suggest that independence and freedom are entwined. (Note to you etymologists—intwine is the archaic spelling of entwine.) I suggest that memories become entwined with present-day life and that entwinement colors our view. What we do with that entwinement is a personal decision. Each of us has the freedom to concretize our memories without learning and growing. Another option is to allow those recollections to enrich our lives as we grow and learn from them, even if they’re about picnics of the past.

I celebrate the entwinement of interdependence and freedom.

I believe that in any given moment, each person on the planet has the ability to choose how to think and what to believe. We all need practice in stilling our fluctuating consciousness so we can see clearly what we’re choosing and how those choices affect us all. Will you choose to believe in interdependence and in freedom of thought (with some joy and compassion sprinkled in for flavor)? Look for those qualities in yourself and others. You’ll find them. Look again and again.

In the meantime, on Independence Day, although my parents are gone, I’ll eat Mom’s potato salad and Daddy’s slaw, accompanied by vegie burgers and watermelon. I’ll watch fireworks in Asheville. I’ll hang out with my nieces, call my sisters, and celebrate the fact that I live in a place where food, family, and fireworks continue to be available to me. I’m grateful.

Yoga Sutra 1.3

Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam

Then, the seer dwells in his own true splendor.


“When the waves of consciousness are stilled and silenced, they can no longer distort the true expression of the soul. Revealed in his own nature, the radiant seer abides in his own grandeur.”

—B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali




share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn