One of the main premises of the Warrior’s Way that I learned from Carlos Castaneda was Freedom. He defined Freedom as the possibility to perceive not only the world taken for granted but also to experience everything else that is humanly possible to accomplish.
When Miles and I met Castaneda twenty-five years ago, we wanted to be free. But we didn’t really know what we wanted to be free from. The quest for Freedom to perceive and experience without limitations took us on a long journey of inner discoveries and life changes. We asked ourselves, what is freedom? How does it look like in daily life? The answers are complex, multifaceted and ever evolving.
“To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”
As an example, let’s reflect about freedom in the context of gender identity. Our gender identity is given to us at birth, according to our external anatomy. From day one onwards we are conditioned and molded according to the parameters assigned by our socialization to that gender identity: who we can be, how to behave, our thoughts, feelings, ability to express ourselves, how to dress, what jobs to have, how to love. Each one of us was and is affected by the social conditioning to a different degree perhaps, but the conditioning is pervasive.
From a very young age I was taught to help my mother with household chores that included making my brother’s beds while they played outside. I wanted to play soccer outside too, but it was not proper for a girl to get her shoes dirty and bruise her legs. At the family dinner I also wanted to express my thoughts as the boys did, but I was shushed away. I was conditioned to believe that men were more important and that when men talk, women listen to them attentively, and not the other way around.
It is that type conditioning that interferes with our freedom, though circumstances may be different for each individual.
For instance, a woman might be conditioned to work hard to reach a high profile career, while in fact having a deep hidden desire to be a mom and a housewife. In many cultures, women with no career path are given very little value. And in other cultures, women without a husband are given little value.
A man can embark on a quest of being a successful high-profile lawyer, while his true desire is to be an artist or a musician. He was conditioned to believe that art won’t bring success. At times our social conditioning is so strong that we don’t know to ask ourselves the questions that let us pursue our true interests and passions, while allowing us to strive for fulfilment of our true potential and live a life of content and joy.
Rarely we have the internal space to question, Who am I? What do I want? What am I here for? To ask without feeling the rush to please our environment’s demands or what it had imposed on us. Have you discovered your true self yet? Have you asked what it desires, what are it’s passions and dreams? Or, as Carlos Castaneda would ask: “Are you on a path that has heart?.” Are you working on freeing yourself from the entanglement of expectations of others and the ideas of what is proper and acceptable?
Let’s acknowledge, in the context of our gender identity, that men and women’s biology is different. We have the SAME VALUE, and should have the SAME RIGHTS to be ourselves, the same opportunities to study, to have careers, to fulfill our dreams as individuals, beyond gender. To be treated with fairness and respect by our society. However, our brains work differently and often our desires and ways for fulfillment are different.
Choosing to follow what is really deep hidden inside of us, our heart desire is a process of discovery and courage. It is the journey of the hero, the warrior that wants to break through the domination of the conditioning and the rules implanted in our brains, to break through the dormant auto-pilot of habits and repetitions, and be alive, be authentic and loyal to our souls’ purpose.
Freedom is to choose to be your unique YOU, even if people around disapprove of your choices; it is about going for your dreams, in spite of the obstacles. It means to embrace who you truly are, not hide it, fake it or be embarrassed by it. Freedom has a price: you will need to take responsibility for the choices you make, keep focus and sustain your purpose without giving up.
Yes, it is hard at times in our lives to change course and pursue our true desires, but it’s a worthwhile task. We invite you to consider these three open questions:
- Did you ever knowingly change the course of your life because you listened to your true self?
- What obstacles did you encounter along the way?
- Did this journey enrich your life?
Please share your story if you can. Thank you!