“Even in detention I could find joyful moments.” – Ai Weiwei
Ahhhh…holidays! Just hearing that word has such nostalgic power. I dream of freedom from routines, time to meditate more, relax, hang out with family, friends and community who remind me of being loved and important to others besides myself. Common traditions and remembrances bring a welcome sense of community and belonging. But holidays are bittersweet for families who have lost loved ones or people who have mixed feelings about their families – or the very meaning of a holiday like July 4th, dedicated to freedom.
Mindfulness is honest, opening a window to seeing clearly and learning the truth of who we are. I love this quote from the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei whose visionary work explores confinement, oppression, and the fresh wind of freedom that can never be constrained:
When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill. – Ai Weiwei
You’re probably aware that the Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” Fantastic! Radical!! But if you read further, you’ll see a reference to Indigenous people, the first stewards of this land, as “merciless Indian Savages”. Like women, African-Americans, and other ethnic groups, Indigenous people were never meant to be treated as free and equal to “all men”. Our country’s very existence came from taking unceded native lands, our prosperity built on the backs of enslaved African people. Can we celebrate “Let freedom ring!” and also hold this in our hearts? Loving awareness can embrace human suffering, joy and freedom.
What does this mean, “freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill“? I don’t know. It’s beautiful and mysterious. Maybe freedom hasn’t gone far. Keep looking – maybe it’s here, over on the windowsill. That free spirit is in you and me even when we experience times of inner confinement, imprisoned by mindsets, beliefs, and fears. The practice of mindful compassion honors the freedom, dignity and worth of all beings.
These are hard times for many. You can always take a deep breath, acknowledge the difficulty and then turn toward freedom. Mindfulness and a loving heart can carry you through both hard and easy times. Trust the power of this. And let our loving hearts bring this freedom into the world. Happy Interdependence Day!