A couple days ago was July 4th.
If you were in the States, more than likely you knew about (or even went to) barbecues and parties, maybe swam in the pool or went to the lake, and in the evening, you saw fireworks.
I took a 28-mile bike ride to Dorena Lake, and had quite a bit of time to think and even a couple stops to journal. I definitely saw all of the above on my journey.
Here’s my question: what are we celebrating?
Of course what happened 236 years ago is important, and I’m definitely in support of remembering those that have come before, of what they did and sacrificed for many of us to have the liberties and freedoms we enjoy today.
The one sticking point for me is that—even as a white guy from New England—I can’t relate to the founding fathers and this experience. It’s way too distant for me to connect with.
I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’ve never been to a party where I saw someone with a beer in hand go…
“Here’s to George Washington!” or…
“Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are AWESOME!” or even…
“J + JQ ADAMS ROCK!!!!”
I’ll also wager that there aren’t many (any?) Englishmen who are still griping over the loss of this country.
So while our declaration of independence from England and its monarchy was the reason we started celebrating the 4th of July, why do we continue?
Unlike any of the wars in the 20th century, does anyone know someone involved in this revolution? Of course not. So, it’s really not that directly linked for any of us.
What are YOU celebrating your independence from?
What if we made our own declarations and gave this particular holiday a more personal context?
Maybe you’re looking to strike free from…
As in, “I am totally independent of the good or bad opinion of others” from Deepak Chopra (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success).
You may meet someone who thinks you’re super cool, and then someone else (the same day!) who thinks you’re a jerk—so who’s right?
Well, they both are: to each of them. In one person’s mind, you may be the cat’s pajamas (good), and in the other’s, you’re the biggest buffoon around (bad). That is THEIR truth.
YOUR truth is that you are the same person, and your value or worth has not changed based on someone’s idea of you.
Know that every person’s opinion of you reflects more about what is going on with them than with you. Whatever THEY are actively working on or are self-conscious of and, as a result, hypersensitive to (business, health, relationships, creativity, patience) is what they’ll tend to focus on in you!
So they might really admire the work you’ve done in a particular area because they see you further down the road, or perhaps they poo-poo all over ya because they think you’ve got it all wrong.
Again: you’re the same person; their opinion of you doesn’t change who you are. :)
(Side note: I use this mantra almost daily, and actually changed the last word to “me” because it helped me understand the point better!)
Beliefs, Thoughts, Emotions, and Moods
You are not your thoughts.
Read that one again. :)
You have thoughts, and experience thoughts, but YOU are not those thoughts.
This is definitely Eckart Tolle (A New Earth, The Power of Now) territory; he says, “The human mind, in its desire to know, understand, and control, mistakes its opinions and viewpoints for the truth.”
Think of it like this: there is a cloud above you, separate from you, that generates your thoughts—and then sends them to you. So, this is not part of you, it’s just something that affects your experience. Similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk about genius.
You can also separate from your emotions: you are not your depression, or anger, or joy, or enthusiasm; you simply experience these, but they do not define who you are!
Same goes with any beliefs we have (about ourselves, others, the world) and the moods we all experience.
I can’t help but think of the lines in Fight Club, such as “I am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise”—the “Lack of Surprise” is saying this, not Jack – ha! :)
Do you have these? Yeah, me too. Not always helpful, right? :)
What if we declared our independence from our own expectations, as well as from what “society,” our family, our friends, our co-workers, and anyone else expect us to do—what we “should” do or be happy with?
Let’s commit to a path, show up, and do the work, without regard to the outcome! Sound radical? Totally possible.
Of COURSE we’ll think about where it’s all headed, but the trick is not to get all-consumed with that vision. I like how Macklemore states it in Vippasana: “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” That’s dope, dude. :)
Not only does this apply to work, but also relationships, dealing with technology, traffic, “quick” errands, kids, and about anything else you can think of—give up the expectations of what you *think* it’s going to be like, or how it *should* work, or what you *expect* someone to do.
If it happens that way, awesome; if not, no need to stress. :)
The Rat Race
Have you left the corporate world? Struck out on your own? Finally gave up the hamster wheel (after you saw it was killing you and going nowhere)?
Or maybe you’re thinking about it…
If cubicle life isn’t for you, and you yearn for something more, go after it! Hunt it down!
As Joseph Campbell simply put it: “Follow Your Bliss.” (He also shared “Follow Your Grunt,” meaning: do the work, too!)
What are you waiting for? Someone to give you permission? That’s not going to happen—YOU are the only one responsible for your happiness, and the only standing in your way.
Sure it can be scary, but I like to put it this way: the thought of denying yourself something that truly excites you is even more terrifying than going through with it!
I was nervous and uncertain, but that philosophy is how I sold everything, ended up in Hawaii, and almost two years later, am still on the road.
What’s going to be your unbelievable/impossible/unrealistic story one year from now? “I can’t believe I…”
Your Finances or Debt
Maybe you’re at a point where your income is greater than your expenses (could be only $100 more, but you’re there!).
Or maybe you finally paid off your student loans, your car, or your house.
The good news: now you can start SAVING!
This kind of lifestyle and approach now gives you the FREEDOM to do any number of things.
Maybe you want to travel, or are planning for a large purchase (that you can make in cash!), or want to donate to a cause important to you, or set up a scholarship for those in need.
Well, if you’re not tied to financial obligations and you have a bit of breathing room, these things can become your reality!
With traveling, depending on the country and your level of comfort, it can sometimes be less expensive to live than maintaining a place of residence—that’s certainly been my experience.
(In 2011, I spent about $10-15K less for an entire year of traveling vs. when I lived in Los Angeles.)
And for the donation or scholarship: if you can put away $100 month, in just 10 months you’ll have $1000—not too shabby of a gift for anyone! :)
GMOs, Factory Farms and Processed Foods
I’m sure if I told you about the atrocities happening to our food, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise.
Thanks to films like Food Inc. and the work of countless others, our eyes have been opened to the horrors passed off as “food” and stocked on grocery store shelves around the country. Of course, there’s more work to be done, and more people to reach, but it’s a start.
How about in your life?
Have you gotten clear on what GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are doing to your body, the animals, and the environment?
Are you comfortable with the inhumane conditions existing in large-scale factory farms, and how it affects your health?
Is it OK for one giant, profit-driven conglomerate to own several brands of food, thus tainting or deluding the quality of the product?
What about the US government subsidizing farms that grow corn so that it can be added to just about everything in various unhealthy forms—like high fructose corn syrup?
What do you support? When it comes to the food on your table, where’s your vote?
Is it time to declare an allegiance to local farms and agriculture, to organic produce, and to compassion for animals and the environment?
Sweeping, overnight change may not be possible for everyone, but can you take steps in this direction? If you’re looking for support, seek out those who are eating and living in a way you would like to; ask questions, get informed, and stay hungry! ;)
Maybe you have already begun down this road (awesome!).
Now the next steps: who can you share this information with? Your family, your friends, your co-workers? See who expresses interest (it may not be the people you think or *expect*!)—then open up a dialogue, and see what develops.
You might learn something, too. :)
What’s the commonality among all of these: it’s an ongoing journey. Sure, you can declare any of these today (and good for you!), and then the work begins.
Just like our nation becoming independent, these changes won’t happen overnight—it will require diligence, patience, and persistence. It’s a DAILY practice.
And I know you can do it! :)
What are you declaring independence from?
I’d love to hear your response + any other thoughts you have below.
Looking forward to learning more!