What a special time of year this is, especially this year, when the holidays of Passover, Easter and Ramadan have converged and all who celebrate are reminded of the meaning behind these holidays: rebirth and renewal, liberation from slavery, and revelation. Yet, what all these holidays truly celebrate is the concept of freedom — freedom from slavery, freedom from sin, freedom to believe.
In Sanskrit, the concept of freedom is known as svatantrya. According to the Tantric philosophy of yoga, freedom is not seen as something we must attain but, rather, is the recognition of our most original state and so it is available to us in each and every moment. The idea behind the concept of svatantrya is that we have complete free will. We always have a choice. However, many would argue we are not inherently free when you look at challenging situations many people find themselves in — from a life-threatening disease, to literal imprisonment, to war. Yet, yoga philosophy claims we are all free to choose our path through any given situation. This choice is essentially the power to freely respond to events that materialize in our lives, even if we can’t always control them. Viktor Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and authored the book Man’s Search for Meaning, writes “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men and women who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
You can choose to be happy rather than sad or angry. You can choose to have a good day no matter what happens. You can choose to see spirit and goodness in all things rather than seeing the shadow or negative side. You can choose to be in love with life. You can choose joy instead of fear. You can choose to forgive instead of holding on to the past. You can choose NOT to suffer, NOT to be hurt, NOT to be sad. According to Tantric philosophy, freedom is not the goal. It’s the starting point. Each one of us is connected to the source of freedom. It is our birthright, our true nature. But, so often, we have a difficult time feeling or knowing that freedom, that ability to choose. Let’s use these holidays, the coming of Spring with its reminder of rebirth and renewal, our continuing research to end the threat of COVID (which has certainly imprisoned many of us over the past two years), and the revelation of new beginnings and new possibilities as we move into a new season, to draw upon and evaluate the meaning of freedom. Let us not forget to embrace the people of the Ukraine and all the other areas in the world in which freedom is threatened and send them our thoughts and prayers to allow them to once again experience the light of svatantrya – freedom.
I hope to see you on your mat this week in any of our in-studio or online classes where you can take some time to think about what freedom means to you and delight in your own unlimited freedom, your right always to choose, and your unbounded and unlimited potential.
As always, thanks for reading my musings. Namaste, Leslie