The 4th of July will be celebrated around the United States to mark our independence from the British. And while that event happened on 4 July 1776, 231 years ago, have we achieved all the independence we can?
Like most holidays, I have an issue with this one. Why only celebrate one day per year? Why only be grateful for Veterans one day per year? Why only be thankful for our abundance one day per year? Why, why, why.
And what is independence? What is liberation? Are we really thinking about independence while munching hot dogs at 4th of July picnics? Are we really thinking about liberation watching fireworks. I don’t think so, or if we are we are doing this in a superficial way. I think we are passing over an opportunity to go deeper, to appreciate the opportunities for true liberation that are available right now.
John Philpot Curran said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” He meant to sustain political change we need to be ever mindful to avoid reverting to old ways of being. In other words, you have to pay attention in every moment to remain free.
What if we applied this philosophy to our everyday life? What if we regarded every moment as a potential independence day from old habits of mind that limit us, weigh us down, and make us miserable? What if we sought to wake up right now; right in the middle of being a web surfing, breathing, human being?
Enjoy yourself on the 4th, of course. Like any day, any moment, it contains everything you need for liberation, independence from anguish, misery, an suffering. Mindfulness is the way to access this liberation. Paying attention is the key. Opening to the possibility of change.
So what exactly are we liberating ourselves from? Beliefs mostly about ourselves, others, and the world. These beliefs become filters, templates, models, even metaphors for what is happening now. These beliefs prevent us from experiencing life as it is because they bias perception to fit the old patterns.
To see what is before us now we must look at it as if we have never looked at it before, with a beginner’s mind. To do this, we must first recognize the old beliefs that are distorting our perception of what is right in front of us, coloring that experience with expectation, prediction, and limitation.
We also need to be liberated from mistaken ideas about ourselves and the world around us. First order of business — do something about this pervasive sense of dissatisfaction that colors every moment — even the good ones if we try to hold on to them. Things are always changing and there is no stable me exempt from change. If we can get down with this change, enjoy things as they unfold, recognize that this too shall pass, then we are on our way to independence from conditions that give rise to dissatisfaction.
So, take this moment now. Breathe and give that breath your full attention. Try to forget everything you know about yourself and lose yourself to this moment. What does it look like (take an extra moment to really see what is here)? What does it sound like? Are there smells? Is there a flavor to this moment? How does your body feel? What are the sensations of being alive now? What are you doing? Experiencing the world as it is in this moment. This is mindfulness.
Happy Fourth of July!