I believe freedom is within each one of us - as much our birthright as the skin on our bodies. And what does freedom mean to me? - the ability to make a choice in every moment about what I think, whether or not I think, how I feel and therefore how I interact with my environment, other beings and myself. If one could know oneself so well and become so aware of oneself that one truly had these choices in every aspect of life - then that is freedom for me.
Most of us are trained from birth (or perhaps even earlier) and much of what we think and feel and therefore our "reactions" are conditioned and not really a "free response"! I experience this freedom in varying degrees in different aspects of life and this much I know that with every day and in every way that these choices open up to me, I feel more free and consequently happier!
What is being able to choose? In today's age we have choices galore - from things to buy, to books to read, from varying philosophies, to sculpted bodies it would appear that we are spoiled for choice! For me the words of a dear friend and teacher define choice
"If you're not willing to be something, it is because you are judging it. Only when you are willing to be everything, do you actually have choice."
Many of us are not willing to be poor, ugly, hurt, angry or unhappy, we are unwilling to be wrong or a failure and with plenty of people we are unwilling to dislike them or disagree with them. On this planet of duality if we are constantly spending energy trying not to be one side of the coin - can one really have the other side, is the question I asked myself. As long as I am unwilling to cry, can I really laugh freely?
I found that being willing to feel sad a 100% made it so much easier to feel joyful - in those moments of joy, part of me isn't worried any more about being unhappy. When I am with someone I love, I am no longer concerned about seeing a side to them I don't like - and so I can love more completely - their beautiful shadows and lights. The same applies to me - am not afraid of expressing my shadow sides any more - and every new aspect of me I discover, I have more choice and freedom to be me!