Claiming my own Independence Day

Image credit: © 2013 Colin Henderson, from Flickr | used via CC-BY-SA licensing

Here in the US, we will be celebrating our nation’s independence from Britain on this coming Friday. Our observances of this day tend to focus on ideas like freedom from tyranny … and an abundance of fireworks, of course.

But the freedom that we celebrate on this day seldom translates to the ways we live our daily lives. We often spend our days under the tyranny of our old patterns of thinking and acting (and reacting), our culture’s expectations, and the responsibilities we have committed to. These things frequently hem us into lives that are too small for our spirits and keep us miserable.

Many of these patterns and societal expectations that we follow are good and helpful things. Obeying traffic laws, for instance, keeps all of us safer.

Many more of the internalized patterns that control our thinking and our actions are less helpful, however, particularly when we engage in them unconsciously. They can keep us stuck in old ways of being that have outlived their usefulness.

As I’ve listened to the sounds of daily fireworks that have already begun in my neighborhood, I’ve been in the midst of dealing with some recent triggers that have jump-started some of my powerful, less-than-helpful patterns. The juxtaposition of the two has helped me realize that I can make any day my own personal independence day from these patterns.

Of course, claiming my independence from them is just the beginning of the process of changing, just like the signing of the Declaration of Independence was only the first step in the process of becoming a separate nation. The Revolutionary War and the formation of a new government system was still in the future at that point.

But the step of identifying a pattern, deciding that it is unhelpful, and making the decision to claim independence from it is a powerful and necessary start.

In my case, I was dealing with a case of overwhelm from too many difficulties all hitting at once from too many directions. None of them were life-threatening by any stretch of the imagination, but the combination was hard to process and deal with proactively.

Even though my emotions were spinning out of control, I was able to still tune in to my Observer who pointed out the old tapes that were playing in my thoughts. Those thoughts were pointing me toward predictable, patterned behaviors, and neither the thoughts nor the behaviors were particularly helpful in dealing with the issues that I was facing.

In fact, the thought patterns, in particular, were getting in the way of being able to make any sort of objective evaluation of the circumstance or options available and were clouding any attempts at productive decision making. The recognition that the thoughts were just old habitual patterns playing themselves out was the first step in moving toward freedom.

Recognizing them for what they were did not stop their insistent presence in my head—nor did it stop them from playing havoc with my emotions—but it give me enough space to start questioning them. It allowed me to remember that I didn’t necessarily have to believe it just because I thought or felt it.

That was a huge step toward freedom in and of itself! Albeit one that I had to keep choosing over and over again as my old patterns kept rearing their heads.

Once I started paying attention to the patterns of thoughts arising, I was also able to start noticing the subsequent behavior patterns that were showing up. As I began to recognize and name the different behavior patterns, I had the ability to choose which ones to keep and which ones might need to be changed.

As it turns out, some of my patterns were helpful ones. Making sure I got sufficient quality sleep is a very helpful thing for me to do when I am in that space of overwhelm. I am never at my best when I am exhausted. Writing out my feelings and thoughts is another helpful pattern for me that I had engaged in automatically.

Other patterns were less helpful. I have a pattern of wanting to hide from the hard stuff, and that never makes it better, so I chose instead to proactively deal with those issues over which I had some control to try to find a solution sooner. That helped!

I also resisted my pattern of complaining to people who really couldn’t do anything about the issues and chose instead to reach out to a few people who I thought might be able to offer support or good advice.  That helped me begin working toward some possible solutions that I might not have considered otherwise and made the whole situation feel much more manageable.

Instead of my usual pattern of “treating” myself to junk reading, junk food, or alcohol to take the edge off when I was feeling overwhelmed, I bought some new art supplies and spent my time designing and making some new jewelry pieces for my shop. This creative work bolstered my spirits more than any of my usual “treats” and helped refocus my energy on productive activity that fed my soul more than any junk ever could.

Changing my behavior also helped disrupt my usual thought patterns because as I took action, things looked and felt much less bleak. As I stepped out of the space of feeling despair, I was better able to see the situation objectively in order to make better choices that worked toward resolving things.

Step by step, I claimed my independence from my old patterns and brought about a different result. It still felt like a major crash, but it was shorter and much less disruptive than things like this normally are.

And it all began with tuning in to my Observer underneath all of the noise and tumult of my emotions and frantic thoughts to notice the patterns that had been engaged. From there, choosing to claim my own independence day and allow myself to think and act differently was possible. And that is true freedom!

Any day can be your own Independence Day whenever you choose freedom from your patterns. What places in your life would you benefit from claiming your independence from? Are you ready to claim your own Independence Day?

Happy Independence Day!

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  1. Thank you for reminding me what independence day is all about in America for I admit that these past few years, I have had serious doubts regarding my country. I still do yet your post has broadened my perspective. In particular, your independence metaphor sat me down so I observed some old behaviors in new colors, always interesting that for I see from now and not then. Frankly, it even provides an occasional chuckle and helps me see just to what I am clinging.

    As a matter of fact, an upcoming post is on “know and let go” (Ajahn Chanh excerpt), specifically learning to “hold” wisdom (Chanh). I have not yet worked through the post but your thoughtful prose brought it to mind for as you say, you kept letting go so you could observe clearly, even through the clouds for all dissipates, doesn’t it?

    Mostly, I am so glad there was no major crash. As you know, I, too, know how those are. Good for you, Kenetha, and once again, a truly lovely post.

    1. I’m so glad my thoughts were helpful to you. I’m always amazed at how easy it is for me to keep holding on to things – even ones that I thought I’d let go of. But there is indeed such a clarity of observation available in those moments when I do manage to let go that make the struggle to release things worth it.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement and for the comment!

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