American culture is obsessed with freedom (and I’m not talking about the Constitution or Bill of Rights). There is an obsession with freedom to do X and freedom to have Y.
Having more freedom to is great, but I don’t think infinite capability is what lies between a person and fulfillment in life, at least past a point.
Let Z be junk food, many forms of entertainment, and time spent poorly on social media. What happens after you indulge in Z?
In my experience, I find myself always wanting more. I eat a sweet, and soon I want another. I feel controlled by the cycle of desire: want, do, want. But it’s just a cycle, it’s not going anywhere, it’s not progressing towards any purpose— it ends where it ends. I never look back and think, “I am so glad that I did Z on that day a year ago!”
This realization is the crux of Buddhism: break free of the cycle.
How? Practice the sweeter kind of freedom: Freedom from desires. Freedom from distractions. Freedom from Z.
What if you no longer had to be nagged by your mind? What if you were no longer pestered by the froth of consciousness that is expectations, desires, and impulses?
I enjoy my freedom from the desire for junk food more than I ever enjoyed my freedom to eat junk food.
What if you no longer had to fight mental weakness? What if your in-the-moment self no longer impeded the pursuit of your long term goals? What if all of the compulsive emotions just washed away?
This is possible, but this sweetest freedom is earned, not given. It’s an internal challenge, not an external one.
Drawing © Ariana Dyer.