Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Passover is the holiday of freedom.
We usually think of freedom as being free to do what we want, when we want it.
But that's just one aspect of being a free person.
True freedom is finding freedom within yourself, no matter what situation you're in.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years while fighting for the freedom of South Africa. Many of those years were spent alone in a tiny cell. When he was finally released, he said, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
He had every excuse to be angry and bitter. But he chose a different way. He chose to release all the thoughts that would have kept him, hostage, way after he left the prison walls.
This is true freedom.
Viktor Frankl, a famous psychologist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man's Search for Meaning gives us more insight into the freedom of the mind. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” We don't always see the space between the stimulus and our reaction or feelings about it, but even just knowing that there is one, gives us the possibility of tapping into it more often.
Although it sometimes feels like we are being tossed around by the wind and we don't have control over anything, we have an incredible innate system that is designed to recalibrate us when we feel lost and out of control.
We have somewhere between 50,000 - 70,000 thoughts every day, and we often stay stuck on the ones we have thought a million times before. We have such a powerful capacity for a new insight every day.
Sydney Banks used to say, "You are one thought away from happiness, one thought away from sadness. The secret lies in thought.” At any given moment we are only one thought away from a totally different experience.
Have you ever been in the shower and suddenly had a new idea, or went to sleep feeling cranky and woke up with a fresh perspective, when nothing had changed? That's our mind trying to re-calibrate us and give us what we need to navigate our lives.
A woman once described her grief when she lost her husband. She felt like she could barely breathe. One day when she was sitting on the couch, beside herself in grief and sorrow, when suddenly the thought went through her mind, "Oh, the side table is so dusty, I should clean it," and for a moment, she was completely taken out of her grief. She was shocked that she could even think such a thought during such a tragic time, but that sliver of a moment gave her insight into the temporary nature of experiences and brought her incredible hope for more emotional freedom in the future.
As a poet, William Ernest Henley said, "I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul."
And so are you.