“Who stops us from being free? We blame the government. We blame our parents. … Who really stops us from being free? We stop ourselves. What does it really mean to be free? Sometimes we get married and we say that we lose our freedom, then we get divorced and we are still not free. What stops us? Why can’t we be ourselves?
“We have memories of long ago, when we used to be free and we loved being free, but we have forgotten what freedom really means.
“If we see a child who is two or three, perhaps four years old, we find a free human. Why is this human free? Because this human does whatever he or she wants to do. This human is completely wild. Just like a flower, a tree, or an animal that has not been domesticated. And if we observe humans who are two years old, we find that most of the time these humans have a big smile on their face and they’re having fun. They are exploring the world. They are not afraid to play. They are afraid when they are hurt,when they are hungry, when some of their needs are not mt, but they don’t worry about the past, don’t care about the future, and only live in the present moment.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz
While I generally agree with what Ruiz has to say, I think in this case, there is some exaggeration involved. Of course, teachers often use exaggeration to get a point across, but in this case, it may be used a little too much.
First off, what exactly does it mean to be free? If we mean total freedom, then none of us has it or ever will. We are not free to stop eating for four or five months. We cannot stop breathing for two hours. Either of those things would make us dead. We are, and always will be, subject to the laws of God and Nature. So the freedom Ruiz is talking about is relative. And it is just as relative for plants, animals, and small children. The monkey isn’t free to fly like a bird. The swamp weed isn’t free to grow in the desert.
Freedom of the Young
It is true that being free, relatively, is more true in the very young. They haven’t been “domesticated” yet, as Ruiz says. But small children have a brain. They have a capacity to learn. In fact experts on the brain and the mind say that a small child learns new things easier than an adult. This is a good indication that such learning is natural.
When the free, wild, child that Ruiz describes falls and gets hurt, he learns from that. When she sticks her hand in a fire and gets burned, she learns from that. When he eats something that isn’t food, he gets sick. It may take a bit longer, but he will even learn from that. This is a good thing. We need to learn. We have a capacity to learn and we should learn.
Where the problem comes in is when we learn false things. We learn certain acceptable ways to behave from our parents, teachers, and friends. We are supposed to dress a certain way. We are supposed to talk a certain way. The beliefs and rules that others live by are passed on to us as we grow. And now we are far less tree than before.
Back to Being Free
The good news is that we can get back most of that lost freedom, while still knowing that fire burns. We can become open-minded again and learn that just because it is part of our social structure doesn’t men it is the best way to do things, or even the right way.
Several things cause me to believe that I may have been dropped as an infant. For one, I have an eye injury in one eye that the doctor says looks like it happened when I was very young. My optic nerve became partially detached from my right eye, It reattached itself, and grew larger than normal for protection. The other reason is that I had an irrational fear of high places. Fortunately, I heard of a program called Psych-K that helped people get over phobias or bad habits. In most cases, this could be done with one weekend workshop. I took the workshop and it cured me of my fear of heights. So in that one area, I got my freedom back.
Other methods work or getting back other kinds of freedom. Suppose you have been taught to have a distrust of people from different places. Visiting other countries can help you learn that there is no need to fear foreigners. Maybe our religious leaders have filled you with the belief that people of certain other faiths are evil. Visiting a place of worship for that faith might awaken you to the truth.
In most cases, it may simply take time and work. Just repeat to yourself regularly that if you don’t have proof of something, you don’t know that it is true. Be open to other beliefs. Be open to other ideas. Each night before going to bed, ask yourself, “Did I let my beliefs and prejudices control me at all today?” If the honest answer is “Yes,” think of how you can do better the next time. Being free again won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.