The Pursuit Of Mid-Life Freedom

By Minji

"Our society is so focused on constantly achieving and becoming more.  I’m gaining insight in mid-life that true happiness might now be achieved instead by unbecoming all the things I am not and reclaiming my natural born right to be free...”

The type of meditation I practice is called insight meditation.  Although I’m still learning and have a far way to go, my understanding is that one of the purpose of this school of meditation is to have insights. 

The definition of “insight” is, “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.”  When I apply the techniques I am taught, usually during extended periods of deep still meditation (typically during silent retreats), I am able have glimpses of what I would identify as insights mainly characterized by clarity of thought and depth of understanding. 

Some are at the micro-level – so realizations about certain people, relationships, or work issues.  Others are at the macro-level and for me personally, typically come back to the big question swirling around in my mind such as the purpose of life or ways to live a meaningful life. 

My last silent retreat revealed a particularly fascinating macro-level insight for me.  I realized how despite being born into this world as free spirits, most of us tend to voluntarily relinquish massive amounts of freedom as we go through life.

As we take on various identities such as employee, mom, friend, student, teacher, etc., we bind ourselves to obligations, people, material goods and rewards.  By mid-life, many of us are in a situation where despite the fact you are technically free and your time is yours to give, you’ve actually committed yourself to so many different things that in reality, you aren’t really free. 

If you tend to be a type-A overachiever like me, sometimes you’re so over committed and stretched out that you absolutely have no freedom or space to give to yourself, let alone another.  Sound familiar?

Taking a step back, I’m no hippie and I’m not advocating for anyone to abandon their real lives and live without any obligations or restrictions.  I’m just saying, we all probably would benefit from taking some time to reexamine all of these shackles of life we’ve bound ourselves to. 

Some are absolutely necessary and beneficial – for example, I chose to be a mother and with gratitude embrace my obligations as a mother.  It requires dedication of huge chunks of time and relinquishing certain freedoms I previously enjoyed, but without a doubt worth it and a role I wouldn’t give up for the world.

On the other spectrum though, there are questionable roles I have assumed.  Starting from being friends to certain people, taking on certain types of work, trying to achieve certain goals…and the list goes on. 

Our society is so focused on constantly achieving and becoming bigger and greater.  I’m gaining insight in mid-life that true happiness and my purpose in life might now be achieved instead by unbecoming all the things I am not and reclaiming my natural born right to be free. 

By diligently working and striving the last 40 plus years of my life, I’ve thoughtlessly become so many things and have lost so much freedom along the way.  I was born free but now don't feel free.  Every day I struggle with the various obligations I have shackled myself up with and am desperately trying to scrape together enough time to taste freedom. 

Since it took half a life time to get myself into this mess, I am assuming it might take just as much time to untangle the web and I don’t expect it to be an easy process.  But as that saying goes, “the secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage.”  Bravely, very bravely, I start by canceling a dinner event I felt obligated to go to...