I've discovered the ultimate freedom.
No, it's not the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want—although that's what I believed when I was younger. I'm in my sixties now, and the upside of growing older is growing wiser.
Let me take you back to September 2005, when I spent two weeks holding and caring for babies at a Romanian orphanage as part of a Global Volunteer Program. I cared for eight infants, newborn through nine months of age. In service to the babies, I maintained a state of joyous gratitude for eight hours a day during that two-week period, regardless of whether I was changing a diaper, feeding, or playing. Knowing my purpose in each moment was a gift beyond measure.
After returning home to the U.S., however, I found myself in a deep depression. Without the babies, I no longer experienced life as a series of joyous, grateful, purposeful moments. I thought perhaps I needed to return to Romania to recapture the experience. I decided, instead, to attend the M.A. Program in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica (USM).
During the second year of the program, while writing, Conversations with Jerry and Other People I Thought Were Dead, I effortlessly experienced the same joyous gratitude and dedication to the task at hand. I was in an inspired state for hours on end, day-in and day-out for almost a year as I wrote the book. Knowing my purpose in each moment was, once again, a gift beyond measure.
When the book was complete, however, I found myself in a deep depression. Without the book, I no longer experienced my days as a series of joyous, grateful, purposeful moments. I thought perhaps I needed to write another book in order to recapture the experience.
I decided, instead, to volunteer on USM’s Prison Project Team and assist in delivering the Freedom to Choose Workshop to women inmates at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the world.(Watch a 22-minute Cannes Film Festival award-winning documentary about the Prison Project)
During my participation in USM's Prison Project, devoted to being of service to the women inmates, I once again experienced this intense state of joyous gratitude as a moment-by-moment purposeful way of being. Each time the program ended, however, I experienced a sense of loss and some depression.
During my third prison project, I effortlessly experienced a profound inner transformation. It was only because I didn't feel a sense of loss or depression when the program ended that I stopped to reflect on what had shifted.
I realized that an unconscious judgment had gracefully fallen away. It was the judgment that any one moment is more important than another. As I reflected further, it dawned on me that only by holding this judgment could I have rushed through some moments in order to get to others. The moments I judged as “important," were deserving of my full attention, devotion and gratitude; the moments I judged as "unimportant" were not. I was amazed at how many moments I'd allowed to go by without embracing them in gratitude: driving to an "important" meeting, for example, or eating food in order to get on with the more "important" business at hand.
Since adopting the belief that every moment is as important as another, time is no longer flying by. Each moment is worthy of my authentic presence and full appreciation. My pace is slower and more deliberate. I am here, now, in this moment, feeling the tips of my fingers on the keyboard, feeling the breath of life as it moves through my body, feeling my feet supported by the floor . . . and joyous gratitude permeates it all.
My purpose in each moment is to relax into my true essence whether I am coaching a client, driving the car, speaking to a group, or making my bed. This "true essence" is also called the Authentic Self. Living from the Authentic Self is the Ultimate Freedom because it's nature is one of acceptance, peace, compassion, generosity, and wisdom.
I am no longer in service to babies, books, or women inmates. I am in service to the Authentic Self, moment-to-moment, with whomever or whatever is present. It’s an awesome way to live. I no longer wait for the right circumstance to experience my dedication in service to the moment. I bring my dedication to each moment. This is what I learned in the Prison Project. What a gift. What a blessing. What freedom. My choice in each moment has never been clearer.
The freedom to live from the Authentic Self and to choose my response to Life in each moment is the ultimate freedom; and, it's a freedom so innate, no one can take it from me.