Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another. -Toni Morrison
Freedom. Today I am in deep reflection on what it means to be free. It is Juneteenth, June 19th, and we are celebrating the emancipation of Black people from enslavement in the United States. As I perused wisdom quotes on freedom, I kept coming back to this gem from Toni Morrison. What does it mean to really CLAIM our freedom?
I do this exercise at some workshops where I guide a brief meditation to bring to mind a time when one has felt the experience of being free, and then I ask for words that describe that experience. The words that are frequently shared suggest that the energy of liberation opens up, releases, illuminates, awakens, affirms, empowers, unchains, unburdens, enlivens, connects, triumphs, reclaims, restores, nurtures, creates, improvises, relieves, uplifts, rises, inspires, reveals, supports, builds up, grows, expands, celebrates, validates, cleanses, transforms, strengthens, discovers, unfolds, stands up, speaks truth, is revolutionary, revelatory, loving, positive, joyful, dynamic, colorful, authentic, spontaneous, transcendent, spirited, passionate. What blocks us from claiming this "experiential" freedom? Some people say that we can be in our experiential freedom regardless of the conditions. I only partially agree with this. While I believe there is a freedom within us that no person or system can take away, systemic oppression constructs barriers to contacting our experiential freedom and distorts the meaning of true freedom. Living in our full experiential freedom can be severely compromised by oppression. The energy of oppression disconnects, dehumanizes, disempowers, deludes and destroys. Our disconnection from this experiential freedom is often in the service of protection from pain and hurt. The more that the dynamics of oppression are operating, the harder it is to stay connected to our experiential freedom.
Healing the damage of oppression must reconnect us to our experiential freedom. This healing is both an energy of deep connectivity, as well as an energy of resistance, a refusal to allow oppression to tame our swag or steal our joy. Yes, we must continue to engage the work of breaking down systems of oppression... and we must simultaneously claim our full experiential freedom NOW, in each here-and-now moment of our lives. We cannot wait for systems of oppression to be dismantled to set our souls free. We must reclaim our experiential freedom over and over and over again. We must surround ourselves with people and make choices in our daily lives that support expression of our experiential freedom. I think that this is a big part of what it means to claim ownership of our freed selves. One of the most powerful aspects of meditation for me is making space to reconnect to my experiential liberation, to reset in the truth that my soul is free, NO MATTER WHAT. When I fully claim my somatic, emotional, mental, and spiritual liberation, I am empowered to participate more fully in our collective liberation.
What will you do to more fully claim and express your freed self?
With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,
Dr. Shelly Harrell