It’s 14 July here in France, better known as Bastille Day to non-French is a national day of celebration of freedom, equality and brotherhood. Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité! The clarion call by supporters of the French Republique – and the only thing most of us Anglo Saxons remember from our French history classes – is A Very Important Day in France. For on this very day: July 14th 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille prison – for them the very symbol of a brutal, elitist system; a monarchy completely out of touch with its people. Totalitarianism absolute.
In actual fact it’s also great excuse to have an enormous military parade along the Champs Elysées, a wow! aerial flypast and, a massive firework party this evening, where the Eiffel Tower will be set alight in red, white and blue.. and a whole lot more. Paris is full of tourists but a lot of Parisennes seem to have left the city for the weekend. St Germain, where I’m staying, is particularly quiet along the side streets.
So in the shade of Les Deux Magots, I got to wondering about the meaning of freedom. So many of us wait until we have ‘enough’ money, or have lost ‘enough’ weight, or have the ‘right’ partner, or ‘right’ job before we call in our chips and make a break for the border. But real freedom has very little to do with external forces, and everything to do with our perception and our thoughts. You can feel trapped with 100 million in the bank, or with just 10 quid in your current account. It just depends on the definition and meaning you give things.
You can be free right now. You can change your thoughts right this minute… it’s totally up to you. But you have to actively choose to be free. It sounds simple, and it is. So here are a few tips:
1. Become aware of your thoughts. We usually think the same 4 to 10 thoughts every day. Over and over again. What are you telling yourself around the subject of freedom? Is it a scary prospect? Or simply an impossible idea?
2. Start focusing on what you DO want, not on the things you don’t. Our subconscious creates everything we focus on. So if you don’t want something in your life, do not focus on it. It’s like the phrase: “Don’t think about pink rabbits”. What did you just have an image of? Precisely.
3. How can you feel more free in your life? And what does freedom mean to you? Write the answers down.
4. Become more present. To do this shift your focus from the future (which creates anxiety) and from the past (guilt, shame ext). Be. Here. Now. Become aware of your fingers on your keyboard, the sun on your face, the cool water in your shower. You can’t stop your thoughts but you can definitely be more present.
Freedom is a state of mind. Just ask Nelson Mandela.