Lend Your Voices Only to Sounds of Freedom

I didn’t expect to be inspired by my kickboxing instructor last week. Nor did I expect to suddenly become obsessed with a Jewel song. It doesn’t exactly rock, so it’s really not “my kind of music.” But the message resonated with me so deeply from the moment the instructor played it for the cool down of the workout. Following that, she did something very unusual, but awesome: she remarked on what these ideas meant to her. (Just goes to show that mentors are all around us, in any place.) I went home and played “Life Uncommon” on repeat for most of the day, making more connections each and every time. You can listen here, and see the lyrics too:

Freedom is a principle that’s been majorly on my mind lately. As we are on the cusp of a significant election, I’m sure I’m not the only one. Political freedom is important, but the principle of freedom really is at play in all areas of our lives. Do you realize that at each and every moment, you are making the choice whether to free or to enslave yourself and others?

Every belief in your subconscious mind is either freeing you to live to your greatest potential, or it is limiting you. Every conscious thought you think either frees you or enslaves you. You are either freed by positive emotions, or enslaved by negative ones. Everything you speak either frees or enslaves yourself or others. Every action you take contributes either to freedom or slavery. And every result you set in motion either adds to the overall freedom of people in the world or takes away from it.

The song’s chorus shares this beautiful message:

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon

Most of us know to use our voices only to build people up, not tear them down or limit them, whether it’s our speaking voice or our voice online, in social media, in texts, etc. This is a behavior we must continuously be analyzing, and since you are the audience reading this particular blog, I’m sure you’re conscientious about this.

I want you to consider your thoughts as your inner voice to yourself, whether or not you talk to yourself out loud! Are you lending this voice only to sounds of freedom? Your thoughts lead to your emotions, and positive emotions charge us with energy, while negative emotions deplete energy. So when you dwell on negative thoughts, you are actually lending your strength to those things, which makes them grow and attracts more of it. It seems counterintuitive that we’d put energy into what we don’t want, but we do it often, without even realizing.

You may identify with some of these situations:

  • “I’m too busy” and “I don’t have time” are statements that create HUGE problems for most people. Freedom to do what we want with our time is so appealing and valuable, but a lot of us never get there, and it’s because we’re so focused on the stresses and the busyness of our lives. If you like being busy, that’s great; keep going with that. But if you’re like me and don’t enjoy the feeling of always playing catch-up and rushing around like a crazy person, stop lending strength to the idea that you MUST accomplish A, B, and C in order to be a good (parent, spouse, student, employee, citizen, etc.). Prioritize your time, of course, but remember to pat yourself on the back for what you DO accomplish, and let go of the worry about all you didn’t get to or didn’t do well. You will always have time for what’s important.
  • The way you speak about your finances tends to come true. If you keep saying, “I don’t have the money,” or “I can’t afford it,” or “Money is tight right now,” this will be your reality. Instead of lending strength to the scarcity mindset that imprisons you, focus on what you’re grateful for and put greater effort into more value to other people’s lives. You will experience abundance when that becomes your focus.
  • Have you ever tried to break a food addiction, but constantly focused on what you “can’t” eat? Willpower gets worn down over time. We must instead replace the negative habits with positive ones, and never shame yourself for slip-ups. Kate, an overweight character on the current TV show “This Is Us,” illustrates this perfectly. She constantly defines herself in terms of the size of her body: “This is always going to be who I am.” She thinks about her weight all the time: “Even when I’m not thinking about it, I’m thinking about it.” She tells herself not to eat the unhealthy food in her fridge, attaching sticky notes that say, “Don’t even think about eating this cake” and “Seriously, what is wrong with you?” Although it makes for humor in the sitcom, it’s actually very sad. Speaking to yourself in such ways only lends strength to what you don’t want.
  • When the signs appear that a cold is coming on, some people immediately give in to it. “I’m sick,” they declare in resignation, bracing themselves for the inevitability of impending discomfort. They lend their strength to the illness, and then the illness overpowers them. Do you believe that you are stronger than germs? I do. Instead of saying, “I hope I’m not getting sick” (your subconscious won’t hear the “not,”), I affirm out loud, “My body is strong and healthy,” and “I have limitless energy!” while taking steps to strengthen my immune system and rest my body. I won’t allow myself to even imagine being sick. (I can tell you that it really works. I haven’t dealt with anything more than congestion or an upset stomach in several years.)
  • When couples only talk about relationship issues, they attract more of the same problems and bad feelings, leading to disconnection. This one has been particularly challenging for me. I had thought that once the issues get resolved, greater connection will automatically follow, but this is usually not the case. The issues just get multiplied! Instead of doing this, constructively build on positive feelings of love and connection. Patience, unselfishness, faith, hope, and commitment will free your relationship to be the best it can be. Put your energy into these things. Most of the “issues” will naturally fall away on their own.

Set down your chains, until only faith remains…Set down your chains.

It strikes me that we can “set down” our chains. They don’t bind us tightly; we merely hold tightly to them. The power is in us. We can choose to hold onto faith instead. This same imagery can be found in scripture:

Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust. (2 Nephi 1:23, The Book of Mormon)

These chains that we allow to enslave us bind so loosely that we can merely shake them off. We were meant to “arise from the dust” and claim our birthright as children of God. Don’t remain in obscurity; come forth as the divine being that you are! Don’t deprive the world of the gifts that only you bring.

I’ll leave you with some final lines from “Life Uncommon:”

Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear our voices ring out clear
With sounds of freedom

Remember that the one who is primarily limited and enslaved by your words is you. When you choose to have compassion on yourself, you will have compassion on others. And then you will not be afraid to let your voice “ring out clear with sounds of freedom.”

Reading this message will have done you absolutely no good unless change something, no matter how small, as a result. Look at your life. Determine the areas in which you feel limited. You’ll probably notice that you’ve been focusing on the very limitations that you resent. “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.” Choose faith; decide to focus on what you actually want: how you want to feel, think, and believe; what you want to have, do, and be. Soon you will know how great it feels to be free!

Brother Under Modification

Have you ever had the synchronistic experience where you’re thinking about something, and suddenly it appears right before your eyes? That happened to me last week as I was driving home from a seminar. I was mulling over the idea that anyone, anywhere, at any time can be our mentor, if we are open to learning. (It’s happened more than once that a checker in a grocery store has mentored me, unbeknownst to them. Also, my little children are always mentoring me, as I write about here.) One of the seminar presenters talked about how when he sees a bum, he thinks of him as a “Brother Under Modification.” These people are in transition; trying to find their place. They have unlimited potential, and shouldn’t be judged based on their present state and situation. They’ve had experiences and challenges that many of us will never have, so their perspective is unique and important, but we so rarely hear their stories.

Just a few seconds after these thoughts crossed my mind, I came up over a hill and was amazed to see an old bum dressed in dirty, dark clothes shuffling down the sidewalk. His shoulders were stooped under the weight of more than a half-dozen faded fabric bags. A gnarly salt-and-pepper beard haloed his jaw. His skin was deeply tanned and leathery, etched with deep grooves. But the thing that stood out most about him was the huge grin spread across his face. I was awestruck. Here was someone with all his worldly possessions on his person, no roof over his head, and probably no job or family. Despite all that and more, he was clearly a very happy guy. He was living proof that happiness doesn’t depend on our circumstances or situation.

Furthermore, he was allowing his joy to radiate outward from his face. I consider myself to be a happy person. I smile often and laugh every now and then, especially when I’m around my children. But how often do I walk around grinning? It’s pretty rare. And why don’t I? Smiling makes you feel good and has been proven to boost your own happiness, but not only that, your smile can elevate and energize anyone around you. It’s contagious. It can set off a chain reaction for more and more good. I can recall many times when all it took was one person’s smile to turn my whole day around.

And isn’t it the truth that most people out there need a boost? Even if it’s just a small one? Studies show that only one in three Americans consider themselves to be happy. Whoa! That means probably two out of every three people you come across are unhappy or even depressed. This is so sad to me, especially given that Americans enjoy a quality of life and opportunities that most of the world probably can’t even comprehend. Most of us bask in an insulated layer of peace and safety that we are largely unconscious of. The technology of our day has made the tasks of living, transportation and communication a snap. We have access to virtually unlimited information and educational opportunities. We spend more time in recreation than probably any society in the history of the world. We live long lives largely free of pain, disease and disability. And yet, despite all these benefits, there is great darkness in this world that holds people back from the joy that is their birthright. How valuable are even the slightest bursts of light that penetrate this great fog! Your joyous smile can make a big difference.

This was just a small experience that I could have easily completely missed, but I just knew I needed to put it out there, and let the good from that one bum’s grinning face ripple out into the world. Since I can’t thank him for his example, I can pay it forward by sharing my smile with others. I hope you will, too!