3 Practices for Cultivating Inner Freedom

Home in Body and Mind

“Is there some way to be at home in this being I find myself being?  To be at home in this body and mind?” asks Zen teacher Edward Epe Brown in a delightfully practical guide to Buddhist meditation called Joyful Mind.   I bought that book two months after I left my passport country, fourteen years ago today.  I had two suitcases with me and wouldn’t see my household goods for another year. We moved every few weeks for my fiance’s work as a temporary prison doctor and had no idea where we would eventually settle.

I won’t lie to you.  At that time in my life, I was not comfortable with the unknown. When the excitement of moving overseas wore off and pre-wedding drama heightened in the increasingly gray UK, I clung to my little meditation book and I practiced.  It came with a CD that I clicked into my disc man.  I hit the ground walking.  Fields and dells, sheep and cobblestones.  I walked and walked and walked. I meditated and followed my breath, all the way through the wedding in a foreign (to me) language and secondary move to Italy.

My husband and I still look back with heart-filled nostalgia on those first months together in England and Wales when all we owned together fit in our little right-side drive, Citroen hatchback and we didn’t know where the next job would take us–no bills, no ties, when the only commitment we’d made was to each other.  The overwhelming sense of freedom lay in wondering what was around the bend.  International living gives us both the opportunity to experience exhilarating inner freedom and breathless restriction at once.  So, how do those two polarities become good neighbors to one another?

Designing An Inner “Home”

When an external sense of home becomes ambiguous, designing an inner home is essential.  If we don’t take the time to sit with an architect, to thoughtfully design a place where we will want to spend our lives, things can get hairy.  We spend so much time and energy designing our external homes, moving our stuff around, setting it all up, but do we spend the same level of energy designing our inner home.  What if there isn’t enough space in there?  What if the walls are too rigid or too pliable?  What if there isn’t room for anyone else or not enough space for solitude?  What if you forget to hang mirrors in there?

The practice of Zazen, is the practice of freedom within.  Freedom from doing, freedom from not being perfect.  It is the practice of being still and sitting with yourself in a posture that allows your breath to flow freely in and out of your body.  A place for you to give yourself five, ten, or 20 minutes alone to put our tiny homes together.  To cultivate joy, comfort, warmth, love, and security.  The more we pay attention to our inner design plan, the more freedom we have to be at home in who we are, no matter where we are.

If you are like me and place a high value on freedom, but aren’t always in place where you can run off and do whatever you want whenever you want (like most of us).  I have three design suggestions that have been helpful to me in my search for home, in “mind and body”:

First, move your body everyday.

Movement tells your mind that you are free. It reminds every cell that you are living.  Walk, run, do yoga, rock climb, push a stroller, swim.  Just move.  I pushed a stroller up a mountain for three years.  I got stronger and lighter.  The boy grew.  Neither of us need that stroller anymore and I’m still walking up that mountain, six years later.

Second, practice stillness everyday.

It might feel strange at first, but trust me, what you focus on expands!  When I was a new mom alone with a toddler, a cat, and two Basset Hounds and could not figure out how to carve out time for myself to recharge or connect with my inner home, I started small.  Five minutes. That’s all you need to get started.  Set a timer.  Start with one minute if that’s all you can fathom, but start.  Breathe.

Third, do the thing that lights you up.

No more excuses.  So, you’re in a new place.   We’ve all been there and I think we all can agree that some places seem to hold more opportunities than others.  Do. Not. Give. Up.  You might have to make your own opportunities.  It might not be come easily.  You might have to go out on a limb and dance in the discomfort of it all.

I go to rehearsals where, much of the time, I don’t understand what the band leader is saying.  There have been moments where I found myself in tears on the drive home, frustrated and embarrassed.  There were times when I wasn’t able to make myself understood.  There were times when I thought I was in over my head and thought about quitting.  But I decided to work harder instead.  I decided that I wanted to be a part of this community I live in.  Life is richer and my bucket life shorter because I kept going.

You can too.  Being a fish out of water does not mean sudden death.  Get yourself back in the water and swim!




Author: Carolyn Parse Rizzo

Carolyn is a Certified Child Life Specialist, Healthcare and Vitality/Core Energy™ Coach and trainer living in Northern Italy with her multi-cultural, bi-lingual family. Her private practice, Interval Coaching and Consulting, supports international patients, parents, and partners in building resilience through healthcare challenges and change. Prepare, Play, and Persevere! An expressive-arts enthusiast, Carolyn feeds her soul and builds grit by singing vintage tunes in local wineries with a 20 piece big band and practicing her Morning Walk up the foothills of the Alps. Carolyn’s definition of “home”? Home is where you feel like you!

Comments 5

  1. Carolyn, I loved this. So much wisdom in this post, even if you’ve never moved to a “foreign” country. It is possible to feel like a foreigner in your own life sometimes. Life is full of the unexpected and it’s easy to suddenly find ourselves in territory we’ve never been before. Making your inner home a well known, thoughtfully put together space is important for any type of satisfactory living. Thank you.

  2. Post

    Sarah, I’m so glad this idea was relate-able and appreciate your feedback, especially. Sometimes we can feel “foreign” in our own skins and I think this is where we need to begin. Much love to you, my friend.

  3. Carolyn once again, your words filled in some empty spaces in my own dialogue and personal journey. In some weird way, your words calm me down and let me know that transition to new places while exciting, can also be a challenge. Most importantly it is okay because it is supposed to be challenging, it is what you do with that challenge and how you master it that is important. Mastery, are we back to child development as we work our ways through adulthood?
    Cheers my friend!

  4. How beautifully u have explained it all.Very touching .A topic not many people take upon it .

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