The purpose of this website is to be a resource for those who are curious about how to live a joyful life. Why? Because a joyful life means a more peaceful life.
The content is largely free to keep it accessible for as many people as possible.
How often we believe we don’t have what we need to be joyful, and yet we have the potential within us already. True Freedom is dedicated to supporting you in discovering this, not through dogmatic teachings, but rather by encouraging you to be an independent thinker and walk your own path.
Perhaps you’re here for a reason. Take a look around, and see what happens!
- Dust off that old stationary stashed in your desk and write someone a handwritten card or note instead of sending an email or text. How would you feel if you received a physical note instead of an electronic one?
- Meet someone in person instead of Skyping or calling them.
- Are you single and searching for someone? Dating websites have their place but try taking a class in something you truly enjoy. You’ll notice how much you have in common with people who have the same interests as you.
- When you’re walking around, experiment with not looking at your phone or listening to music. As difficult as it may be for some of you, try looking at strangers in the eye, smile, and you’ll be surprised at what happens.
- Where does my food come from? How is it raised/cultivated?
- Are my daily words and actions affecting others? How so?
- In general, do I feel like I’m contributing or taking away from the world?
The other day I received a handwritten card in the mail - a note from a family member just saying hi and catching up. After recovering from the slight shock of receiving a physical card, I found myself quite touched; this person had chosen a thoughtful card and taken the time to write to me by hand.
We live in a time when we are making remarkable technological strides. We can communicate with others at the touch of a button. However, will Skyping or FaceTime ever replace a real, face-to-face conversation? These new inventions and forms of communication are very useful because they allow us to communicate with others more often that we normally would, but I question whether they should entirely replace other forms of communication that require more human interaction.
Many people believe you need technology in order to function in the modern world. We know this isn't really true, but I think what many people really believe is that in order to be successful in the modern world, one must use the latest gadgets because it speeds everything up.
Two owners of multi-million dollar U.S. clothing companies are living contradictions to this.
Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins, the founders of Patagonia and The North Face clothing companies respectively, eschew technology in favor of being out in the great outdoors. They seem to manage just fine without cell phones, and keep their computer time as limited as possible.
This begs the question: Is using technology always better? I can’t truthfully say it is. Here are a few ways to really “connect” again:
Perhaps these are things we can’t do everyday, but try them once in awhile and see how you feel by removing some electronic barriers from your life. Forming more "real" connections with others, and the world around you, may prove invaluable.
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Today, I went out to pick up a computer at the repair shop, and on the way home I bought some liquid plumber for my hair-clogged bathroom sink.
I felt like I conquered the world.
Yes folks, these were my ambitious goals for the day. It took several hours of ruminating on the couch to get to this point. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to engage with the public.
One might ask: is this a cause for worry?
Well, it isn’t for me. I don’t feel this way all of the time -- just sometimes.
Some of you may remember my post on Highly Sensitive People. Living in the US, and in New York City at that, it’s quite common to try to keep up with your peers. Or not try, yet have guilt over it (ahem). I always felt like I didn’t have the right to feel depleted because the other people I knew appeared to be fine. Better than fine, blazing along the glory trail of accomplishment. You know the ones. The people who train for marathons in their spare time during their 60-hour weekly office grinds, then returning home to help their twin toddlers with Mandarin lessons.
However, after working a 40 or 50-hour workweek, I sometimes find myself with little desire to do anything else than assume the form of a lump in front of the TV. I thought something was profoundly wrong with me.
I’ve become more comfortable accepting I have a different set of needs than some people. But I’m not alone either.
My sensitivity allows me to relate to others on a deeper level than some, but that same sensitivity absorbs more sensory input in a normal work environment. For instance, after I work a busy dinner shift at the restaurant -- a head-spinning cornucopia of loud music, conversations, and balancing martinis on trays -- I just want to recline somewhere in solitude.
Now that I’ve come to terms with my different set of qualities, I'm a much more pleasant person when I embrace them -- rather than put pressure on myself to be different.
Growing up, I remember my mom periodically taking time to rest her eyes quietly throughout a busy day of cleaning the house. Rarely did she fall asleep -- one eye would flash open, without fail, before we were about to get in trouble -- but she was good about kicking her feet up when the moment required it.
Once in awhile I still notice a feeling of guilt inside of me, but it’s slowly decreasing over time. I realize that’s not the “true me” speaking; it’s a self-originating voice that’s unnecessarily demanding.
I’ve noticed after awhile, I’ve had my fill. My body just needed to unwind for a bit! The result is I feel restored, rested, and then I get up and do something else. I no longer keep charging ahead, ignoring my body’s signals to pause. Whenever I’ve done that in the past, it’s always caught up to me, whether it’s in the form of irritability, or a cold.
Just as we all have our individual gifts, we all have our individual optimal speeds as well. What energizes one person can have the opposite effect on another. Some people love large crowds; some people find them overwhelming. You might be able to run 10 miles and someone has trouble running half a mile, but that same person may be able to do function on 4 hours of sleep and feel perfectly fine, while you require a full 8 hours of sleep to feel really good.
Applying it to Others
Once we’re able to be more forgiving -- and in tune with our needs, we can extend this forgiveness to others. You can practice this the next time you notice the urge to label other people, or even yourself, as “lazy” or a “complainer”.
We have the space to honor everyone’s needs – even if they’re different from ours. And you definitely owe it to yourself to honor your own. We can all be better served if we accept this, and act accordingly.
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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here. About three months to be exact. Over the summer, I took a small break from the blog (however, I was surprised to see the site still receives over 600 visitors per month!).
This self-imposed hiatus began when the site got hacked. Much of the content was lost, so I slowly had to re-build it from scratch. In the midst of some anguish and frustration, I opened up my mind to include the possibility that this was in my best interest. And sure enough, it ended up working out, because it allowed me to reflect on whether or not I should be writing.
I thought this would be a good time to do a post about releasing expectations. When I first started this blog three years ago, I did what many people suggested, and set myself a goal. The goal was to write one, well-thought out post per month. And for awhile, I kept up with it. I diligently sat at my computer until I produced something. I was really enjoying writing. I received encouragement from readers who said they gained things from the content, but after a couple years I noticed I wanted to do other things more.
Sometimes we set goals for ourselves, and along the way we come across some roadblocks, but we keep going. In the end it might feel worth it due to a sense of “accomplishment”, but are you sacrificing your happiness and stressing yourself needlessly? I enjoy setting goals because they give my direction, but I prefer mine to be subject to change.
Think about a bear. A bear hibernates every winter. It has periods of low and high activity. This is an example of a natural cycle of life. There is not just the larger cycle of birth and death, but there are many cycles within a life – periods of low or high energy, creativity, money, etc. If we ignore these cycles and try to fight against them, there may be mental, or even physical, consequences. Do you want your life to be a drag, or would you rather enjoy the ride?
The Struggle is Real
Think about something you’re really into right now. It could be anything – a hobby, your job, or a relationship. Are you trudging along, going through the motions, just because you “ought” to, or feel like you “should”? Of course you’re gonna have your “off” days. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing, but when I sit down at my computer, I suddenly get a spark of inspiration… and I’m off! But if the majority of the time you feel like it’s a big struggle, you could consider re-evaluating. Are you flowing down the river with ease, or attempting to fight against a current?
Nothing is Forever
Sometimes we think if we change direction, it means we’re giving up -- or that others will think we’re a quitter. Who says it’s a ‘stop’ as opposed to a ‘pause’? Who cares if other people think you’re a quitter if you have the confidence to do what’s in your best interest?
We might end up rejecting other opportunities because we’re so focused on a specific target that we can’t see anything else. I did end up writing again because I have the creative spark and energy to share more with others; using writing as a medium. Just because you stop something, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up again in the future.
Life Without Hard-Set Goals
Now, I let myself write without abandon, without any heavy expectations or goals. As a result, a natural flow of vibrancy goes into this blog. I think this will only serve the readers better!
Sometimes we have to do things we may not want to do, but we’re grateful we did them in the long run. Sometimes our resistance, or lack of will, is a sign we should change direction. No one knows but you!
If this post speaks to you, why not see what happens if you ditch your original plans (even if it’s temporary)?
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Have you noticed something is changing? Does it seem like the world around you is a little crazy right now? Maybe you turn on the news, read the paper, or hear what’s going on in your neighborhood and you think to yourself: something’s up.
Before you go crawling into your bed, never to return -- everything has phases and cycles. Only out of destruction can new forms be born so the evolutionary process can continue.
Not everyone will notice this. Or for that matter, feel compelled to evolve.
But for those of you who do, it may help to keep in mind the old adage: Necessity is the mother of invention. Times like these call for us to evolve to a higher level of awareness.
It’s imperative for our survival.
Think of it like the end of a past relationship; many times something has to end for something better suited for you to come about. However, when you’re in your pajamas for the third day straight, hungover from the night before, and/or eating your feelings out of an ice cream carton -- it stinks. But later on you move onto another chapter, or relationship, that you find healthier in some way. What breakup?
Sometimes things fall apart to make way for growth.
Some of you may even agree with this, but think to yourself: yes, but what am I to do about it? Just by being aware of a few things, we have the potential to affect others in a great way. What you do in your life has a domino effect on other people. They may see what you’re doing and emulate it. Sure, maybe not. But what if they do?
Understanding the Connectedness of All Things
We’ve come to believe we are individually-functioning entities. As a result, we have lost sight a bit on how much what we do affects other things. To give you an example, I used to go into a local bookstore chain and read books for free. I thought I had really won the jackpot; I could just wander in there, buy a drink, and read their books. And, when I was done, I didn’t even have to put them back because someone else will put them back for me. Brilliant.
But then as time went on, I noticed these bookstores were slowly going out of business one by one. Every few months, you would hear of a store closing – surely losing business to the growing internet booksellers… and making it worse were people like… me! People who looked at it like they were getting something for free, but we all know since there’s no such thing as a free lunch -- someone’s paying.
Well guess what happens after awhile?
After that, I began to look at buying books differently. If I enjoy browsing through books and magazines while I sip a tea, I do feel it’s right to actually buy some books now and then. Will my actions alone keep this book chain in business? Not even close. But, maybe if more people go through the same progression of thought, then it has a better chance of survival.
There’s a “that’s not my problem” mentality present in our society. Sometimes we put the responsibility on others and don’t think beyond our own needs. We’ve managed to exist this way because we haven’t been pushed to the breaking point… yet.
But, as life has it, there will come a day when this mental perception is no longer sustainable. If you pay attention, you can see it slowly happening already. And when that day comes, one will probably be better prepared to adjust to a new way of life if they’ve seen this coming.
So What Can I Do?
The good news is you can still enjoy your life, and develop your own awareness. If you’re like me, you may actually enjoy your life much more. A good way to start is by asking yourself some basic questions such as:
I know some of you are going to feel guilty over this. You might even block it out because you don’t want to think about it. Relax. It’s cool. I’m not perfect either and I never will be.
However, merely being conscious of these things is a giant first step. Once we’re aware, we may begin to make different decisions (or at least think about making them!).
If you think this is idealistic, I encourage you to just play with being more conscious. Small steps. This isn’t an instant Mother Teresa starter kit.
What do you notice? Are you benefitting from being more aware?
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Sometimes we let our circumstances determine whether or not we’re satisfied. The bad weather, the rush hour traffic, and our growing stack of unopened mail can put us in a foul mood. However, the right meal, the right outfit, or the right person can make us feel like we’re floating.
Do you ever feel trapped because you think you don’t have any power over your current situation? Or, maybe you’ve had the opportunity to make plenty of choices, so you’re only satisfied if certain conditions are met.
Either way, it’s common to believe your happiness is not within your control.
The other day I was sitting on the porch with a friend of mine from Tibet. He’s been imprisoned, tortured, and now resides as a refugee in India – far away from his family and friends back home.
All things considered, he’s a pretty mellow guy.
I asked him if he minded if I put some music on. He just kind of laughed at me and said: “Of course not.” He explained that because of the things he’s been through, he’s fairly happy in most situations.
Unlike him, I’ve had a smorgasbord of life decisions available to me. Do I want to turn on the heater or the air conditioner? Do I want to be a financial consultant or a yoga instructor? Would I like to have a grapefruit or a pear for breakfast? Would I rather live in Arizona or New York?
Although I don’t deny the benefits, and this is not a woe-is-me tale, the result of this is that I’ve been slowly conditioned into believing there is a certain set of requirements in order for me to be content. I give off the faint scent of unease unless I have nice music, nature, and good quality dark chocolate in my life.
Suddenly it struck me: maybe my Tibetan friend was the one who actually has the “easy” life now because of his ability to be content in whatever situation is handed to him. It was at this moment I realized I had unconsciously voiced this out loud.
He supposed I was right.
Oftentimes, those with more feel bad for those with less and those with less envy those with more. My intent is not to downplay the struggle of those less fortunate, but is that to say there’s no upside?
Those who have grown up without being able to create their ideal circumstances have adapted by making do with what they have.
Wait, I never learned this in school! But on the other hand…
Choices Can Be Privileges
Even the simplest of choices can seem like a real liberty. For example, the other day I was looking at two jackets: one was lighter and one was heavier. I could choose which one would make me the most comfortable.
That feels like a real luxury to me.
There’s no denying that having choices can make your life easier as well. Whether you feel inundated or deprived of choice in your life, there are benefits in both.
The Sweet Spot
All this being said, I can’t help but think an element of balance comes into play. Yes, it might behoove us to practice being authentically content in all conditions, however is that not to say we shouldn’t try to ease our suffering when possible? Notice I said suffering, not discomfort.
Otherwise, this might be misinterpreted as inflicting torture on oneself whenever the opportunity presents! I know some people are into that, but I don’t think that’s my path.
Perhaps it’s best if we alleviate suffering whenever possible, without intentionally hurting others in the process. However, if we don’t have a choice in the matter (which sometimes we don’t) then there’s a real opportunity to practice using our abilities to adapt so we can live in peace — even in conditions we may not like.
What do you think?
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