How is it that I have a desire for freedom when my soul is already free?
The soul is eternal and free, remaining unharmed, immortal, wise and pure no matter what. This wisdom will remain part of me—an Indian woman, born and raised in a deeply spiritual culture.
Despite this knowledge, when I’m asked what I want most, I always respond with the same answer:
I’ve been pursuing freedom for a long time, at least 25 years. At first, it was freedom from the limits of Indian culture on women. I rebelled and fought against traditions good and bad. I shunned it as much as I could, in as many ways as I could. That, I thought, was freedom.
Then I came to America and wanted freedom from an abusive relationship. This was serious business. I had to build a life before I could attain freedom. It took four years. Freedom was sweet, but terribly lonely. I came from a culture where people are around one another a lot. Neighbors talk every day about meals prepared and share family stories. Here in my freedom, I sought community that I could not find nor create.
I visited India in 1997 feeling lost and alienated. India lured me with its warmth, color and richness. I was ready to return to India permanently. At the airport in Bangalore with my head on my mother’s lap, I announced that I wanted to leave America. Most Indian parents would have readily agreed. Not mine. They encouraged me to live in the U.S. so I could enjoy the freedoms I would not have afforded in India. It was a moment of deep truth for me and raw generosity on my parents’ part.
Years later, I had two children and went through a tumultuous divorce. From the stress of a failing marriage and caring for two young children, I had forgotten what it was to be a woman. I stood in front of the mirror in bathroom of my newly rented apartment looking at my naked body. Surprised at what I saw—a woman’s body. A new feeling of freedom dawned upon me.
I began studying Ayurveda, meditation and yoga, and began exercising and building my career. To even mentally know that I was capable of raising my two children by doing what I love was truly a feeling of freedom.
It will never be easy to face the ups and downs of self-employment. The anxieties of bills, childcare and rotating clients induced in me great amounts of stress. Freedom, I told myself, had a huge price. Or so I justified my belief.
Years have gone by. My children are 13 and nine now. I am engaged to a wonderful man. I live in a beautiful home in Santa Barbara. Yet, freedom eludes me.
Earning a large income satisfies me when it happens. But it is not enough.
All the outer securities of partnership, income and happy children do not give me the feeling of freedom. Lately, my soul has been speaking to me. Why do I have only glimpses of a wild abandon and liberation that feels so sweet and juicy? Does this quest run in the veins of every woman?
All of my life I’ve pursued freedom on the outside. From Indian culture, unhealthy relationships and money problems. Now I’m starting to realize that the embryo of true freedom has always resided in me. Freedom is a knowing that all is well, always. This type of freedom requires different beliefs from me.
It calls on me to cultivate trust, confidence and patience.
Yes, even when life is seemingly uncertain and unpredictable. The days that I wake up in the morning without anxiety, fear or worry, I know I am free. The times when I know I am fully on my dharmic path, enjoying the gifts I have been given to share with the world, I am free. My connection to the Divine is where my true freedom lies. So each day I meditate and I chant mantras to liberate myself from my not-so-uplifting thoughts. I cook and eat well. I laugh heartily. I appreciate all the magic of manifestation and opportunities that come my way with ease.
Life in this body is finite. It is also beautiful, magical and poignant. In the grand scheme of one’s karma who is to say that my misfortune or struggle is really that? It just might be the gateway to freedom. Freedom for my soul from worldly worries and cares.
Where does your freedom lie? How do you define freedom?
Aparna Khanolkar is an Ayurvedic educator and workshop facilitator in Santa Barbara. She is the author of Happy Belly, Happy Soul, A Mother’s Blessing, Spiceand Purify and Heal. She is the co-founder of Grace, Power and Beauty, a workshop series for women. Her sadhanas include cooking, mantra chanting, meditation and dancing. Connect with her at: www.gracepowerandbeauty.blogspot.com and www.themistressofspice.com/blog.
Editor: April Hayes
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