Imagine having control and freedom in the nine contexts of your outer life.

Now is the time for attending to the control and freedom of your outer life.

I have just started working with a trainer at a local gym. 30 minutes twice a week. One session on my lower body and one on my upper body. I really appreciate this division of focus. It feels right, balanced and easier for me to do.

When you imagine yourself, the same benefit of division holds true. If Christmas and the Holy Nights are the time of year we want to devote to a deeper exploration of the control, freedom and values of our inner life, it seems to me that the time around the summer solstice and the celebration of independence is the time to reflect on our outer life.

Last year, I shared suggestions for this task of reflecting on our outer lives. (I’ve edited last year’s post, hopefully making it better.) Maybe last year you felt this was a valuable activity, but only thought about it. Maybe this year you might do some journaling.

It is ironic that the more you can control your life the more freedom you find in living it. This post offers a 4th of July exercise for finding both control and freedom in every context of your life.

Control supports and encourages moral freedom. Freedom supports and encourages compassionate and creative control. Both require intelligent observation and understanding. We need to form a right relationship to both.

Control comes first. Think of a baby learning to control her hands so she can freely grasp what she wants.

What are the limits of your control and your freedom in the context of your outer life? Of your inner life? Do you want to increase your capacity to control so you can have more freedom? I do.

We need to control our thinking so we can find the freedom to imagine and develop wisdom in regard to the contexts of our outer life. We need to control our feeling life so we can awaken equanimity and freedom from reactivity. We need to control our will life of intentions and behaviors so we can freely choose our actions and our goals in each context.

How much control do you desire? How much freedom do you seek? This brings up the challenge of having clear values.  It’s all about you and your relationship to your individual values, your ability to control your life and your freedom in living with authenticity. No one can teach you what to control, how to be free or impose values on your soul. It’s up to you. You can seek out guidance, but no one can dictate or judge if you are to be free.

Control — The Path to Freedom

A Yearly Review of Your Outer Life

Sometimes control seems impossible, but if we break life into distinct contexts and actively think about each one, living comes under greater, better, wiser control and your freedom of choice grows and matures. Your first step to control is to make a list of the contexts of your life.  I suggest a number of contexts below.

If you do context-reflections once a year, every season or every day, you will begin to experience moral freedom. When you move from vague awareness to conscious experience to a clearly articulated thought picture of each context, you will find a glorious freedom emerging.  The dynamic balance between how the contexts shape you and how you shape your contexts will become more stable and creative.

Building a right relationship to your outer life begins with noticing.  If you pay attention, give each context a few minutes of attention, you will notice things. Write down what you notice. Then start asking questions. Write them down. Then notice what you feel about each. Write about your feelings.Then notice how you would like to change or evolve your relationship to each context. This is the path to freedom.

Then go back over all you have written and learn about your values. Be willing to be surprised.

You will establish a meaningful consciousness of each context and how it forms the setting for your life and for your growth and development.

Reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly in each one. Look at the thoughts you have, the feelings you have, and the intentions you have regarding each context.

Sit with your journal and reflect on the year so far. I have included questions to prompt your reflections. Have a “Sharing the Year So Far”  conversation with a friend, your partner, your child, your coach or therapist.

(Disclaimer: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest attention and 1 being serious neglect) I give myself scores between 2 and 7.  I’ve got a long way to go, especially with finances.)

The Contexts

  • WORLD – What world events impacted your inner life? Did you give serious thought to any event, forming opinions that altered your sense of self, the world, the future?
  • NATIONAL POLITICS — 2017 brought new awareness to the impact of politics and the determination and protection of rights. How does politics concern you? How do you relate to those who lead, represent, legislate and protect your individuality and your values?
  • NATURE – How did the weather impact your inner life? Did you spend enough time in Nature this year? Do you have a pet? Do you have a garden? Indoor plants? Do you look at the stars?
  • RELATIONSHIPS – What relationship events impacted your thoughts, feelings and behaviors? Did anyone die? Did you make any new friends? Did a stranger change your life?
  • HEALTH – Were you healthy? Did you change your diet or exercise? What about sleep? Sex? Anxiety?
  • CULTURE – What books did you read? Movies? Concerts? Internet?  Did you take any classes? How did these cultural experiences change your inner life?
  • FINANCES – Did your financial life change? Did you pay attention to your budget? Did you have productive conversations about your financial life?
  • SPACE/ PLACE – Our physical environments have a huge impact on our sense of self.  Did anything change? Is your environment more nurturing, more challenging?
  • WORK – Recollect your work over the year.  Were there changes? How was your work successful? Did you fail at anything?

Deeper Reflections

Now, if you wish, begin to imagine using other questions. If you are inspired, go deep with wisdom-seeking attention. You will find control and freedom.

  • Choose one or two contexts and reflect on your life and your soul in the context.  Spend a few minutes writing about your engagement…or your neglect with the context.  Don’t judge. Explore and reflect.
  • Which context is the one you feel in the most control? The least control? Are there contexts that you don’t care about?
  • Or take a specific question and ask it of each context: Is there a reason to celebrate in this context? Is there a need to change or a need to comfort? Who can help you this context?
  • Where do you find regret, anxiety, despair, overwhelm?
  • Where do you want to focus your will to do more, experience more, change more?
  • Which context do you want to reframe? How can each context improve?
  • In an earlier post, I wrote about the mantra, “I am safe. I am calm. I am awake. I am nourished.”  Use this mantra as a way to reflect on your experience of self in each context.