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Free Your Inner Self and Find Courage

May 23, 2020 05:02PM ● By Polly Liontis

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

by Polly Liontis

What does it mean to be free? Spacious, expansive, carefree, even infinite, during an age of confinement and Shelter in Place? Is it even possible?

Absolutely. The true freedom is within. Each one of us has the power to challenge our own thought forms, our own habits, our own attachments.

The Taoists spoke of a state in which we can exist having absolutely no preference for anything to be any particular way other than how it is in this moment. Really? How do we do that?

We begin with small steps, here are a few:

We begin by examining our attachment to the way things used to be. Normal, habitual, predictable, is not always better, and when we can challenge our own stale thought forms, we can begin to unplug from the stories of even the near past that hold us back.

We begin by embracing change as an opportunity to try something new, to explore, experiment, to engage our creativity to vision a new life for ourselves; a fresh, vibrant, healthy life.

We begin by examining our attachment to the acquisition of money, possessions, trappings of the material life, and we do this by realizing how much we already have, how little we really need and prioritizing the most meaningful things in our lives – connection, healthy food, clean air, loving community and time to rest.

Two of the great teachings of the wisdom traditions are: 1) Surrender to what is, and 2) In every moment we always have a choice not to react, but to observe.

Freedom comes to us when we can relax into what is present in this moment. Yes, we have anxiety about the future, we have fears of survival on all levels – physical, financial, emotional, psychological and spiritual. But we also have many internal resources that we can lean on and lean into in this very moment.

What are some of our internal resources?

Our own breath. We can practice deep, smooth, even, silent, continuous breathing, make it a little bit longer, a little bit slower, a little bit deeper. Right here, right now. Our own breath is one of our greatest resources for being able to calm the nervous system and to control our state of awareness and consciousness.

Our ability to watch the thinking mind. Our ability to stop and slow down enough to observe our thoughts. We don’t have to be prisoners of our thinking mind, we can be observers who take the time to watch the chaos of the thinking mind, knowing we don’t have to participate in its internal dialogue. Of course, it’s a practice, but a powerful one that can change our lives profoundly.

Our ability to touch our bodies, massage our own muscles, stimulate our own acupressure points (self-shiatsu), which all increase blood and lymph circulation and open the flow of energy in our body. This increases a felt sense of freedom in the body. Shiatsu is the art of healing through touch, and we can easily practice self-Shiatsu for healing). (Our practitioners at Zen Shiatsu Chicago can also provide individual Zoom guided self-shiatsu sessions.

Our ability to touch each other, our pets, Mother Earth if we garden, and lovingly touch the possessions that are meaningful to us. Our hands are gateways for nutritive energy.

Our ability to move, stretch, walk and get our own heart beating in rhythm with the movement of the breeze.

Our ability to be gentle with ourselves, to appreciate ourselves and to cultivate a state of non-judgement for ourselves and others.

Our ability to practice gratitude. A daily gratitude practice increases our thankfulness for all of the gifts we have been given, and it helps us to appreciate ourselves and others, even and especially in difficult times.

Our ability to clarify our purpose. Getting in touch with why we feel we are here, what is ours to do, what do we have to give, how can we serve and how we can contribute to the evolution of the species gives us a sense of shared purpose.

Our ability to become aware of the collective consciousness – this is the collective pool of angst, pain, grief, sadness and struggle that all of us feel, and to realize that we can ease other’s pain by reaching out and offering comfort, we can ease our own pain by making the effort to connect with others and experience our shared humanity. Indeed, we are all in this together. The Buddha taught that if we look deeply into another person’s suffering, we begin to understand that suffering, and we can begin to ease that suffering simply by acknowledging it, listening to it, accepting it with gentleness and non-judgement.

This is not wallowing in the hard feelings, it is simply acknowledging them and knowing that we all feel this pain. This heals the collective consciousness, and I believe this is a significant part of our purpose in the evolution of mankind. It is a healing thing to acknowledge and experience our shared humanity, our shared connection.

Our ability to bring ourselves back to the present moment, the only moment we truly have.

Our ability to bring ourselves home, to our own inner truths, our own north star, our own heart of hearts.

Does this all sound a little too lofty? It may, but it could also call us to find the inner strength to say to ourselves, “I can choose courage in this moment. I can practice loving-kindness, and I can use my energy to reach out to others to connect, exchange ideas and build community in new ways to take myself into new and uncharted territory for the future”.

We can do this. We can choose freedom – it is already there inside of us, just waiting to be invited to the party.


Polly Liontis began her working life in the performing arts as a pianist, actress, singer, drama coach, and stage director. After giving birth to her daughter, she moved into the healing arts of Shiatsu, Chinese Medicine, Yoga, and Meditation. Currently she works as a Shiatsu Practitioner and Yoga/Meditation Instructor at North Shore University Health System’s integrative Medicine Program, and Shiatsu Practitioner, Instructor, and Clinic Mentor at Zen Shiatsu Chicago. Polly teaches Yoga, Meditation, and Yoga Nidra at Evolution Yoga in Glenview.

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