Commitment and Freedom: Same or Different?
A couple recent conversations within LoveWorks, a relationship training program, helped me get clear on my relationship with the term “commitment” and its connection with “freedom.” This exploration revealed some enriching ways to view commitment and freedom that I thought would be fun to share.
On a phone call we were discussing the idea of surrender. I asked for someone to explain to me what it is like to continue to surrender over a long period of time. I added I have only been in commitments for shorter periods of time. In response to my question, Sonika, one of the leaders of LoveWorks, suggested I reframe the question to something more uplifting like “What have I been committed to over a long period of time? What have I continually surrendered to?”
Right away I knew I had an answer to that question, God; seeking truth and tuning into God’s will. Many times I have gone into something feeling calm and right about it. Then after a few months, or a few years, felt calm and right about walking away, even if it was hard to leave.
The term commitment can be something fun; what you choose to commit to. It is those things that bring you freedom in the end.
With continued questioning on the subject, I noticed I still had some hesitations about commitment. I figured that if I fully trust God and myself, those hesitations would go away. Even if challenges do come up, I could trust God is bringing me what I need and that God will help me recover from those blows. Those challenges have resulted in greater growth and expansion that I would not have had otherwise if I hesitated or sat on the sidelines.
I feel a sense of freedom when fully diving into a commitment. It kind of has the thrill of bungee jumping. Once you jump off of that platform or bridge, you have no choice but to trust. You have an idea, or a hope, of where you will end up, but you do not really know until you get there.
It is much easier for me to go into something that is a non-moving target. There is something to dive into; something that stays fully present as I dive deeper and deeper.
Once I have chosen what to commit to, I can be fully present with what is happening rather than divert attention to the process of deciding. More can be accomplished and more creative energy unleashed when that focus is there. I can have the freedom of not needing to think about other options.
Commitment causing focus, reminds me of Arjuna’s archery training. Arjuna is a character from the battle of the Mahabharata, and he symbolizes fiery self-control. His instructor Drona, who symbolizes habit, was challenging his students to strike off the head of a bird seated on the branch of a tree. He asked his students what they saw before releasing their bow. A typical answer was, “I see the bird, the tree, the passing clouds.” Drona knew they would all miss and he was right.
When it was Arjuna’s turn he responded saying he saw the head of the bird. Drona asked him if he saw anything else. His reply was, “Nothing else! Only the head of the bird.” Drona told him to release his bow. Arjuna was the only student who hit the target. He was fully committed to the task at hand. None of his focus swayed towards anything but his target, and thus he could accomplish his goal.
Commitment does not mean that you have to stick to just one thing either. If you are in a time of seeking it could hinder your progress to tie yourself down to one path. My life had been so focused on attaining goals that I had a hard time when I decided to backpack around the world for a year. Then I realized I could make a commitment to not having a plan. My commitment was to let the universe guide me in each moment. Having that clarity and direction gave me a sense of freedom.
When we resist commitment for the sake of wanting freedom, we actually are not free because we are in resistance or avoidance. We feel tension in our bodies. One woman described how her son is so afraid of commitment that when trying to make summer plans he keeps avoiding making commitments and then ends up having to do nothing.
When we make commitments that are lined up with God’s vision, there can be a greater freedom due to being in flow with the Divine. When you feel stuck in a commitment that does not feel nourishing, ask God to feed you. Ask God to direct you. Ask God to help you rise above these challenges and feel his light.
What happens on the material plane of life does not matter as much as what happens on the spiritual plane. It is through where we place our consciousness that true lasting joy comes. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna (who symbolizes God) tells Arjuna, “What you relinquish on the material plane you will rediscover a thousand times more wonderfully in God.” A feeling of bondage can come with committing to the things of this world, but a sense of delight to committing to the gifts God gives us.
To understand more about the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata, you can read the book The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: Explained By Paramhansa Yogananda, As Remembered By His Disciple, Swami Kriyananda.