In the early seventies, my then husband and I went to a lecture by the noted, ground-breaking psychiatrist, R. D. Laing at Stony Brook University, where I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at 32 years old. Of all the things of great value that he talked about, the one phrase that stuck in both of our minds was his comment that freedom was “an explosion of possibilities.”
Yesterday, 35 years later, a friend who was visiting made an almost identical remark. Her life, she felt, was presenting her with so many possibilities, that she really needed to step back to decide what she would do, what direction she would take. It was especially exciting for her as she had spent close to twenty years recovering from paralysis resulting from first an accident falling off a horse that left her unable to have movement from the waist down. When she was just about recovered from that, there were subsequent accidents that further immobilized her. Now, after all this time, with grown children living on their own, she finds herself in the place where many doors are open.
It’s interesting to note how some people feel trapped within their own lives, unable to make whatever moves are necessary to help them change their paths, to discover new talents and sources of creativity within themselves, or to simply “move on.” For others, like my friend, they’ve opened their hearts and their minds to make the space for new ideas and new possibilities to enter. In her case, like the comment of R.D. Laing, it represented freedom.
Incarceration of any kind is the curtailment of this kind of freedom. Each day is proscribed. There are virtually no unknowns. Some, like Nelson Mandela, Mohatma Ghandi and many other social protestors and sacred activists (as Andrew Harvey calls them), use their time of incarceration, of serving time in prisons, many in small cells under harsh circumstances, to transcend those prison walls. They go within and find their freedom beyond their physical environment and so, go beyond. They have created their own vital life and freedom through their understanding of their minds, through the connection of their spirit.
We’re not all sacred activists who willingly pay the price for their own actions by serving time behind prison walls. But we, as individuals, can stop and look at where we are and, if finding it an inhospitable place, change it. If our lives feel as if we’re imprisoned, what do we need to do to “break out?” Becoming involved in things that are of meaning, replacing boring, repetitious activities with others that feed the soul, that stimulate our minds and that recharge our batteries, is one of the ways to begin going from a glass that’s half empty to one that’s half full.
Some of us find a “cause” that they care deeply about, or at least one that they can identify with. There are lots of them out there. For those who feel overwhelmed by the choices, the answer might just be in what resonates with you on an emotional level. Is it working with patients in hospitals through volunteer programs, joining Habitat for Humanity and helping on a material level, is it joining discussion groups or attending grass roots political meetings? Is it taking up a new career, one that’s been put on the back burner for most of your life, such as making stained glass windows or writing poetry?
The opportunities and possibilities are truly an ongoing explosion. Like the active volcanoes that continue to spew out gasses and molten liquids, we can also erupt with creative and exciting new ideas of how to live our lives more fully and contribute to the world in which we find ourselves.
Photo My Explosion of Possibilities by Susanna Starr