There is a song from my past, and perhaps some of yours, called Free Yourself by En Vogue. One of the lines in the chorus says – Free your mind and the rest will follow. Their song challenges the listeners to free themselves from the stereotypes they may hold about black women. It reminds me of a poem by Pat Parker, who wrote a poem called “To the white woman who wants to be my friend.” Both of them challenge us to free ourselves from the stereotypes and prejudices that interfere with our ability to form deep and meaningful relationships with people. These stereotypes and prejudices can enslave us. Often times these ideologies are so engrained in what we believe that we are not even aware that we are enslaved to them.
This state of being is what I heard one philosopher argue in the 1980’s was the perfect form of slavery. The perfect form of slavery she argued was when you no longer realize you are even enslaved.
The perfect form of slavery also comes when you no longer live in a state of awareness and responsibility. When we are in this state of spiritual being, then we tend to see ourselves as victims. We often times ask why is X doing this to me? Why me? We are enslaved to a way of being that has abdicated any responsibility for our beliefs, our actions, or our choices. This state of spiritual being keeps us in a state of perpetual revolution, where we keep doing the same thing repeatedly, and wondering why we never see different results. It is as if our lives are like going through a revolving door and never coming out. Our spiritual life never evolves, because we are revolving and not evolving.
This state of slavery keeps us functioning out of a focus on what we lack, what we fear, what we doubt. It keeps us focused on being at one with the social consciousnesses associated with race, class, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexuality, weight, appearance, or ability. We believe whatever anybody else tells us to believe and come to a place where we stop thinking for ourselves. We believe whatever it is others tell us to believe, whether it is the press, parents, family, friends, religious leaders, or even me.
While freeing ourselves from this state of revolving and victimization is easier for some then others, it is possible for all of us and is the first step in evolving as a spiritual human being. Freeing ourselves begins with developing a consciousness of awareness. When I first began working on this in my own life, two exercises helped me. One was a meditational exercise where I would put an object in front of me and keep my attention focused on that object. At first, my mind had a hard time staying focused on that object for more than 30 seconds. However, over time I found that I was able to discipline my mind to staying focused for significantly longer. The other was to do an exercise that Dr. Michael Beckwith talked about in his book Life Visioning called thought watching. It is a process he compares to people watching at the mall. It is one of those things that require nothing but time and attention to what you are thinking. Starting with about 30 seconds a day, just sit and be aware of what you are thinking. Do not try to control, direct or manipulate your thoughts, just be aware of them.
Awareness is one of the first steps to spiritual freedom and evolution. And as the song says, free your mind and the rest will follow.