Born to be a Free Spirit

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you. 

-Jean Claude Sartre

I cannot think of anyone who has attained your degree of freedom—my long-time friend Ray commented on a recent post, Ever curious, I began to ponder that statement. People have called me a “free-spirit” all my life. I’ve found that it is important to consider the phrases people use to describe us, particularly those who know us best. These descriptions can be invaluable clues to discovering who we truly are rather than who others want us to be.

In my “theory of being” I have identified four aspects of being: body, mind, soul, and spirit. And I advise choosing the best word and symbol for each aspect. I call these essentials. The four essentials of my being are sensuality (body), curiosity (mind), intimacy (soul), and freedom (spirit). 

Why did I choose freedom as the spiritual essential of my self? 

For most of the first half of my life, my spirit felt chained—to my career, my religion, my spouse, and to other’s approval. My spiritual life was censored, regulated, and governed by the rules and demands of my spiritual authorities: pastor, parents, family, teachers, and church leaders. As I approached mid-life, I realized that my spirit had been chained since childhood and had atrophied and fragmented. Still today, twenty years later, the spiritual aspect of my life is the least developed of the four and is the one suffering the most from PTSD.

Characteristics of a Free Spirit

  1. Free spirits are stifled by rules and traditional paths. They prefer to live unconventionally, with an aversion to being boxed in or tied down.
  2. Free spirits enjoy trying new things and thrive when they feel safe to be uninhibited. They hate to be bored and crave lots of different experiences. 
  3. Free spirits pay attention primarily to their inner guide rather than the outside world, trusting wherever it may take them.
  4. Free spirits are often misunderstood. Some people (particularly close-minded, cerebral, and rational ones) will interpret their wanderlust or their multi-passionate pursuits as a lack of maturity, focus, or discipline. Logical (i.e., black and white) people tend to view free spirits negatively. They label them stubborn, messy, flaky, noncommittal, unreasonable, and even standoffish. 
  5. Free spirits appreciate and desire intimate companionship with other free spirits. 
  6. Free spirits don’t particularly care about what others think of them. They march to the beat of their drum. They often feel suppressed by rules and cultural expectations and have an inner drive to cultivate and enjoy their essentials.
  7. Free spirits are extremely independent. While they have no problem getting along with others, they need space and crave solitude.
  8. Free spirits are naturally open people. They’re always interested in learning or trying something new, which makes them more open to new people, ideas, perspectives, and breaking taboos.
  9. Free spirits are often highly sensitive and empathic. This sensitivity toward themselves and others cultivates their essentials.
  10. Free spirits are courageous. Fear is not a big factor for the free spirits of the world. They may experience fear but they don’t let it hold them back. They have learned how to solve problems, so obstacles don’t easily intimidate them. 
  11. Many free spirits have a childlike demeanor, a playfulness that can be endearing. While some may think them naive, free spirits don’t see the need to take life too seriously.
  12. Free spirits are hopeless romantics, can be full of contradictions, and may prefer multiple partners and companions. 
  13. Free spirits are often strong leaders who become self-employed, as they enjoy the freedom that comes from unique career paths and life pursuits.
  14. Free spirits have a nonjudgmental attitude that’s very accepting of others’ ways of being. It is easy to be around them—if they’re different from you, they’re usually not going to put you down because of it.
  15. Free spirits live for adventure, paradoxically, they find stability in it. They value experiences over objects and like to live outside their comfort zone. It’s typical for a free spirit to move around a lot.
  16. And finally, a free spirit’s nature drives them to continuously grow. They’re insatiably curious and are always looking for ways to cultivate and integrate values and attitudes that are vital to their well-being. They desire to continue growing while remaining authentic to themselves.

Sound familiar? I think we all have a little free-spiritedness in us. Knowing how to nurture freedom and an adventurous and childlike nature can help us live as our truest selves. It can also help us understand the free-spirited friends and loved ones in our lives and value them for the priceless, albeit, at times, frustrating gift they are. 

If freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you, then no wonder many of us are experiencing freedom late in life. The institutions of life (family, education, culture, and religion) do everything possible to suppress freedom. They fear free spirits. Free people do not conform to familial norms, and educational cloning, fight culture’s eternal wars, and strive for a future world that doesn’t exist. 

So for me, freedom is taking the fragmented essentials of my first life that no longer serve me—suppression (body), censorship (mind), guilt, fear, shame (soul), and control (spirit) and replacing them with sensuality, curiosity, intimacy, and freedom. Do you remember the lyrics to this song by John Barry from long ago?

Born free 

As free as the wind blows 

As free as the grass grows 

Born free to follow your heart

Live free 

And beauty surrounds you 

The world still astounds you 

Each time you look at a star

Stay free 

Where no walls divide you 

You’re free as a roaring tide so there’s no need to hide

Born free 

And life is worth living 

But only worth living 

‘Cause you’re born free

Stay free 

Where no walls divide you 

You’re free as a roaring tide so there’s no need to hide 

Born free 

And life is worth living 

But only worth living 

‘Cause you’re born free

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