"We hold these truths to be self-evident."
--Thomas Jefferson

When we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S., we commemorate our struggle to free ourselves from tyranny, and celebrate victory in the quest for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We remember the freedoms we normally take for granted and we appreciate our responsibility to honor, maintain, and clarify those freedoms every day.

Mostly these freedoms are associated with rights - the right to free speech, for example, or to worship freely, assemble peaceably, petition the government, and to due process of law.

I gratefully acknowledge these privileges and freedoms and, frankly, would do well to recognize them more often. And I think about other freedoms, perhaps not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but freedoms nonetheless; freedoms I don't actually practice as much as I might.

I'm thinking of inner freedoms, quality of life options that have less to do with restraints by others and more to do with how I limit myself. These include but are (definitely) not confined to the freedom ...

* To choose my attitude, even when I have no choice over the circumstances
* To decide not to take things personally
* To talk things out in difficult situations instead of holding back
* To laugh when everything around me seems to be falling apart
* To breathe
* To smile
* To center
* To be curious
* To see the good in people

The Declaration of Independence is an amazing document.

Could we create an inner declaration that frees us from prejudice, arrogance, blame, and justification (just to name a few)? A personal set of self-evident truths that protect us from our self-imposed limits - the shackles that cause us to struggle so and bring stress to those we love and work with everyday?

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, said aikido is the art of peace, a way to practice freedom through compassion, wisdom, and fearlessness. If we use this definition, how free are you? And what holds you back?

Stop a moment. Breathe, center, smile, and return to freedom, the freedom that is always at your disposal and that only you can restrict.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit www.JudyRinger.com