Freedom to Fly

(When I redesigned this site, I eliminated the articles page. I am republishing some of those writings in order to include them in the current site. I wrote this article in 2002 and it was originally posted in 2006.)


When I was a young girl, we had a pine tree in our yard that I used to spend many happy hours in. I would climb to the top and sway with the very tip of the tree as I looked out over the roofs of the neighborhood. I remember just being with the tree. Never frightened or concerned that I would harm myself or fall. I would go to the very top of the tree where the trunk was not even fully formed and the branches would sway due to the weight of my tiny body. Sometimes, I would carry adornments up the tree with me and set up house on the various branches. Mostly, what I remember is a sense of peace and freedom. Free of the doubts, fears, scrutiny, and the multitude of thoughts and feelings that can cloud our experiences as adults and children. I was able to be fully present, in the moment, and create a sense of peace in what was often a confusing world.

For me, flying represents genuine personal freedom. As I take flight, I allow my soul to be heard and expressed through my daily living. Breaking free of the bonds of judgments, expectations, and limiting beliefs, I am able to just BE. The voices of doubt and criticism may still be present from time to time. They can scream on and attempt to create fear and rationalize why it is simply too much to ask for. And, there’s still an internal voice that tells me that flying is just a silly notion, dreams are idle fantasies, and attempts to keep my wings hidden from view. But, I know better. I know that my thoughts and emotions are aspects of myself that were formed as a way of coping. They are how I taught myself to be. A creation born from an attempt to make sense of the human experience as I grew up, and an ongoing attempt to understand myself and my life as a being having a human experience on planet earth.

Why is genuine personal freedom so important to me? Because without the freedom to live a more genuine way of being, life is a series of reactions, coping mechanisms, and something that seems to be slightly out of my grasp instead of an experience that is right here, right now. I’m not talking about the restrictions and permissions of society in general. The real jail keepers are our own selves. We are the ones that disempower ourselves the most. Sure, many have excellent reasons to doubt their personal power. Especially, when faced with oppression, discrimination, and abuse. However, it still comes down to us. We are the only ones that can own our power, and we are the only ones that can truly disempower our spirits, our souls, and our lives.

Personal power can feel like a heavy responsibility. And, frequently it is. But, if we are centered in a genuine way of being, allowing the voice of spirit and the universe to express itself through us, then responsibility is simply the ability to respond appropriately. We are able to shift our awareness to include past, present, and future. We create space for the various aspects of self to be heard. We can make choices from an expanded perspective that includes an essence which transcends thoughts and feelings alone.

I am not suggesting we transcend our mind and emotions. Our thoughts and feelings are extremely important. Both need to be honored and recognized. I am suggesting that there is more. More to our consciousness than what we feel physically and emotionally, think, and how we behave. And, just as it is important not to ignore or devalue what we think and feel, it is equally important to value what we do not feel. I’m suggesting that we take a leap of faith and trust that we are more than we realize or are aware of at any given moment.

For me, responding appropriately represents an attempt to make beneficial choices based on a perspective that extends beyond what may be presenting itself to my current state of awareness. To observe myself and my life from a higher vantage point like a hawk high in the sky yet able to see the details below. To see and sense beyond my personal self which includes spirit, soul, and the universe in which I reside.

Girl in Tree (self-portrait)
Girl in Tree (self-portrait) by Sallie Odenthal

What I remember most about my time at the top of the pine tree as a youth is a feeling of calm and well being. I was safe. While it is true that those early years of my life were happy family times for me, I think the sense of peace and safety came from within. Certainly, it’s important to have a supportive environment, and especially for children, to feel cared for. However, I’m talking about something more than that. Some aspect of me that knew I was OK. That I was safe and protected even high above the roof of our house and swaying on unstable branches. My mom sensed it too I think. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I think a part of her could see herself fly when she saw me high above in that tree. There is a picture of me in that tree, and I found out many years later when I was well into adulthood, that she carried that picture with her. What a gift it was for her to allow me to fly high in that tree. (I used a copy of the photo in the artwork shown)

What do I really mean when I say I want to fly? I want to know and trust that I will be OK. It is not trust and faith that enable me to fly. They are what I call upon for the courage to find my wings and take flight. For, it is in flight that regardless of life experiences, pain and joy, suffering and happiness, physical health and illness, I am safe. I am safe because I am more than the experience. I will be OK because I will find a way to cope, embrace life, and go on knowing that I am more than this body in this lifetime.

I can only choose freedom if I respond appropriately to my genuine self which extends far beyond my body, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I believe we not only have wings, but they are much stronger than we ever dreamed. Flying is something we have to teach ourselves to do. Just as we taught ourselves how to be through the process of growing up and living our lives, we can teach ourselves something new. To utilize our life experience to ground our choices in common sense instead of limiting the expression of our potential.

We can untether our spirits by allowing our minds and emotions to be resources for well being instead of jail keepers. To reach and dream beyond what we were taught to see in the safety of knowing we are always taken care of in spirit. It is my hope to let go and take flight with the wings of grace.

© 2002 Sallie Odenthal

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