In the United States, July 4th is the time where we celebrate our freedom. In the spirit of this time, let us examine an issue where many of us can stifle this freedom: control. We are all control freaks, every single one of us. It’s ironic since we can’t control anything of significance, only our response to them. However, the illusion of control can give us a sense of being in the driver’s seat. We might be aware of the gross manifestations of it, like being an organization or neat freak. For many of us, this is the answer to an unsafe childhood. We attempt to control our environment as a response to a real or perceived sense of being unsafe at a young age. As an adult, all it takes is someone messing up our physical space to realize how tightly wound we are.

Control issues get tricky when they hide themselves under the guise of spiritual practice. One of the most disturbing manifestations of it, that I come across daily, is the addiction of eating disorders masquerading as cleansing diets. We all need to investigate our relationship to issues like food, while working with them. In all my years of treating addictions, nothing has been more difficult to treat than eating disorders. I do not see many of us escaping from this illness in our body-obsessed culture. After our habit of incessant thinking, it is the second most abused substance going around.

Of course, diet is important for our body and mind as well as the environment at large. And yes, we have known for a long time that pH-balanced blood from a clean and healthy diet can do wonders for our health. It is common knowledge that we can overeat to stuff our emotions. What is not discussed enough on the spiritual path is how we can control food intake to stuff the same emotions. For many of us, there is a bouncing back and forth between the two sides from over-indulgence to over-cleansing. 

In my early 20s, after barely being sober from drugs, I became a fasting and cleansing fanatic. What I was not able to emotionally process at the time, I had unconsciously set out to keep at bay by controlling my diet. I remember fasting one Thanksgiving dinner while being with dear friends at a delicious feast. There was such a rush of control and superiority as I was doing it. Sipping lemon water while others moved from food to dessert was quite a feat of willpower. While my action could have been useful for a body toxic from drug abuse, the unexamined intention behind it was purely ego-driven. The emotional pain that had led to my drug addiction was sitting at the table with a different mask. It took years of therapy and emotional work for me to begin to address the underlying issues that had led to my food issues.

The disease and dysfunction of control have their roots at an emotional level. We must always question the intention behind our actions. The more seemingly noble an action, the more opportunity the ego has to subvert and twist the act for its own aggrandizement. On our journey back to our Self, we need to be constantly vigilant of all intruders. I have become fond of checking my intention behind my actions, always. Two actions can look identical to the world at large, but only we can tell which one is serving the Self, and which one is serving our ego.

On July 4th, we are reminded to give thanks to those that have sacrificed for our freedom. My respect to all the freedom fighters around the world that are quietly emanating peace by their meditation practice. Remembering that the only enemy is our forgetfulness is the ultimate gift of freedom. 

The full moon is only a couple of nights away. Make every full moon a freedom mission in your war on error.