Gina Murdock: Freedom to Choose is the ultimate freedom

Gina Murdock
Lead With Love

I am surprised at how often I think of Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela. The story of both of these men has influenced me greatly. Knowing that they both lived in the most horrifying circumstances victimized brutally by oppressors, yet had the freedom to choose forgiveness and choose life lets me know it is possible no matter what.

Because of them, when I feel victimized by a circumstance or person, I know I can choose to look at it differently and free myself from the prison of my thoughts and ideas of how things “should” be. If Mandela could do that locked in a tiny jail cell for 27 years and Frankl in a concentration camp as his family was exterminated, I most certainty can do it with any circumstance that’s disturbing my peace. We each show each other what’s possible by our actions & how we show up in challenging situations.

Having the freedom to choose our response to the circumstances of life is the ultimate freedom. We can not control or change the outside world, we can only control the way we hold or perceive what happens and what we choose to do about it.

A friend of mine recently lost her son to suicide. My heart plummeted when I heard the news and I felt the sensation of “nooooooooooooo!” enter my consciousness. How could this happen to such a loving and kind young man? Why does someone choose to take their life every 11 minutes in the United States (Centers for Disease Control)? The echo of “Why” is an endless ripple. And yet, speaking with his mother I was struck deeply to hear that she felt her son was free, released from the density of his body and guiding her like the sun shining down each day. Wow.

There can be something so beautiful and raw in death. And the power of one person’s perception or way of looking at something can profoundly impact others.

In another case, as those of us who knew Chason Russell moured and grieved his passing on the Crystal River a few weeks ago I was reminded of this mother and her perception of death and I could feel and sense a different way of looking at Chason’s death beyond the tragedy that it is. I can feel him, his spirit, strength of heart and his steady guidance and love, all over the place. It is not just in him in his physical form that is now gone, it is everywhere. Free. In the flowers and rainbows and raindrops and in the sunshine. We are blessed by their presence all of our days if we choose to look at it that way.

Having the freedom to choose how we respond is the ultimate freedom in this life. Knowing that as much as we try we are not in control and trusting the Divine to guide and protect us. To have faith that “what is, is God” as spiritual teacher Byron Katie says, brings me a sense of peace and serenity even in the ache of loss. I can breathe deeply, pause and feel, you are not gone, just expanded into a formless energy that touches my heart each time I choose to believe in love over fear.

As my friend taught me recently by holding the death of her son in such a profoundly open, beautiful and loving way, we have the power to choose how we hold any situation. We can be the light and see the light and share the light. “What is to give light must endure burning,” Frankl wrote. And so it is. Life can burn and we can turn toward the flame or run from it. We have that choice.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” Frankl wrote. “The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

Gina Murdock is the founder Lead with Love, an Aspen-based nonprofit dedicated to shifting culture from fear to love. We honor all of our community members who have touched our lives and live with us in the eternal form of light touching the deepest part of our hearts through the sunshine, rivers and mountain peaks. For more information on Lead with Love, go to