A journey from freedom to love.


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? “


With curiosity, fear and a large portion of wanderlust, I face this poetic yet very real question from Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem Summerday. A question that accompanied me through all of my adult life and that increasingly kept me up at night.

It reminds me that my life is first and foremost what I make of it.

It implies personal responsibility and at the same time carries a feeling of freedom.

The term freedom has always had an enormous attraction for me. The freedom to go my own way, to determine how I want to live — free from outer and inner constraints.

Driven by a need for more freedom, a thirst for discovery and personal and professional reorientation and development, a few months ago I decided to quit my job and exchange my secure, but rigid and fixed life for a new flowing adventure. A step into the unknown that began with a one-way ticket to California, a place embodies the epitome of freedom for me.


But with a higher degree of external freedom, insecurity increases as well — and this unsatisfied need for security can quickly lead to anxiety. To endure the tension between freedom and security without losing my inner balance is not easy. To what extent is the perception of freedom influenced by external circumstances and what role does my inner attitude play in this?

In his book Man´s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, addressed this question by taking into account the most horrible outer circumstances one can possibly imagine, his experiences in the concentration camp Ausschwitz. An indication of his answer of how people could still preserve their inner freedom even under unimaginably cruel conditions can be found in the following quote:


One of the last human freedoms is to be able to freely choose one’s attitude under any circumstances and to choose one’s own path.


There is a space between stimulus and reaction. In this space lies our power to choose our reaction. In our reaction lies our development and our freedom.


So while most of what happens (to me) is beyond my control, I determine my reality and plan for my only wild and precious life by consciously deciding on my reaction.

This view has something immensely life-affirming — it frees me from the impossible task of controlling my environment and instead shows me my inner freedom, which is always available to me — regardless of external circumstances. Once I have internalized this, I can face every new moment of my life with curiosity rather than fear. Instead of losing myself in memories of the past or fleeing into the never-ending planning of the abstract future and thereby building my own mental prison, this perspective allows me to experience the present moment.


Inner freedom requires self-reflection and mindfulness — and thus represents a lifelong task: only through the perception of my so often unconscious patterns of behavior and thought can I consciously decide which attitude or reaction I would like to choose.

So much for the theory — the implementation into action turns out to be much easier said than done.


Last month I had the invaluable opportunity to deal with this in depth. I was able to spend the last four weeks at the Esalen Retreat Center, embedded in the magical Californian landscape of the Big Sur National Park, philosophically influenced by big names like Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls or Aldous Huxley. As part of a work study program, I learned about flourishing, purpose, values, well-being, meditation and awareness-enhancing technology. This may sound almost profane as the words lack the depth and vibrancy of the experience. But surrounded, nourished and supported by the most amazing group of work scholars I could wish for, I found a way to reconnect with myself, with others and with nature. Together we discovered and created our own paradise (as well as our own hell at times).


The flow of life led me on unexpected paths — originally in search of freedom and self-realization, what remains for me is the supporting force of deep interpersonal connection, love and appreciation, the healing power of community, the relieve of shared human experience. The strength, power and unconditional love of my work study group leaves me with a feeling of immense gratitude and a heart wide open.

Freedom without love is meaningless.

Comment: Original publication in the journal for psychosynthesis of the nawo publishing house.