"I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I was hiking today, and this tree reminded me of how imposed (self or non-self) rules and expectations can hinder you from reaching your full potential.
Like the metal wire cage, imposed rules and expectations limit us to a defined path. These limitations include what we 'think' we can achieve, what other people 'think' we should do, what we 'think' life should be like. And you may think it's fine; after all, you can still develop, are still exposed to the rest of the world, and are not trapped in an opaque metal box, right?
Imagine if there was no cage. Imagine how much more freedom you will have to expand out into the world. Have confidence in your ability to withstand the storms of life. Strength and perseverance can be a formidable thing to behold.
A normal human being's life spans maybe 80 years, perhaps 90 with technological advancements. That's a really long time to experiment with lots of things. Sometimes you may fail; just try again! Or try something else. Eventually you'll find something you like. Although, why limit yourself to one thing? I'm sure we all have many passions, why can't they co-exist?
This concept also applies to interpersonal relationships. Often, we are bound by our expectations of how someone might act (perhaps from what we experienced during past interactions). But if we let go of our mental image of the other person, and see them for who they truly are, who knows what kind of person we might see?
This is where awareness and understanding comes in. Understand that everything is impermanent, human character included. If someone has committed a heinous crime, will you assume that they will commit it again? What if they have repented and turned over a new leaf? Why not give them a second chance to prove themselves? Giving them this second chance is also giving yourself a second chance at peace of mind through forgiveness.
This also includes relationships that were once good, e.g. best friends. When best friends change and drift apart, will you hold on to the bond, just because? Even though you don't really enjoy each other's company anymore? Why not accept that things have changed, be glad your bond once existed, and wish each other well in your separate journeys? This way, you can part with peace of mind. Who knows, one day your paths may cross again!
Life is never absolute. Positivity and negativity are merely two sides of the same coin, it's just how you choose to look at it. Everything exists in polar opposites -- with happiness there will be unhappiness, with life there will be death. There is no permanence. There is so much uncertainty in the world that your brain will probably explode before it can comprehend all possibilities. So why hold on to the past or the bounds of your mind? Accept and see things as they truly are. There is only what there is. Clarity often invites wonders.
It's OK if you've been living in a wire cage till now, don't feel bad about it. We've all been there. Just break down those mental walls now, release attachments, illusions and limited beliefs. Grow into a majestic tree (just like the tree in the photo, imagine how big it will grow once it surpasses the cage!)!