Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom is another word for everything to gain because freedom is the transformative power to determine your destiny, whether it be in contemplation, in dialogue, in discourse or in action. Freedom is the power to voice, and to be, who you say you are, to voice what you stand for and the courage to stand for it.

Autonomy and Life is about managing the transformative behavior of freedom — a way of being that yields exhilarating transcendent space, right here on earth. It is a way of being that leverages our talents, skills, education and experience in our efforts to extend and defend ourselves even as we come to terms with the often harsh realities of political, economic and social life.

Indeed, while ideals reflected in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have been challenged for centuries, the foundation of civic life in America continues to be the practice of responsible autonomy.

When we are not sufficiently prepared for this transformative responsibility—when we drift instead into a seemingly less demanding metaphysical parallel universe in our heads — we divorce ourselves from our in-the-world bodies and from the resources we need to create the life we want to live. Under these conditions life is not an opportunity. It is endured.

So, on many levels, what serves as an unforgiving master here in America is the demand to behave responsibly with respect to our autonomy and life. Our transformation is in our own hands. It remains in our behavioral ability to handle our freedom.

In fact, doesn’t every ordeal, every hurt, whether gut-wrenching (a big loss to a competitor, investments going south), heart-shattering (love gone astray or the death of a loved one) or morale-defeating (coming up short on dating apps or being betrayed by a friend), require us to recover ourselves because, well, who else is going to do it for us?

After all, it is only our own autonomy over which we have behavioral control. While we may want other adults—boss, employee, neighbor, mate, politician, grown children—to act in accordance with our wishes, they have the same rights that we do. The opportunity to create a life of their own design is in their hands though we may think we know better.

Freedom is the transformative power to determine our own destiny. With it, we can create a meaningful life, a life that will command our energy, our utility, our conviction, our uniqueness with a fierce intelligence, forthrightness and resilience.

Without it, suppressed by life’s hurts, we can turn our voice in on itself and go round and round in our head: exiling ourselves to an isolated, suffering filled experience of being in the world and fantasizing about a miracle that would set us down into the dream life we had imagined for ourselves. But freedom doesn’t live in psychologistic illusions. It lives in our autonomy.

Like intending intention to intend on itself, autonomy is about appearing in the affirmative, driving our self-creation, speaking to be, pulling ourselves up in bursts of energy, harmoniously, dangerously, serenely, excitingly. This is our means to acquiring the power of freedom and for using it wisely.

Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit for more information.