1. I am so happy to have you on as a Freedom Friday guest! Give us a little background about yourself before we dive into the juiciness of freedom and how it applies to you and your life!
Of course! My name is Sarah Al-Khayyal, and I’m the brains behind the health and food blog Primal Bites. However, blogging is a tiny sliver of the pie chart of my life! I am about to graduate from Columbia University with a Bachelors in Sustainable Development, I compete in powerlifting and strongman, and I’m fanatical about well-designed public spaces, experience architecture, and community building.
2. What does “freedom” mean to you?
Freedom is finding peace in all circumstances. It’s totally internal– it means not relying on external sources for validation, happiness, or permission. It means looking inside of yourself and realizing that you can choose happiness and fulfillment regardless of the cards that life deals you.
3. Share about the time in your life when you lacked freedom. What was your struggle?
Towards the end of high school, I looked externally for happiness. I relied on my body looking a certain way, friends and significant others behaving in a certain way, getting positive feedback from teachers, coaches, etc. In relying on these fleeting and unreliable conditions, I set myself up for disappointment. I didn’t know how to be happy when the scale went up, when a close friend forgot my birthday, or when someone critiqued a piece of work that I put my heart and soul into (and those were among the milder disappointments I faced).
4. What was your turning point? When did you realize that you needed to embrace freedom?
I realized that my emotions were tied to whether or not my expectations were met. I read this book, Dancing with Life, my second year of college, and it substantially changed my life perspective. In Buddhism there is this concept of the “don’t-know mind,” which necessitates that you meet life without preconceived ideas, expectations, or judgements. It means becoming comfortable in not knowing, and being free from attachment to security and stability. Once I adopted the “don’t-know mind,” I was able to approach all of life’s circumstances with an open mind and heart. Life can be a pretty terrible dance partner at times– missing the beat and stepping on your toes– but if you fight it, that just makes it worse. I fully embraced freedom when I started dancing with life.
5. How do you allow freedom into your life on a daily basis?
At any point when I notice myself being reactive towards something, I pause, and consider what the use is in getting upset/sad/annoyed. 99% of the time there’s absolutely no use. So when I can recognize that and stop those negative and unproductive thoughts, I’m able to stop my mind from clinging to expectations and external things, thereby inviting more freedom into my life.
6. I believe our journey towards freedom never truly ends, it just continues to progress to more and more freedom. How have you challenged yourself recently to embrace more freedom into your life?
So when I started lifting, I experienced this immense freedom from expectations of how I should look. My fitness goals turned from aesthetics to performance, which you hear SO many women say. But there’s still a problem with relying on your performance for your happiness and sense of fulfillment–because when you get injured, or life gets crazy hectic and you can’t get all of your training sessions in, you can no longer source your happiness from a deadlift PR or really good squat day.
Recently I’ve had to face this head on due to a lingering hip and hamstring injury that has prevented me from training to my fullest capacity, and even now to take some time off altogether from lifting. Initially I was extremely upset, not about being injured, but about not being able to train. But then I looked deeper to figure out why I was feeling upset, and found that it was because I was failing the expectations that I set for myself and that I imagined others had set for me. So I promptly detached my emotions from those expectations, and took on a more open mindset, one in which I appreciate that my body is well enough for me to get up out of bed every morning, and appreciate that my worth is not determined by my sports performance, and that I have a lot of other things going for me right now.
7. What is one golden nugget of wisdom you can provide to those who are currently struggling with embracing freedom today?
Move towards your goals without attachment to outcome–the future is almost always other than you imagined, so learn to adapt and meet life with a gracious heart and open mind.
8. And before we say good bye, how can we stay connect with you over social media?
Instagram: @primalbites for food, @sarah.lifts for all things strength!
Come say hi! Let’s be friends!