The mind makes a man its slave;
again the same mind liberates him.
No matter how free (or not) we may be on the physical level, we can rarely escape the prison of our own thoughts. Even in meditation only the adept experiences a little release, one who can hold on to that for any significant time is truly rare.
The mental habits of a lifetime, perhaps many lifetimes, that form through repeatedly following our desires and negative emotions in to the abyss of self pity are hard to break – are often hard even to identify, they’re so familiar now. That’s my experience anyway.
But with the effort, the mental effort, to study myself with honest and deep introspection I’ve begun to learn how to discipline the mind, if only a little and only sometimes. I find myself reacting less to the things that would’ve sent me in to a rage a few years earlier, I find myself catching the onset of negative thought patterns before becoming absorbed in them and feel I now have some tools to go work with them (chanting some uplifting bhajans or a few vigorous rounds of Surya Namaskar can lift me from most things). Slowly through these practices I feel the ability to discriminate what is truly beneficial (Viveka) and sense of dispassion towards worldly things (Vairagya) are starting to form and the minds grip is starting to loosen.
It may at first sound contradictory but I believe true freedom is found in discipline, until the mind is under control we can never be truly free.
Om Tat Sat