“There’s a light bulb in everyone
Bright enough to swallow the sun”
Songwriter Stuart Davis
I used to do a lot of meditation retreats – the hard ones where we would sit in silence for 10 days. When I signed up for the first one, I had no idea what I was in for.
I had been in psychotherapy on and off for years, but was still looking for relief from my inner suffering. Somehow I knew freedom from it was possible. I kept searching and found myself in the desert of California with the cactuses, lizards, and every feeling I had ever suppressed or ignored.
About the fifth day or so, the floodgates opened, as I literally cried nonstop for three days. Yes, it was painful, but so incredibly cleansing. Every emotion had the space to be. It felt like they had been waiting a thousand years to finally be invited out into the open. And they were having a field day.
By the end of the retreat, my whole inner world had transformed. I had released so much into the vastness of the desert sky: old stories, onerous feelings, confused beliefs. Talk about baggage, the chains were breaking so fast I couldn’t keep track. I left the desert feeling so much lighter. It was the beginning of true freedom that has continued to this day.
Even now, I occasionally become aware of some hidden remnant that draws me into an old reaction or thought pattern. And I happily shine the light on it so I am conscious enough to allow a different choice. Snip, snip…another piece of baggage left at the side of the road.
Identifying the Baggage
Although retreats can be very useful, they aren’t required to let go of the outdated baggage we carry around. In fact, all that is required is the willingness to see the truth, to air the dirty laundry packed up in those suitcases, to put the whole mess out onto the floor so it is no longer trapped inside of us.
So right now, in this moment, what baggage are you still carrying around?
Here are some possibilities:
- A relationship with someone that you know in your heart of hearts has seen better days and is no longer serving you;
- A grudge that keeps you from soaring;
- A habit that somehow hooked you but doesn’t fit anymore.
- A perspective or way of thinking that is confining, depleting, or just plain negative.
- An identity as unworthy, meek, lacking, fearful, controlling, needy – a case of mistaken identity that masks the awesomeness of who you actually are.
How to Put it Down
You’ve identified your version of baggage? Great! Time for celebration! You have just completed the first essential step toward being free of it.
Second step: Whatever the trouble is, welcome it into your loving heart. Recognize that it showed up in your life to protect or help you. See that it’s job is done and the time has come to say goodbye. Ask yourself: Do I need it? Is it serving me? Is it time to put it down?
I recently spoke with someone who is working on eating a healthier diet. As we splayed open the problem, examining every aspect of her experience related to food, it became obvious that her unhealthy eating habits are a vestige of an old way of being. At one time, she felt her body had betrayed her, so she disconnected from it and stopped paying attention to how she was treating it. Now so beautifully welcoming to all of her inner experiences, unhealthy eating no longer fits. Where before food was a weapon, it is becoming a joyful feast.
Next step: Make the shift. When the old tendency arises, choose life. Walk away every time, and step into the possibility of a life unencumbered by old baggage.
Allow change to happen. It’s OK if you feel fearful or uncomfortable. As you let go of what is old and outmoded, you are making the space for something new to arise. This is the beginning of a life lived in freedom.
After that first retreat, the world never looked quite the same to me. The inexorable process of shedding couldn’t be stopped. Investigating every habit, every limited identity, every reaction became a way of life that has revealed greater and greater depths of openness and possibility.
Subtract all of these tendencies, and discover what remains…ease…peace…wonder…love.
What baggage are you carrying around? Is it time to let it go? I’d love to hear….