Baggage Claim — Travel Lightly

Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on. ~ Eckhart Tolle

One of the biggest daily spiritual challenges in our lives is to let go of our stories, to let go of our past. Each day we have experiences that become woven into our life story. And we think that story is who we are. The longer we live, the heavier our load gets. At some point, we just sit down from exhaustion.

Every now and then, we could all use a little inner spring cleaning. To get started, though, we need to take an honest look at what is dragging us down.

For instance, do you work too hard? Feel overextended? Do you feel stuck in your career? Has someone hurt your feelings and you have yet to forgive them?Are you angry at someone? Have you had relationship issues? These are just a few of the many situations we might be living now. Or, they might be from the past. Either way, if you find yourself frequently telling others about your war wounds, then chances are you are carrying a heavy emotional load.

I used to carry my own emotional baggage. It lived in baggage claim and was always available for pick up. Then one day I read this story, which completely changed my outlook on life. It is a simple Zen parable that packs a powerful truth.

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on with his

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three; finally the younger monk couldn’t contain himself any longer and blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

This story made me realize how much “old stuff” I did carry. But I had to take a honest look at what my stories were. When I looked a little deeper, I found a story of victimhood, so much so that I could have been called “Cinderella.” And there was a lot of fear — fear of the unknown, fear that I wouldn’t measure up, and fear I would be misunderstood, that people wouldn’t “get” me. I also carried sadness and grief from my childhood.

At some point, all that baggage added up, weighing me down so much that I finally cracked open, and it came tumbling out. Was it messy? Yes. Was it uncomfortable to see those parts? Absolutely. Did I feel lighter afterward? Hugely! In fact, once those dark parts came to the surface, I no longer felt invisible, especially to myself.

Today, I travel lightly and am more aware of “identity thieves,” stories that hitch a ride, slow me down, and conceal my true identity. When we see ourselves accurately and have the courage to uncover the truth in our stories, our journey become pleasant instead of burdensome, integrated instead of separated, loving instead of fearful.

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