Releasing our Baggage

Empty the boat of your life, O man; when empty it will swiftly sail. (From the Dhammapada (aphorisms of the Buddha)

I was faced with a choice regarding the quality of the life that I would live. I could be unhappy; looking at the seemingly unending list of tragedies that seemed to enter my life, not to mention all of the great adversity that I myself invited. Or I could look at the fact that for every dollar I lost I found five dollars, and for every dollar that was stolen from me, I was given ten dollars. For each sadness there was greater joy. I could live the life of one who is miserable because for every win there is a loss, or as someone who is grateful because for every loss there is a win.

These are the decisions that I felt I had to make in order to turn a painful life in to a joyous one. During my dark night of the soul, my most painful time, I had to find a way to be happy and at peace regardless of the circumstances in my life or more importantly, in my history. I decided that I would not rely on life for my happiness. Basically I decided that because I had to go on through anything that came my way, for the sake of my family, I needed to take control of my present. I had to take control of the quality of my life, and the only way to do that was to refuse to allow my past experiences to dictate my living.

To take control of our lives is to begin eliminating the baggage that we carry with us from our past. It is this baggage; my sad childhood is one suitcase and within it are the complexes that were left with me from it. My bad marriage was another and within it was my feeling of being a failure as a woman. Rejection from my friends was another bag, which contained my feelings of self-loathing. All of this baggage seemed to have no bottom.

Each moment that I lived seemed to jump back into the suitcase that most resembled it. With all of that baggage, I literally could not go anywhere that I did not have clothes in my suitcases to fit. Since I carried those suitcases with me, I lived out of them. If I was looking for a man, I put on my abused woman outfit. If I was looking for a job, I put on my desperate worthless outfit. I could only venture in my life where I was equipped to go. That equipment was whatever clothes I had in my baggage. I only went into experiences; or rather I only related to experiences that I had from my past. I could dress for them. In other words I knew how to dress for them because I could relate them to my history and therefore I could relive them. In order for me to move forward, to begin fresh, I had to travel light. Let go of my past experiences and my past habits and come only with myself.

Our baggage limits us. We feel unable to avoid living out of the baggage that we carry. Only when we let it go, can we shop for new perceptions to live through. The key is to keep that wardrobe only so long as it fits where we are. When we move on, we leave it behind and take only what is necessary. What we take is us. We need to understand that each situation is different. Each situation is new. We need different perspectives, and different solutions. In order to truly realize the totality of each new experience, we need to start fresh. Once we learn to leave the past where it was appropriate, we will see each moment as it is. Our lives will be fuller because we are experiencing it as it happens. In order to truly release our past, and leave our baggage behind, we must come to terms with it. We must always close the past, not just walk away from it. We need to put it where it belongs intentionally.

We have to truly release ourselves from guilt and regret. Because when we come to the realization that perhaps, we are in some way responsible for the unhappiness that seems to follow us, we add the blame of carrying it to the other baggage that we are carrying.
So even when we read all of the steps that show us how to move forward, we add to our burdens that guilt, or the loss of self worth that we feel for not releasing those things that cause us pain. In this way we only cause ourselves more pain. It is essential to understand that everything that we did was OK. Everything is appropriate for the situation in which it was created. Our past actions and our past emotions are fine as long as we leave them where they belong.

Even if we fall backwards, or take a long time to stop, that is OK too. We have not done anything wrong because we cannot do anything wrong. Even when we act out of negative emotions or negative intentions we are still learning and still teaching lessons. So long as we are here we are in progress. God will not judge where we are or what we have done until we are finished and there is no more left to do. So long as we have breath in us, we have a chance. We are learning. As a child learns to speak, and says one of those cute things that are not exactly right, it is not wrong, it is all in the process of learning. We need to release ourselves, and go even further, we need to praise ourselves for acknowledging the need to change. We should praise ourselves for making the attempt. If we intend to grow, intend to improve, and intend to become better human beings, those intentions show that we are growing. They show that we are learning and becoming who our souls are striving to become. Just as we do when we graduate to a new grade, we need to take with us the knowledge gained, the lessons learned and leave the textbooks of our struggles behind.

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