One of my biggest “ah-ha’s” during my recent week long silent retreat with Adyashanti was just how much mental baggage I habitually carry around. Some days it feels as though I move around loaded with 100 pounds of luggage! It’s no wonder why I collapse at the end of most days.
For one whole week while on retreat in silence I was forced, yes forced, to set aside my roles, responsibilities, projects and plans. In other words, my journey did not allow carry on baggage… nothing, nada, I had to leave it all at home.
It was a huge challenge for me to set aside being a parent, a teacher and a business owner and I found it unsettling to not have my handy to-do list with me. This mission was daunting and downright scary. I was asked to exist without my usual tasks, meetings, classes and kid stuff that fills my schedule, my mind and simply just weighs me down. As I struggled with dropping all of my bags I felt quite naked, sort of awkward with a glimpse here and there of lightness and joy. After a few rough days, I found an awesome freedom in which my hands were free, my mind unloaded and my heart light.
Returning back into society carrying a much lighter load, I have been able to see our human condition from a different vantage point. Here’s my take. In our society we are unconsciously overloaded and overburdened with mental baggage. We “schlep” around town weighed down with roles and responsibilities. We even admire each other with how “crazy busy” we are. In general, we need to be tapped in, on-line and connected at all times. Moving through life like this can often feel like carrying a bulky load of luggage for hours on end. Rarely, if ever, do we give ourselves permission to put down the baggage and to be quiet and rest.
I am not suggesting that everyone take a silent retreat (though I do think that our world would transform almost immediately if we did!) But if anything I have written rings true to you then I offer some simple advice. Begin to notice how much you habitually carry. Are you always “on”? Are you always carrying around your roles, are you always thinking of the next event, meeting, etc.? The simple act of noticing our thoughts is how we start to change our lives. For example, if you notice yourself thinking about work when you are not working remind yourself to let it be until the next time you are actually at work. You can write your thought down on a list so that your mind can be at ease that you won’t forget.
We notice, we let go and we continue on. We notice, we let it be and we exhale. We set down our mental baggage as much as we can and we find time to rest and find stillness everyday. This is the practice of mindfulness. It is the act of noticing when we are not present or when thought has carried us away from the moment.
This may sound daunting or it may sound overly simple. It is actually both. It is worth giving a try. Learning to live without so much mental baggage may make you feel lighter and brighter. Please let me know how you do.