“You can fool a lot of yourself but you can’t fool the soul.
That worrier.” -Mary Oliver.
My daughter and I have been talking about luggage lately.
We have also been noticing the luggage other people are carrying around because we are more aware of our own. It only seems natural when you are carrying luggage that you start to see luggage everywhere. We are not going a trip though, so why the luggage?
Luggage is the metaphor my daughter came up with to describe all the thoughts of guilt, shame, inadequacies, failures, low self-esteem, problems, etc. that each of us carry.
Most of the time we are not even consciously aware of the luggage, however, sometimes we are, and we are also aware of how much it prevents us from creating a happier and more fulfilling life. This baggage we carry around tends to create problems not only for ourselves but with others. It blocks our path and is in the way. An elephant in the room, only everyone around us is bringing an elephant with them.
What are we to do?
The answer is going to sound simplistic, however I never said it would not require some effort. You simply and quietly leave your luggage; let it go, do not pack or take it with you as you start your day. Some of you are asking, “what does that mean?” It means you place your mind and body at the same place at the same time; in the present.
The freedom you acquire when the mind and body are totally present together in the present moment. It is an awareness that you bring nothing from the past or future and connect your mind with the moment where you are right now. It can involve breath work to connect the body to the mind. If you do not think your mind has a mind of its own, try observing it while you are taking a shower and listen to all it says. Unbelievable sometimes!
Let us begin with a simple awareness practice.
Sit in a chair or lay down in a comfortable position. As you start to become aware of your breathing naturally, paying attention to how the breath is moving in and out, slow or fast, not changing anything about the breath as you are noticing it, the body begins to connect with the mind in a purposeful and profound way.
There may be thoughts, emotions, suggestions coming from your mind as you begin to do this, however your mind is completely focused on paying attention to how you are breathing at this moment. Be an observer of your own breath as if you are watching someone else breath. Remember how you watched a baby sleep and noticed how it was breathing?
Sometimes it is helpful to give your active mind a few phrases to say to itself while observing your breath. These phrases may be helpful:
- I am complete right now in this moment.
- I am experiencing happiness and joy right now.
- I am loved.
- I have everything I need right now.
- I let go of all that is troubling me right now.
- I accept myself completely.
- I am breathing in love and kindness and letting go of negativity.
It is helpful to “practice” this once or twice a day for a few minutes at a time. Try making it a regular practice by picking a couple of times during your day such as while having your morning cup of coffee or tea, right after lunch or before eating to relax your digestive system, or right before falling asleep.
How does this work in the brain? Inside your brain is an area called the Amygdala, which regulates emotions. When the mind is in a constant state of hyperarousal and stimuli, it is busy firing away electrical impulses like snow in a shaken snow globe.
While there is no way to eliminate the thoughts we all have every second of the day, we can choose to watch the thoughts, without judgement or interaction, and allow the snow fall around us by engaging in mindfulness.
The snow is never eliminated, just recycled, and everyone can slow the shaken globe. I said it before, it is simple, cost effective, has no side effects, and only takes some time and effort to do.
Another great way to get started is to literally use a snow globe. Once or twice a day, shake up the snow globe and focus on the snow while at the same time taking several slow, deep breaths, and choosing a phrase or creating one of your own that is meaningful to you. You can count from one to five as you inhale, then exhale from one to five.
The simplest technique could be just watching the snow fall then shaking the globe again and focusing on the snow fall, doing this activity four or five times in a row. I encourage you to teach this to the children in your life too!
What are the benefits of leaving your luggage?
- Increased social and academic performance.
- Increased sleep quality.
- Increased self-confidence.
- Increased immune system function.
- Decreased anxiety and depression.
- Positive changes in maladaptive stress coping.
(Rosenfeld, Andrew J. 2017)
I have been working on letting go of my luggage for a couple of years now and although I still pick it up occasionally, I leave it behind far more than I used to and it feels great! I often find myself using this technique in the middle of the night too.
I have not found a time it does not lessen my anxiety, worry, or fear. I just feel I have more control over the direction of my life when I leave my luggage behind and face forward, head up, shoulders back, and smiling.
I really connect to the following quote from poet Mary Oliver: “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Originally posted on LifeCycleBalance