If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. ~Cesare Pavese
“Is that all you’re taking?” My friend eyes my suitcase doubtfully. It’s a familiar refrain. I like to travel light, to challenge myself to move forward without feeling weighed down. I also love that I can simply exit the plane and be on my way, no need to stop in Baggage Claim with the exhausted masses, surveying the endless conveyor belt for a bag of material possessions I feel no emotional connection to.
It’s a personal badge of honor that I haven’t checked a bag since 9/11. But today I was forced to check my bag (last on the plane, ugh). Which is how I find myself standing in the Baggage Claim of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport looking for my bag.
As I stand off to one side, I spy an enormous room through an open door. Inside, suitcases of every size and color are stacked floor to ceiling, like cairns left by long-lost travelers, filled with souvenirs that no longer evoke an emotional response. A piece of paper is taped to the wall beside the door that reads dejar equipaje.
I scribble it down, charmed by the way the words feel in my mouth. Later I look it up. It means left luggage. Not lost luggage. Left luggage. As if the suitcases weren’t lost, but deliberately deserted. I imagine travelers arriving at Baggage Claim, spying their suitcases, and then mindfully walking away without them, carrying forward only what truly serves them. Abandoning what weighs them down. Their step lighter as they exit the airport, their emotional baggage left to be piled in the cavernous room like poker chips that never get cashed in.
We all have baggage that weighs us down. Regrets, resentments, umbrages that hang around our neck like a too-heavy camera case. What if we intentionally decided to not claim that baggage? Could we purposefully set down those unresolved issues, leave our emotional triggers behind?
Of course it’s not that easy. It’s hard to let go of old hurts. Sometimes, we think we’ve put an issue to bed and then, like a recalcitrant toddler, it crawls out of bed and asks for another glass of water. The longer we hold on to baggage, the more ingrained the behavioral patterns around that issue become. We get locked into habits that don’t serve our higher selves. Sometimes we’re simply scared to release that baggage, as it distracts us from facing bigger fears and more pressing life questions.
So how can we lay it down, leave it behind? The first step is to become aware of that baggage, as knowing is half the battle. Once you become aware that something is a trigger for you, you can step back and observe your reactions impassively. With time, you can change those reactions into more mindful responses. So “here we go again” becomes “I choose not to do this anymore”.
I think about the art of Zen, with its promise that peace lies in minimalism. I think about Jesus, who instructed his disciples to travel light as they went forth on their spiritual quest. I think about the Buddha’s dying directive. Be your own light. He had spent a lifetime teaching humanity that what we stay attached to is ruinous to our peace. What we leave behind creates light. And lightness.
There are certain hurts I will always carry with me, not to stay attached to the pain but instead for the wisdom and life lessons they offer me. We can grasp the lesson and drop the grudge. Because if our hurts won’t easily slide under the seat in front of us, it’s probably time to start unpacking some old sorrows to lighten our load.
What I’m saying is this. The journey is lighter when we don’t have to carry the heavy past like an over-stuffed backpack. The baggage we take should have plenty of empty space for the miraculous, the beautiful, the love. The real things don’t take up space at all. They’re light. Because they are the light.