One of the many great things about taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago was finding deep life lessons at the most unexpected moments. Each day began with a ritual of packing all of my belongs into a backpack. I quickly came to a conclusion that “stuff” does not create happiness. I walked with the bare essentials and have never been a happier person. One day, I began to mentally go through each item in my pack and determine if it was a necessity or a luxury item. A person certainly does not need fingernail clippers to walk to Santiago, but socks fit into the other category. This exercise led to a much bigger puzzle of trying to identify the emotional baggage that I was carrying in my head and heart. I dedicated an entire chapter to this topic in the book.
Ekcert Tolle is one of my favorite authors and he writes about this topic in A New Earth. Here is a passage that applies to emotional baggage: “……after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in the opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened. If the duck had a human mind, it would probably keep the fight alive by story-making. This would probably be the ducks story: “I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time, he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he is plotting something already. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.” And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about is days, months, or years later.”
Why is it so difficult to let go of things that have already happened in our lives and cannot be changed by replaying the same story over and over? Each memory actually gains weight with time because we are always adding more thoughts to the historical event. Imagine what life would be like if we could learn that carrying a heavy thought is as ridiculous as thinking fingernail clippers are needed to get to Santiago. Instead, we gather more “stuff’ inside and carry a heavy burden on the mind.
The past can survive peacefully inside every person and serves as perfect classroom to learn from mistakes. Instead of learning, we spend too much time replaying the movie and attaching thoughts to history. These thoughts usually germinate into prickly cactus that entrap the mind into a prison. The walls contain themselves through anger, regret, revenge, and sadness.
The best way to flap your wings from the past is to stay in the present moment. Self identification with the present moment creates a much better version of you than the one created by attaching yourself to yesterday. Flap often.
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