I attended a Mass where the pastor Jerry Kopek at St. Peter and Paul Church in Williamsville, New York blessed the school bags of children to start the school year. He noted that we carry our wisdom, our successes and failures in those bags throughout the year. I would add that we carry those personally throughout our lives as well.
Some adults never grow beyond and are stuck in adolescent expressions of coping where feelings are not addressed and one is disengaged from the mind-body realization of corruption.
Regrets, sadness, loss, pain and deep wounds plant themselves in the soul. If we don’t own up to our feelings, these things have a way of weighing us down and complicating our assessment of needs and identifying with others. They choke our greatest hopes like a weed and stifle our dreams of fulfillment wrapping and entangling, complicating our lives.
There’s a great exercise where students write anonymous notes about the stresses they are carrying. They throw them into a circle and one by one we pick them up and read them, so students know they are not alone. We toss them into a bag to let everyone know that we all carry baggage.
Owning our feelings as we go is to be liberated from the burden of carrying baggage and burying them in our hearts and minds. It gets too full in there and we’re liable to say things we don’t intend to say or do things we don’t intend to do.
The older I get the more I see people who grow old trying to cope with past indiscretions. It’s as if the pain bubbles to the top and works its way out. We cannot escape it. The problems we cover up manifest in different ways and sublimate guilt. We drink away our problems, or eat our problems, work to deny our problems or altogether avoid others in attending to our problems any way we can.
Owning our feelings, we examine the presence of useful lessons and discard the feelings that will no longer serve us. We can attend to the needs of the day in a more meaningful way. It’s not easy to give up a worry, but there are loved ones available to help us throw these concerns away.
Scripture calls us to a high standard. The mouth will speak what the heart feels.
“Keep your heart with vigilance for from it flows the springs of life”. Proverbs 4:23.
In Eastern traditions philosophers talk about working off our karmic bundles. This is the process of life. We live in the law of cause and effect. Our good actions help us and our bad actions cause problems. We engage in sorting through what is right and wrong, what we did to cause more strife and see how we can attune to doing what’s right and making right those whom we have wronged.
Sometimes the baggage people carry makes them feel more alive. They thrive on emotional pain and suffering because it awakens them to life, but this doesn’t go away. It finds a home in the subconscious mind. This addiction to drama can foster more grief. It may stimulate the endorphins, but it doesn’t do much for feeling good in the long run.
The great Hindu saint Parmahansa Yogananda writes, “God is not your judge; you are your own judge. If you act wrongly, you are going to punish yourself. If you act rightly, you will free yourself. That is the justice of the law of karma. You are dictated to neither by God nor His angels, but by the law of action: what you sow, you reap”.
He goes on to say, ““Since all effects of seeds of our past actions, our karma, can be destroyed by roasting them in the fire of meditation, concentration, the light of the superconsciousness, and right actions, there is no such thing as fate. You make your own destiny. God has given you independence, and you are free to shut out His power or let it in.”
Learning how to cope with our feelings and making them work in a more profound way is difficult. The spiritual disciplines of the world are a good manual for helping us get there. Aligning ourselves with honest assessment of who we are and how we relate to the whole world helps us travel lightly.
Our willingness to carry a lighter load in our lives helps us in teaching others how to pack for the journey.