I bought a little piece of pottery last week, shaped like an old- fashioned suitcase. It reminds me that my parents were immigrants, of the We came to this country with $10 in our pockets, so work hard, get an education, and all will be fine variety. (Yeah, maybe, sometimes.) It reminds me of journeys ahead, and of the personal baggage we all bring along. Our memories and hopes, secrets and fears. The things we keep tucked deeply inside, though our close ones would get lots pretty right.
We carry the emotional legacy of our past, of what’s formed us, and often pack what we think we’ll need to stay safe, to avoid being hurt again (at least in the same way). These defensive patterns shield us. But they also insulate us from what might teach or heal us.
In this week’s reading, Abram (soon-to-be Abraham) leaves his land, his parents’ home, and his country. There’s a strong, dynamic, tension between what we’ve always done/how we’ve always done it and our desire, curiosity, and need for the new. The more old stuff we carry with us, the harder and slower it may be to let go. Think Chinese finger puzzle.
There are places in your soul and heart that have been that way so deep and long that you have to actively choose to make room for change. For the unknown. The hoped-for, but also the unanticipated, surprising, even startling and challenging. Easier said than done.
This is a great time to think about what you’re bringing along, and what not to pack. If you need a meat cleaver to discern the difference, put behind you anything that’s hobbling your growth or seems like a repetitive pattern. If you’re not sure, look for bad outcomes and work back to their source. Catherine Shainberg, whom I respect as a teacher, has many great exercises, to help sort grain from chaff.
How can you develop the part of you that’s looser, that’s easier on yourself, on those you’ve tangled with, and on the folks who see and support you on your journey? It takes both will and a willingness to release.
Many folks organize their lives with compartmentalization and denial. An ignore-the-elephant-under-the-rug practice. But a reframe of that, its higher aspect, is to say What hurt me, or how I’ve hurt myself, no longer has authority over me.
A declaration of emotional independence. A clipping of the ties that bound. Leaving behind your stubbed toes and heart surgeries, whether they were literal or visceral. Transcending what you’ve outgrown. And bringing along the best. The joyous and sweet memories. The lessons learned. And the wisdom and flexibility they engender.
It’s about non-resistance. Yes easier said than done. And easy to get distracted by the clamor of our lives or our very human frailties. But if you pull it off, you’ll travel lighter and happier.
The reading concludes with the covenant of circumcision to mark the relationship with the divine. I prefer the metaphor of peeling back yet the next layer from your heart. Unveiling more you. And experiencing everything in your life one notch more intensely. Living more openly, more vulnerably, more receptively, and with less baggage.