Back in April, after about six weeks of deep, aching back pain, I went for an MRI. Unlike most test results I’ve had in my life where I’m told “everything looks fine” I was given an actual diagnosis: a stress fracture at L4. It’s not a big deal. I was in a brace for a month and still have one month more of limited activity yet to go and everything should heal completely. It did provide fodder for a good laugh with a friend– that I’d been going on for such a long time about needing “a break” that I finally got one. Be careful what you wish for, right? Well, it has given me pause to think about what I’m carrying. What is the straw that broke the yogi’s back?
There are the things we carry which we must. The word burden originally meant “that which is borne,” i.e. a child. And yes, we must bear the burden of that which we create- human and otherwise- as it is part of the sacred contract of getting to birth something. But there are plenty of other things we schlepp around that are quite optional. What are you carrying? Does that load include stories, limiting beliefs, responsibilities and troubles that belong to others? How about worries about the future and memories of past experiences that are not in your power to change or control? It’s a lot to hold.
I think the challenge with adulting is that the longer we live, the more we accumulate. It’s most obvious- and easiest to deal with- in our physical environment. The past couple of months, I’ve been on a mission to clear “the stuff” and have been systematically going through my house room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer and getting rid of clutter. It’s remarkably freeing, and with each bag filled for donation, there is lightness and freedom. Perhaps the best part is that the cleaning out is self-perpetuating and the more I get rid of, the more I look for what else can be released. I realize that I need to do this on the inside as well. Does Marie Kondo do inner work? Imagine sorting all the contents of your psychic load. How much of it sparks joy? Ha. Probably not much.
I don’t know of a process or procedure for this, so I’m less certain about how to proceed beyond clothing, shoes, unused products and Tupperware with no lids. But I recognize the necessity of getting it done. The weight I am carrying has become too heavy and I have reached a physical breaking point that I believe is just the warning for a more profound fracture. I have been carrying too much for too long. There is a sorting out to be done of what is mine and what is not. What is current and what is past. What should be neatly packed for the next leg of the journey and what should be burned in a giant dumpster fire.
As I’ve sat with this idea, two images come to mind. The first is to lay it down. I love this image, and I often use it in class. For an hour, lay it down. Whatever you’ve hoisted onto your shoulders, have been dragging around behind you, have been weighted under the worry of—whatever is burdensome in your mind or your heart—get on your mat and lay it down. For 60 minutes or 90 minutes or for two hours, stop perseverating, agonizing, struggling with the contents of what you’re carrying. Just put it down. Rest and be in the moment. How much of what we carry do we need to put down and never pick back up again? How much of the load have we carried for so long because we just got in the habit of it? What part of it never even belonged to us in the first place?
The second is a mirror image of the first, and that is to offer it up. I’m quite fond of this idea as well: allowing what we have been carrying to become buoyant, as though lifted off of us by great balloons or mighty hands. Whether you’re offering it up to the universe, God, fate, divine timing, whatever; it’s the idea that you’re not alone, and despite your best efforts, still not General Manager of the universe. Heck, the older I get, the more I realize I’m not even GM of my own life. What are the worries that are valid, the pains close to heart, the problems with no solution that you carry? Could you offer them up? What if you accepted that in this moment, perhaps there is no way out, no solution, no salve for your pain, but at the very least you don’t need to shoulder it all, dragging it with you every moment of every day?
Part of my morning ritual are the prayers which happen before I even get out of bed. I’ve added to that practice the literal handing off of that which is heaviest on my heart and mind into the Grace that is everywhere, always. Surely, She can help. And there is definitely a better way than how I’ve been doing it. I feel that sometimes I can barely breathe under the oppressive and unwieldy mass I’ve gathered along my journey. Offering it up is asking for help. Offering it up is releasing what is unknowable, unsolvable, unhealable for my own sanity and ease. If I can’t solve it, fix it or control it, why am I insistent that I pack it up and bring it with me everywhere I go?
Have you picked up baggage that doesn’t belong to you in an effort to be helpful or to save someone else the struggle? Guess what? It was never yours to begin with, as we were not given the security clearance to save others from the lessons they are here to learn. Lay it down. Are you dragging your past into the present and is it coloring everything you see? Lay it down. Are you overwhelmed with the weight of your responsibilities, your duties, your to-do lists? What would happen if you offered it all up to the process that is life, accepting that only one thing at a time can be done? What does it feel like to truly embrace and embody the truth that all things come in their own time?
I keep hearing the cry- both from my own soul and from the voices of those who share their lives with me- a deep yearning for lightness, for peace, for levity. And yet what I know to be true is that those things are always right here for the taking. So, lay it down. Offer it up. Get yourself free.