We all carry baggage that we’ve collected over the years, problems that others or we ourselves created. We pack them up and haul them around as evidence of the wrongs done to us.
As a cancer survivor, I sought to lessen the burdens of the past because they impede my ability to live in the present. One powerful lesson came from my teacher, Deepak Chopra.
A live-in at Chopra Central, I was given an assignment one night. Go write your story, the master told us, in vivid detail with whatever comes to mind –- the faces, the feelings, the anguish. Go put it all down as you remember it, as you dream about it. Pour everything into the journal that you want righted from the past. Hold nothing back, he instructed.
All through the night I labored to spill the cosmic beans on the unfairness of it all. I remembered different times when life had been unjust, could see the players of the drama as though I’d watched the movie just last night. I wrote and wrote. One by one, the scars were revealed, the pain unique to each one. One by one. It was a long night.
The next day, armed with my tome, I arrived at class early and ready to go through what ever ritual we would use to exorcize the demons. Would it be fire? Would it be tearful? Would it be cathartic?
Dr. Chopra began class and much to my amazement said simply, “That is your old story and it’s there should you ever need it, but you no longer have to carry it with you. So, now take this new journal and go write your new story. Write your life story beginning now, completely unencumbered by your past grievances.
But . . . but . . . was that it? Was it that simple? No magic? No mystery? No chanting?
The lesson, Chopra said, is that we choose our life every day. By hanging on to old pains, we are choosing to keep them alive and they smudge the lens through which we see our new life. The first journal was merely an exercise to park these burdens on a shelf, to externalize them.
The second journal represented our power to decide what we want our life to be. The blank pages hungered for words of optimism and dreams and happiness. It was pure without justification or reconciliation.