Luggage comes in all shapes and sizes, colours, contours, with hidden and visible compartments. We all lug stuff around, that great effort it takes to carry or drag a bulky or heavy load. The stuff itself is only part of the story, it is the lugging it around that is visible to others even if they can’t see what is inside.
I was watching people arrive at a destination recently and as they collected their luggage in the airport, some moved easily through customs and each point of transfer and transition to a new status – a citizen arriving home, a visitor being welcomed, an alien being processed and sent away. The luggage they bring with has a status all of its own.
Luggage offers up lots of lessons in this year of self-compassion – what I can hang on to, what can be left behind, what might be waiting for me at a destination, what needs to be packed before a journey to be made.
What does a pilgrim pack? Usually we all pack too much and I think that is true for the pilgrim too, and there are, from time to time, contradictions, for even a small day pack can be hard to carry.
As Leonard Cohen writes:
I know the burden’s heavy
As you wheel it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that don’t mean it’s light – The Street
Finding a message or a few old coins in the seams of a bag that hasn’t been used for a while can take you back to a place you have once been, and you hear the echo of a memory or a gentle reminder of what you picked up there or left behind. It may be a Pandora’s box secreting blessings and curses simultaneously.
I have been doing a lot of packing up and moving of books, CDs, DVDs, clothes, furniture this past week and each item carries with it a story of how it came to be here, its contribution, some books never opened, others barely touched, some falling apart from their daily interaction with the world. Like the things we put into luggage, some never used and other items that travel close to your person and irreplaceable. Some carried by others through generations for another generation to treasure or discard. In this year working out what needs to be held and kept and what needs to be packed away for a future moment to challenge or remind, what needs to be rejected, what needs to be abandoned and left on the side for someone else to collect … big and small moments to discern invitations to be strong and to be gentle on yourself.
So in the spirit of John O’Donohue here is a blessing I have written.
A Blessing for Luggage
When the load gets to heavy
May you know what to put down.
When the load is light
May you skip with a giggle.
When you are sharing a handle
May you give a turn to your companion.
When the tag has your name writ large
May you own up to the luggage.
When you arrive but your luggage doesn’t’
May you remember to take a deep breath.
May an empty suitcase ordained to be filled with gifts and treasures
Be a vessel for your willingness to receive.
May your passport pouch with the tiny pocket
Hold your precious self, safe and secure.
May your backpack of trusted belongings
Be the source of all your basic needs.
May your carry-on bag
Find a place to rest in the cabin above you.
May your inner pilgrim
Get lighter, the longer on the journey.
May your inner Empress
Await courtiers arriving with gifts from far off lands.
And may you leave behind what no longer needs to be lugged.