Last night, I went to a talk on ‘Living lightly’ at the meditation centre that’s now become my second home (a haven of peace, tranquillity and beauty). Sister Shashi, a famous meditation teacher, was there to enlighten us about this great way of living. She got us mesmerised for an hour, and in stitches at times too. She is a brilliant speaker. You wouldn’t expect this sort of speaker in a meditation centre.
One of the most vivid images that keeps playing in my mind is the one of a man who boards a train carrying a heavy basket on his head, and sits down but keeps the basket on his head.
Why doesn’t he put it down, stupid man?
Well, this is what we all do with our ‘baggage’ in life – we’re so attached to it that we keep it with us, at all times. We’ve taken the announcements that we hear in train stations and airports too literally.
Of course, what does this extra luggage do? It weighs us down, slows us down, wears us down. It prevents us from moving forward. Most of all, this baggage being about our past and our worries about the future, it prevents us from enjoying the present.
Last night, it was suddenly quite clear that carrying these superfluous suitcases (gone over my 20kg allowance, have I?), thinking about the extra weight all the time, was a complete waste of time. What is past is past. I should learn the lessons that those events have taught me, yes, but then I should move on and stop thinking about them. As for the future, I will never be able to control it, so it’s best left to its own devices.
I then asked myself why I was so determined to solve all my past problems: it’s because I want my life to be perfect. Perfectionist that I am, I want my life perfect not only in the present, but also in the past, and of course in the future, too. But this doesn’t make sense! I will never be able to prevent my future from being imperfect, and I will never be able to put my past right! It’s too late, it’s all buried in the ashes of time and will never be resurrected to be changed, so how can I make it perfect now? I can’t! I guess I’m hoping that by trying to make my past perfect, I can make my present perfect.
I then understood that this quest for perfection actually makes my life in the present even less perfect than it could be. Any time I try to make my present perfect, it becomes the past already. While I endeavour to make my entire life perfect, the present is absent, as it were. Trying to perfect the present is not being in the present, it’s not staying present, and it’s certainly not enjoying the present. It’s only about control and perfectionism. I would say that these two aspects make up about 50% of the load that is making me bow like an old lady and slowing me down on my journey through life.
If you rummage around the basket, you will also find things that I’ve grown attached to, such as resentment towards my parents for having done this or not done that, negativity (make that 30% of the rest of the load!), some kind of mild anger directed at life (for not being as easy as it could be), and just complexity in general – I seem to love complexity! For example, I want to be happy but at the same time kind of refuse all the happiness that life throws at me (‘Being happy all the time? What is the fun in that?’ seems to ask my unconscious).
When I left the centre last night, I did feel lighter, literally uplifted, and I kept that feeling with me all through the night: whenever I woke up (I’ve got a bad cold at the moment!), I remembered Shisha’s words and I went back to sleep feeling like a wispy cloud moving effortlessly towards the rays of the sun. This morning, I did my first guided meditation (I bought a CD last night), which was all about Light – imagining blue, pink and golden light surrounding my body. But I also took the word to mean ‘weightless’. So my entire being was bright, colourful and light. It was amazing. I floated outside of my body and couldn’t feel anything – my skin was numb. For the first time in meditation, the imperfections of my body didn’t prevent me from forgetting it completely. Bliss!
What is your basket made of? And are you going to put it down, or at least take a few things out and throw them out of the window, leaving them behind you for ever?