A few days ago, traveling home on the railroad, I set my walkman to an oldies station. Soon a song from the sixties called "Travelin Light" came on the air. It was a pleasant song and I enjoyed listening to it. It was about a young man going to meet his sweetheart and he is understandably very happy and is traveling light, without any baggage, not even a "comb or a toothbrush." Now I must confess that I had a somewhat cynical thought; namely that if he has been traveling for some time, without a toothbrush, he will not be able to get very close to the lady he loves. However, I soon brushed away this unworthy thought and started reflecting that the song had a lot of significance for our lives. I asked myself "In our journey through life, are we traveling 'light' or are we traveling 'heavy'? I came to the conclusion that we are often weighed down with excess baggage.
What types of baggage weighs us down? There are 3 ways we can be overloaded. We can be overloaded materially, mentally or emotionally. Materially speaking, we are living in one of the more developed countries of the world; further this country has been going through an economic boom. Now I know that the IRS and the State Govt tax us heavily in a sincere effort to ensure that we do not become prosperous and buy too many material possessions. But in spite of their best efforts we have too many useless possessions. When this happens, we have to continuously take care of them and maintain them. In such a case- do we own these objects or do these objects own us? Are we the possessor or the possessee? Is it not an abomination to seek happiness in the ownership of more and more objects?
Secondly, and worse-are we not mentally overloaded? From early morning to late at night, we are bombarded with radio, television, newspapers, telephone calls, telemarketing, cell phones and now, the internet. This is a continuous sensory and mental bombardment. Even though our minds have excellent filtering and screening capabilities, it is really surprising that most of us have not yet ended up in the mental asylum. Can we retain our sanity or have any sensitivity towards our fellow men, or even our family members if we are always pre-occupied with all sorts of thoughts?
Thirdly, and worst of all, we may be emotionally overloaded. We may be carrying the baggage of past happenings; our resentments, frustrations and disappointments from the past. This is worse than a drunken hangover, which lasts only a few hours. An emotional hangover lasts for an entire lifetime and can ruin one's entire trip through life. When I was about 10 years old, do not ask me which year that was, I was on an outing with my cousin near a beach and we were walking back to our home. After a short distance I started getting tired and I wanted to stop. My cousin who wanted to get home in a hurry was egging me on and finally he stopped and asked me what I was carrying in my bag. It was a bunch of rocks that I had collected. He forced me to dump them; at first I was unhappy at losing my collection, but soon I was feeling much lighter and was keeping pace with him. In the same way we all tend to carry emotional baggage with us. There are often occasions when we have a right to be angry, frustrated or miserable and like good citizens, we exercise our fundamental right to be unhappy, sometimes for years on end.
How do we get rid of this baggage and lighten this load? First of all, regarding the material goods, this is simple. Once or twice a year, perhaps when we change the time, simply do a house cleaning. Throw out or give to charity anything that has not been used for the last 6 months. Not only will you have more space in the house, you will be able to find the things you really need, and you will get a tax deduction too.
Regarding the mental garbage, this too is simple. When we get overloaded with too much food we sometimes observe a food fast. Similarly, once a week, observe a news fast, have a fast for the brain by not devouring any news for one day. Listen to music or even read a good book but stay away from noisy television shows, news or the paper. Nowadays somebody has started delivering some free paper to my house. Fortunately, they place it in the driveway, so it is easy for me to go over this paper in two seconds; sometimes I go over it twice, once in forward gear and once in reverse. Then I throw it in the garbage.
Last, and the most difficult, is getting rid of emotional baggage. The mind does not want to give up its emotional baggage. Many of our resentments are justified and we have every right to be upset. But should we exercise this right? We have several rights which we do not exercise. For example we have the right to wear a wool coat and stand outside in the July sun, but we choose not to exercise this right, because we know it is stupid and detrimental to our health. Similarly, we should forego our right to be upset and unhappy and instead exercise the right to be happy and light. How to reach this state of mind is outside the scope of this short speech, but it is critical to our well being.
Now having dropped all this luggage, I would suggest that you do carry another type of luggage; that is to carry suitcases full of hope, faith and happiness. This type of luggage is very light, the more you carry, the lighter you feel. So ….. carry these and oh yes- do not forget your toothbrush. With these words, I wish you all "Bon Voyage" on your journey through life.