Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baggage Fees

I am taking a break from writing the blog tonight, so I thought I would post one of my favorites from the last year.

As the airlines struggle to keep their bottom line on target with their stock holders’ desires, they have to find new and inventive ways to earn money.  The most popular and lucrative method has been the baggage fee.  Essentially you are charged for how much you would like to bring on your travels.  The cost per bag increases as you add bags and as your bags increase in weight.  From a fiscal point of view, this makes sense - someone who travels with just a light carry-on uses less fuel than the person traveling with three bags that weigh 70 pounds each; those three bags constitute the weight of another large adult.  Every added pound burns a little more fuel which adds to the cost to fly the plane.

As we go about our individual travels through life we carry our own bags.  Each of our bags are different and contain unique contents.  Some of our bags we haven’t opened for years and only vaguely remember what is in them.  There are many times we choose to put a bag down for good and other times when we choose to pick up a new bag without unburdening ourselves of others first.  Just like when you fly, there is an added cost for every bag you choose to carry as you move through life.

Everyday as I teach, I learn more and more about the students in my classes.  I see the days when they are up and days when they are down.  I see their victories and their defeats, I witness them tear each other down and pick each other up.  I watch them pick up bags and put bags down.  They teach me about myself in their struggle for identity.  I see infinite reflections of my own childhood in their actions.  I see the possibilities my childhood could have held had I or my family made different choices.  I experience joy and sorrow along with them.  After many of my interactions with my students I choose to reexamine my own bags.  I decide what I can put down and then I move forwards; there are many times when I want to leave a bag behind, but for whatever reason, I am not ready.

Our baggage exacts its costs in different ways.  The way we deal with other people is strongly determined by our own baggage.  Perhaps at some point in our life we picked up a bag that had to do with an personal encounter with another individual.  Now every time we deal with that individual, or someone similar, that bag weighs heavier and pulls us down - we are unable to continue moving forward unburdened, and so our pace slows, sometimes stopping progress completely.

Our baggage also exacts personal cost.  The more bags we carry and the more they weigh creates stress.  Our bodies are naturally designed to process a certain amount of stress, but at a certain point (everyone is different here) our bodies are unable to move forward because of the stress.  The amount of sleep we get drops and the quality of sleep diminishes, leaving both our body and our mind unhealthy.  Our focus levels decrease, our appetite craves unhealthy food, our psyche seeks out negativity instead of positivity.  We become stagnant.

Our baggage also has the effect of limiting our vision.  No longer will we see the big picture, choosing instead to focus on the little things, not seeing others but only seeing ourselves.  We develop tunnel vision and our drive aims to service ourself instead of providing service to others.  Our spiritual focus becomes corrupt, raising our bags as idols.  We worship past experiences instead of moving forwards into the next experiences the universe has prepared.  In essence we put ourselves into a bag and close it, forbidding anything beyond its exterior to positively act upon us.  This is a very dangerous place.

Too often we are convinced that letting go of our bags is the unsafe decision.  Some of our bags we have carried around since we were very young, and they have become comfortable - letting go of them, no matter how healthy it might be, seems akin to abandoning an old friend with whom you share a rich history.  Know that anything weighing you down, anything prohibiting you from moving forwards at a healthier pace, is unnecessary.  Putting down some of your bags may be the hardest thing you ever do, but upon that authentic release, you will feel lighter, freer, and happier.  You will move forward.

The airline industry has forced us to be more efficient with our travel, to be more attentive to our cargo, and to generally focus on what we bring with us.  We are cognizant of our baggage and recognize the costs associated with traveling heavy and the benefit of traveling light.  I implore you to do the same on your universal journey.  Take time to look over your bags, say goodbye to them, and let them go.  I pray that any traveller following behind you encounters a path strewn with abandoned baggage and observes footprints moving at a lighter, less burdened pace.

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