If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it twenty times: Letting go of our egoic baggage is the linchpin for spiritual growth. We can meditate all day long for years, but if we don’t let go of our stuff, we’ll still live from a place of ego and never feel liberated.
It’s a huge help in letting go to identify what I call the “hunks” of baggage we all carry. In other words, the main areas where we need to focus our “letting go” energy.
Here are my three main hunks. My hope is that detailing mine will help you identify yours.
1. The need to be a “doer”
What do I mean by ‘doer?’ Feeling like I need to produce. The opposite would be lazy.
Not surprisingly, when I was a kid I developed a self-perception that I was lazy. Frankly, I was a pretty normal kid who liked to watch his television shows and play his sports. But my five older siblings were all super-active type A’s and my dad was a type A+ CEO of a Fortune 500 company. So compared to them, I was a lazy sloth.
That kind of thing sticks with people throughout adulthood. In my Washington career it manifested as compensating by trying to be the guy who was “on the ball.” Who always wrote stuff down. Never forgot to carry through on what I said I’d do. In my Hollywood writing career it was always hustling to come up with story ideas for the shows I worked on.
The lazy kid who loved TV
Now that I’m writing these articles it’s about doing my all to write at least eight articles a month, through good times and bad. That manifests in feeling something tugging at me most mornings, urging me to produce. To ‘do.’ To not be that lazy kid who loved nothing more than watching Bonanza reruns every day after school.
And in fact, I’m battling this right now as I write this. How? I have a three hour layover in Minneapolis on my way from Wisconsin to California. So in furtherance of my ‘doer’ pathology, I figured I’d use my long layover to write an article. So here I am, banging away on my computer in the food court among a sea of masked travelers.
I need to let that go. It’s just a bunch of energy stuck in my lower self (I literally feel it in my lower stomach area) that needs to be freed so it can go where it wants to go — which is up.
I’ve been working to become aware of this each morning, then relax and let it go. It’s a tricky balance I’m trying to achieve because I don’t want to not write. I just want to get to the point of writing in a more relaxed, healthy and unpressurized way. Any of you writers out there will understand how hard this can be.
2. The need to be viewed as a ‘winner,’ especially in tennis
I was a good athlete growing up. I was always “one of the best” in tennis, basketball, volleyball, track and even badminton (which I loved — what a fun sport). And it was a heck of a lot of fun.
The downside is that this became embedded inside me as a self-worth, ego thing. I’m a “winner” if I win, and a “loser” if I lose. Perfectly normal, but baggage is baggage. And I have a lot of it in this area.
Dealing with tennis butterflies
These days it comes out almost exclusively in the area of tennis where I still play in senior and club tournaments. It manifests in a feeling of nervousness in the weeks, days, hours and minutes before my matches. It’s that queasy, uneasy feeling of free-floating butterflies that fly in and out of my stomach as they please.
A big part of me gets mad at myself that this happens. I’m 57 and still sweating out playing competitive tennis matches? Objectively speaking, it’s absurd.
Except that it makes absolute sense that I get nervous. Why? Because all of that egoic junk that I stored in the sports area as a kid is still there.
Let it go or it ain’t going anywhere
In fact, this one example is a valuable data point for proving what spiritual teachers like Mickey Singer propound: That we store all kinds of egoic baggage (samskaras in Sanskrit) inside us from our earliest days and unless we consciously let go of them they will remain there until the day we die.
What to do? I’ve worked hard lately on letting go of this tennis/winner baggage. I did a reasonably good job of it in a tournament recently (you can read about that experience here).
Now I’m dealing with it in a tournament I’m in in Maryland this weekend. It’s the finals match of a club tournament against a guy (kid?) who’s half my age. As my “stuff” has been coming up the past few days, I’ve worked hard to notice it, relax and then let it go.
I know what you’re thinking. Worrying? Everybody worries. True. But I grew up a massive worrier so it’s a bigger “hunk” for me than most.
I was born a sensitive kid so stuff got to me more than others. One way that sensitivity manifested was worrying about lots of things. Like whether my mom would die in a car accident on her many sojourns up to Los Angeles (fifty miles from our house in Newport Beach) with my dad for business events.
In high school it was worrying about whether I’d get into a “suitable” college, in a family where my older siblings had already gone to the likes of Harvard, Stanford and Wellesley. Or worrying about whether a relationship was going to work out.
In my current life, it comes out in worrying about my kids. I don’t even have much to worry about with them, but I do it nonetheless. So I’m doing my best to notice when I’m worrying about one of them and then asking whether it’s warranted. Usually, it isn’t. I wrote a whole piece about this that you can find here.
The things we carry
As you can see, most of this egoic baggage/hunk stuff comes down to psychotherapy 101. It’s the big things that happened to us while growing up that we haven’t let go of and that, therefore, still adversely affect us in adulthood.
Most of us have one core issue. Mine, because of my family situation, was about doing/succeeding/winning.
What is yours? Weight and body image? Did your dad always tell you that you were dumb so you struggle with feeling inadequate, unintelligent? Maybe you grew up poor so you constantly worry about money?
Whatever it is, give this a shot. Try and identify your core issue (it’s probably obvious). Then maybe two or three more areas where you store egoic baggage. Stick with the main ones.
Then practice becoming aware when those buttons get pushed. And when they do, immediately relax. Then let them go. Take your hands off the rocks in the stream and watch the rocks flow away, as I wrote in this recent article.
It’s about letting go of yourself and thereby cleaning up your inner house. You’re the one who has to live in there. Wouldn’t it be nice to make it as peaceful and comfortable as possible?