No. This is not a budget airline’s campaign line! But a simple Life philosophy. It is as easy-to-practice a tenet as it is forgettable and so it doesn’t really get used much or championed.
All of us fellow voyagers in Life are traveling with far too much excess baggage than what we really need. There are three forms of excess baggage we saddle our lives with:
- Emotional Baggage: Memories pertaining to past hurts, insults, events, experiences. Some of these are heart-wrenching and keep our spirit nailed causing deep anguish, pain and untold suffering.
- Physical Baggage: More than 50 % of the stuff that inhabits our homes__furniture to clothes to documents to kitchenware to shoes to display-ware__are the ones we have not used in months and, most often, in years. So, our homes are overloaded with ‘waste’ which can be useful for others when given away
- Baggage that never was and that never may well be: This is the baggage of worry and anxiety. Of things and events that you fear will happen to you and because of which you are unable to live free and in the moment
All three forms of excess baggage must be set down to travel in comfort. The second form, the physical baggage, may still be reconcilable. As in, if you have a large living space, you can afford to accumulate, save or hoard the stuff that you don’t always use. But the baggage falling in categories 1 and 3 are just not worth carrying. In a way, Life is pretty much like an airline company. You sure do end up paying a heavy price for traveling with heavy, excess baggage! In a Life context, that price is the inability to live in and experience the magic of the present moment, of the NOW!
I learned the value of traveling light and traveling smart from experience. I used to, about two decades ago, work for a boss who was very good to me. He gave me a lot of room to do my work. And gave me additional support and resources to get my work done. For instance, he would allow me plane travel when others in my rank were not allowed. He approved my use of limos for local transport when others were asked to use public transport. He allowed me a business entertainment allowance which was not allowed for anyone else in the company but him. I believed he was justly supporting me because I was the best performer on the team, achieving, and often exceeding, every single target I was given. To be sure, I never misused or abused my position. I only employed the extra resources available to me to deliver unprecedented results month on month! Then, something must have happened either at a leadership level or at an audit level__of which I was not aware. One fine morning, my boss called me and asked me to explain the use of limos in Mumbai when the city has so many ‘cool cabs’ (air-conditioned public taxis). I said I have been using these limos for over 18 months now and I did not see why the question was being raised now. My boss, not always known for his good temper, said I had no business asking those questions. He placed a couple of my expense claims in front of me, marked several bills in red ink rejecting my claims and said all additional out-of-rank perks to me were being withdrawn with immediate effect. I was aghast. The way he came across to me, I felt, he was questioning my integrity. I walked back to my desk and sent him a detailed note justifying my claims, attached my resignation letter to my note and left the office immediately. He tried to reach me a few times on my home number (in those days, we didn’t have email or cell phones so widely available as now) but I refused to take his calls. For years after this episode, and my abrupt departure from that job, every time I met a former colleague or any reference to this former boss came up, I would be abrasive and abusive about him. I would call him a thankless opportunist, who used me, and dumped me ‘when his job was over’. I would say, brazenly, and with conceit, that I built the company up and upon my departure, things came crashing down. Each time I launched into such a tirade, I discovered I would be filled with negativity which would last for days. The memory of that unceremonious episode__the avoidable question on my integrity and my hasty, acrimonious exit__caused me great pain and suffering, each time it surfaced.
Years went by. And then, one fine day, while traveling to Boston, MA, (USA) I bumped into this former boss of mine at a book store in Harvard Square. We both found looking into each other’s eyes in a matter of a few seconds. Had I had an opportunity, I would have preferred not to talk to him. Because even in the first few nano-seconds of our encounter, the meeting of our eyes, I could feel the negativity in me for him rise violently. He spoke first.
Him: “Hey AVIS! Wonderful to see you man! Where have you been?”. So saying, he looked at his wife, who was with him, and introduced me to her. He said, “AVIS is the best professional I have worked with. He’s ethical, deadline-driven and extremely target-focused.”
I was surprised. In fact, amazed. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe it was my rage. Pent up over years of carrying the burden of the memory of that awful episode. Maybe it was my immaturity. Whatever it was, it just led me to discard all norms of dignity and I took on my boss, in full view of his wife, in that chance encounter.
Me: “Ethical? Ha! That would not cut much ice with me. Weren’t you the one that disallowed my claims, citing reasons of my questionable integrity, and withdrew all the perks due to me in just one hasty decision without even asking me to explain or wanting to listen to me?”
Even as his wife looked on, my former boss, perhaps sensing that his immediate leadership of the situation was required, responded calmly to clarify.
Him: “I want you to know there was no question about your integrity. I was under pressure from both the management and the auditors to explain why you alone were being singled out for such ‘special treatment’. My boss had advised me to be ‘perceivably’ fair to everyone on the team so that even a just reward should not be seen as favoritism. So, while disallowing your claims momentarily, I was planning to work on a raise and a grade promotion for you basis your outstanding performance so that I am seen as not having to make policy exceptions every single time. This is what I was calling you about. But you never called back. I let you go because I felt you will learn better from Life than if I tried to reach you and teach you.”
In a momentary flash everything became clear to me. Indeed. I had learned. I had begun to dislike the negativity I carried about him and that episode, for years, that I had now begun to not want to think about it anymore. In my former boss’ clarification, I felt both humbled and sorry. I apologized to him. He hugged me saying it was okay. We stepped into a coffee shop, And over the next couple of hours, I emerged cleansed and peaceful.
Back in my hotel room, that night, I looked out my window at the Charles River, and asked myself:
- How much negativity and years of boiling over could I have saved if I had not traveled without the baggage of that wasteful memory? It wasn’t at all about who was right or who was wrong or could the whole situation have been handled any better by both me and my former boss. What was gnawing at me was, wasn’t all this burden of carrying this angst, this grudge, imminently avoidable?
- What a wonderful opportunity to speak up, share, clear the air, resolve and resume, would have been missed if I had not come face-to-face with the man? Given a choice I would have preferred slinking away from the encounter! Couldn’t I have written to him, or called him, in these intervening years, to clear the air? What did I gain with refusing to face him and with carrying this baggage on for so many years?
That night of self-enquiry awakened me to a whole world of inner peace and introduced me to a new way of journeying through Life __ of traveling light! I discovered that there is no value in giving power to the past or arming the future.
Either effort leads to excess baggage that you don’t need. What you need to live is what you have in the now. Ask yourself what past memories are causing an inexplicable heaviness in you? Ask yourself what worries take your mind away from attending to the now? Burn your heaviness away by giving the present all your attention. Make a call, give a hug, simply forgive__do whatever that will bring you into the present. Stop worrying about what will or may happen in the future. Life is here and never in the future, just as it is not in the past! Most important, learn, and keep relearning, to offload all your baggage and travel light. You will then not only travel smart, but travel far too!