"On the Way"
A few weeks ago as my wife and I were waiting in line at a busy airport jammed with summer travelers, I overhead the conversation of the people waiting in line behind us. They were laden down with too many heavy, overstuffed suitcases and lamenting the fact that they packed way too much stuff for their trip. It struck me how emblematic this was of how many if not most of us travel through life in general.
It seems to me that whether or not you believe in “God,” each and every one of us is on some sort of spiritual journey - we all seek deeper truth, greater wisdom, peace and happiness as we walk the path of our lives. Interestingly enough, when I look at the great wisdom traditions of most world religions, I find that they all offer a very similar piece of advice about this spiritual journey: travel lightly.
Before sending out his disciples on a mission to spread the good news about the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells them to take nothing for their journey – no bags filled with their things, only a walking stick and the clothes on their backs. Far from giving advice about how to pack a suitcase for a trip, this is a poignant metaphor. Jesus teaches that we find deeper peace when we travel through life without the burdens of all the stuff that weighs us down - our possessions, careers, ambitions, our tightly-held ideas.
The Buddha teaches his disciples something very similar when he warns against the poison of “craving” for more than what we have and “clinging” too tightly to all we possess as we journey through our lives.
There is a “saying” from the writings of the 4th century “Desert Monks” that likewise gives some similar advice about traveling lightly. A wise old abbot gives this advice to his younger charges:
On a spiritual path
it is not possessing something that is harmful
but being too attached to it.
As I was thinking about those summer travelers in that busy airport regretting the fact that they brought too much stuff with them for their journey, I remembered something priest and author, Richard Rohr, once said:
In all the global wisdom traditions,
authentic spirituality always involves letting go.
In our consumer society we are told that more is supposed to be better
but once we see what is trapping us and keeping us from freedom
we should see the need to let it go.
True liberation is letting go of our false self, letting go of our cultural biases.
Freedom is letting go of obsessively wanting more and better things,
letting go of our fear of loss and death.
Freedom is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others
and letting go of our need to always be right.
In this summer season, as many people find themselves “on the road,” we all have a great opportunity to reflect on how much we carry with us on our journey through life. This is a good season to let go of all those attachments that weigh us down along the way.
There is a wisdom saying attributed to the Buddha - a wonderful mantra to recite as we travel on our way:
In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?