The Rock You Are Carrying on Your Head (& What To Do About It)

Tiny mental habits niggle at us and wear us down. They sap the energy from us and contribute to the tension and anxiety that is always with us.

Here is what you can do about it.

I went to meet my teacher – guru actually – before I came to the US for doctoral studies.

My mind was troubled – it always was in those days – and I had many questions.

I am sure he addressed them but do not recall what he said.

I do remember gentle admonition he gave me: “Srikumar, the train is powerful enough to carry you and your suitcases. You do not have to keep the suitcases on your head. Put them down.”

It was vaguely comforting but I had no clue about what a profound learning he had just shared with me.

I now do.

Everyday we carry a suitcase on our heads. Every day we carry a burden we should not be carrying. We feel fear and anxiety and nervousness and self-loathing and insecurity.

We think we are not as good as others think and that everyone will soon find this out.

We worry that what we have spent so many years accumulating will be stripped from us.

We fear the global forces that scream at us from news headlines and the impact they will have on society and, eventually us.

These are the suitcases we are carrying.

Seriously, when is the last time you were completely OK? When there was truly nothing bothering you or of concern?

Most of us cannot even remember that time. We are so used to the suitcases we carry.

We try to fix our internal turbulence by external action.

We feel lonely so we rush about trying to find a companion, even ‘the one.’

We fear being fired and jobless so we restrain ourselves at work and try to put ‘our best foot forward’ and ‘not rock the boat.’

How do you put down those darn suitcases?

Just be aware that you are carrying them.

Watch the stories you tell yourself and how quickly they arise and how rapidly force you into emotional domains you do not want to inhabit.

Say you have worked hard on a proposal and submitted it to a client who was ‘in the bag.’

He promised to get back to you by the end of the week but did not. Nor the following week.

And your phone calls were not returned or your emails answered.

Think of how many what-if scenarios you generate. Stuff that you should not have put in the proposal. Stuff that you should have but did not. Deadlines that could have been made more flexible. And so much more.

And the stories don’t end there.

You think of what will happen to your company and you and your plans for the future and how these are upended and more.

Just recognize that they are stories.

Once you have truly seen that these stories have no power except what you give them, you begin reclaiming your life.

Stuff happens.

Watch it happen and enjoy it.

Sometimes you like what happens and sometimes you don’t.

Tell yourself stories that you can enjoy even when things happen that you don’t like.

You go to an expensive restaurant and the service is lousy and the waitress messes up the orders.

You can be royally pissed off. Or you can decide that you will not give any waitress the power to determine how you feel and sit back to enjoy a dish that is strange to you.

Do this will all of the things that bother you each day.

That is how you put down your suitcases.