The Things We Carry: The Weight of Choices

I don’t usually read email in the morning.

Once I open my Inbox, invariably I will be drawn into it rather than greeting the day in a mindful, quiet, open manner. Even if what waits there is only a note from a friend, my attention and thoughts will then be off and running in a certain direction, a pebble cast into the still pool and now rippling outwards. Rather than opening ‘Pandora’s box’ (which is often how I view email and its near constant presence and intrusion in our lives), in the early morning I prefer to be present with what immediately enfolds and surrounds—breath, stiffness of body, trees and shifting light, quietude and inspiration, a cup of tea. I move gradually towards my work of writing, working longhand in my various notebooks, and avoiding the computer as long as possible. Even as a writer, too often anything is easier than writing (or editing, gods help us), and getting pulled into emails is an easy distraction.

The soul lives unplugged.

So it was somewhat out of the norm that I glanced at my email Inbox in the early hours of morning, and even more unusual that I chose to open the message from a colleague—a fellow ‘soul guide’ who is currently on a ‘personal sabbatical’, seeking new direction in life and new expressions for her soul gifts to offer the world. I sat beside the front window, a pot of steaming tea resting over the flame of a tea light in a cast iron tea pot warmer beside me, reading briefly through the note and learned that she is far away south in Costa Rica.

What a fine move, I smiled. Brilliant. How good that she has flown to someplace warm, moist and impossibly lush, to be nurtured in the depths of winter while she seeks to germinate new life. I have been feeling a deep sense of admiration of late for this woman, because in order to take the much needed pause from her working life and guiding others, she had to reach out and ask for financial help to make it happen. It requires temerity and guts to be so vulnerable, to ask humbly for support—and money—in order that we might do the deep thing that is calling us but seems beyond our reach and resources.

I celebrate this woman for being so deeply attuned to her soul’s guidance, to risk stepping away from the familiar path that has sustained her and assisted others for many years, and choosing to pause—listening, feeling, sensing. In a bold way, she is heeding the quiet voice, looking for what seeks to emerge through her, and welcoming it. Although her crowd funding venture did not, perhaps, unfurl as she might have initially hoped, I know that it offered her a wealth of unexpected offers and creative support. A great tide of goodness and generosity flowed back into her life, a sort of repayment for what she has offered and given out to others. Now she makes a leap of faith into the unknown, realizing as a ‘soul worker’ that such a move is always required in the process of personal enlargement, and trusting that those leaps are supported in unlooked for ways.

blossomSetting my small electronic tablet and its virtual stack of emails aside, I turned and gazed out the window at the pale grey of the approaching morning framed by a dark tangle of cypress boughs. As I sipped my English Breakfast tea and mused on my colleague’s quest, appreciating her inspiring vulnerability and soul courage, I found myself thinking how few of us would dare to do the same. We might dream of it, but most would hesitate and draw back, not only from the vulnerability of the asking and fear of the unknown, but also because of the things we choose to carry and remain tethered to.

Watching the trees wave their green feathered arms softly in the morning breeze, I considered the encumbrances this woman has relinquished in order to take her essential sabbatical—not only the nuts and bolts of logistics such as housing, work, and commitments, but also the less tangible things, including the stumbling block of pride, or notions of what she ‘should’ be doing as a woman of a certain age, and her own expectations of how the opportunity might look.


Like a soft grey dove, my mind kept circling back to rest on this branch of thought.

Our chosen encumbrances…

Everything in life has a price. So often the things we want or long for—a dog, new car, a lover, children, a garden, community, a house with a white picket fence—come with an invisible contract. Like the possessions and ‘stuff’ that we fill our houses with, carted from place to place, each thing has its own weight and a certain degree of pull upon our psyche. Often these objects, obligations, and roles form a part of our ego’s ‘provisional identity’, somehow delineating or describing who we are—or project ourselves to be.

Cradling a hand thrown artist’s mug in my hands and sipping my tea, watching my little winged friends feeding on the golden millet I had scattered earlier for them outdoors, I mused for a bit on my own encumbrances… the weight of the things I continue to choose to carry, considering both the price and reward of them.

As a nomad, many are the things that I and my partner have let go of, repeatedly paring down our life as the painted gypsy wagon rolls on again to a new campsite. Sometimes the letting go has included jobs, roles, community, and even friends, despite hopes and intentions of keeping the thread of connection tightly stitched to ones we have become fond of. Among other things, the roaming has meant letting go of owning a house, and embracing a different sense of ‘home’, and making sacrifices that other people at our stage of the life journey or age would perhaps not choose to embrace.

Some encumbrances travel with us, if not always in an actual physical sense—dogs, children, mother-in-law—but still surely exerting a psychic weight and gravitational pull. And then there are our habits and well-worn patterns, our shadows hovering close, never far away.

Everything to which we cling and carry involves a choice, even when it doesn’t seem to. And each has its price. Sometimes we remain with certain things—roles, situations, people, relationships, or actual items—simply because we have habituated to their weight or presence, like ’stuff’ in our house. We tend to be better at accumulating than letting go, more prone to inertia than movement. Seldom do we question whether such encumbrances continue to have real value, or whether they support who we are… or are becoming.

How often all these encumbrances impede the soul’s journey. They weigh us down, or hinder us from even stepping across the familiar threshold, whispering a hundred reasons why we mustn’t wander into the unknown or the tangled wood. (Until we face a crisis, and then suddenly find ourselves propelled in the most uncomfortable manner of being broken open.)

If your house burned tomorrow in a fire, what would you truly miss? If your life was ending, what would you most wish to cling to just a little longer? What do you most fear… and resist?

Sitting with my morning ‘cuppa’ in the morning cool of the cottage, watching the dear little birds through the window, I am quietly reflective. I salute all the brave souls I know who make choices and sacrifices to follow their inner calling, relinquishing familiar encumbrances and willingly shouldering new ones, searching for something deeper than merely happiness.

My decision to spend considerable time in California, writing and working in a place that nourishes me in a profound way that Hawaii does not, certainly comes with a price. Apart from the actual dollars spent on my studio and airline tickets, my extended absence from our home in Kailua places its own encumbrance upon the life I share with my dear mate and doglets. Like an intriguing stone in my hand, it is a weight that I continually consider, turning it over in my palm, examining its subtle patterns and shape. Is my choice worth the cost?

I do realize that such things cannot be measured in currency units or any conventional measures of scale, but I repeatedly reflect on whether what I gain merits its price. For now, the answer remains yes, and I am deeply blessed to have a partner who supports my journey and work in the world, along with my desire to be immersed in a particular landscape—soulscape—that feeds and inspires, though it adds to our encumbrances.

Sometimes the weight we carry is that of our beloved, or something belonging primarily to them, for such is the contract of marriage and longterm relating. If the encumbrance serves their soul’s journey, can we shoulder it with grace, even when it adds to our own burden?

In my heart, I feel gentle waves of blue alongside those of deep contentment. A paradox, perhaps, but the soul’s journey is seldom an entirely easy one, and the path is often rocky and overgrown with brambles.

Repeatedly I ask others (and myself), What are you willing to give up in order to become something much larger and more authentic?

Perhaps the other side of that coin is, What are the things that you continue to choose to carry, what is their true weight, and do they serve your journey in a positive manner?

If the answer is not clear to you, perhaps some soul searching is in order.

My teacup sits empty. The early hours of a quiet morning beckon. I am quiet and wide open like the dawn sky, full of tenderness for the world and all its inhabitants, my eyes soft with emotion. Soon I will reach for my notebook and old fountain pen, settling into Morning Pages and then the day’s work of editing. Spring buds and blossoms forth around me, and a new moon cycle begins, once again gracing the dark hours with silvery light.

What will this day bring, and how will I greet its shifting currents? May it be with an open heart and senses cast ajar, grateful for an abundance of blessings and mysterious grace, mindful of my choices and chosen encumbrances on this soul journey to offer something of beauty and value to the ‘more-than-human’ world.