The image that popped to mind for me was of carrying two satchels – one filled with heavy stones (burdens) and the other filled with feathers (blessings). I imagined myself walking down a path carrying these two satchels. How one would be digging into my shoulder and slowing me down. The other, barely noticeable. This is often the way we walk through life – focusing on the burdens rather than the blessings.
“But what if there’s just one bundle?” I asked my minister. “What if burdens and blessings are one and the same?”
Perhaps it’s in framing our inheritance within the constructs of good and bad that we feel weighed down. What if it is simply that which we carry, that which is?
So would I choose for my “single bundle” metaphor to be a bag of feathers? Probably not. I might drop it along the way and not even notice. Or I might open it, only to have a gust of wind come and blow the feathers away.
I’ll take the bag of rocks. And it doesn’t have to be a burden. I might use a few to make a cairn, marking a place on the path that I want to remember or come back to. Perhaps I could use a few to help me cross a stream without getting too wet. I imagine those rocks in my bag, rubbing against each other on the journey, perhaps smoothing some of the rougher surfaces and polishing each other along the way. I might give some away as a token of appreciation. But most of all, I want to feel the weight of my inheritance as I walk along, letting it anchor me to myself.
Okay, so I love metaphor. It is not a secret. I love to immerse myself in poetry and let the words and imagery wash away the stickiness of humanity – whoops, there I go again! Perhaps metaphor is part of my inheritance.
Metaphors are a beautiful modality for understanding our inner lives and journeys. They can be a very useful tool in coaching and in developing self-awareness. But where does the rubber meet the road? How do we apply these metaphors to the practicalities of our lives?
One of the gifts of metaphor is its ability to help us bypass the intellect. We can apply our learning through the body and the intuition, and perhaps from there begin to impact the workings of the mind.
For example, I now have an image of a backpack of rocks and stones that I carry with me through life. I call up this image and experience it in the moment; my body imagines the constant weight upon my shoulders, I notice the strength in my legs and the steadiness of my feet planted on the floor. I am aware of the power in my body. I feel strong, and I appreciate this bundle that I am carrying.
In a different moment, I might be feeling weighed down by an experience, by a pattern of behavior in myself that I’m re-visiting or by a familiar voice of criticism in my head. Again, I can bring to awareness that backpack of stones. I can see myself opening it and finding that rock – the one that is not serving me any longer. I watch myself take that rock out of my backpack and put it down. I can choose to leave it behind. I re-zip my backpack and put it back on my shoulders and notice the change in weight. What is the impact of that lessened weight? Perhaps I feel my shoulders relax and my breath deepen. Perhaps I take up walking again with a spring in my step.
Down the road, I may hear the same critical voice again. I can remind myself that I have chosen to leave that rock behind. I can imagine myself revisiting the place where I put it down and deciding it needs to be rolled down the hill atop which I’m standing. In my mind’s eye, I give it a push and watch it roll, end over end, picking up speed as it goes, getting farther and farther away until it is no longer in view.
This kind of visualization can be used as an on-going practice. It builds the muscles of awareness and empowerment and can lessen anxieties and feelings of helplessness. It opens the way for other beneficial practices, including gratitude and mindfulness practices.
Today, I am grateful for these stones I carry, my inheritance that I carry through the world. I offer you these words, like a stone from my bag, so that you may explore what you carry as your inheritance.
What are you grateful for? And what do you carry as a gift for others?
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