Barbara, age fifty-three, shared this story with me. “I think I was born old. Somehow I managed to get myself born to parents whom I didn’t trust at all. I remember, when I was four years old, riding my tricycle while my mother was walking. We lived in Fort Bliss, Texas. We had to cross railroad tracks. I almost refused to cross them. I kept asking my mother, ‘Are you sure there’s no train coming?’

“It was the desert. You could see for miles and miles. But I didn’t trust her word. She had already lied to me on many occasions by then, and I knew from early on that I was pretty much on my own. My father was absent most of the time, and my siblings were in the same predicament I was. I don’t feel sorry for myself. This was my path, for whatever reason, and I have learned very well how to take good care of me.”

We are spiritual beings on a human journey who learn lessons as we go along. We arrive empty-handed and unencumbered. Yet somehow, as we travel life’s path we start to acquire baggage—be it family, academia, business, or pleasure—to accommodate the journey. This runs the gamut of backpack, fanny pack, brief bag, garment bag, accessory bag, duffel bag, tote bag, book bag, gym bag, camera bag, and handbag.

Sandi shared, “I believe I’m here to finish with many issues, including the emotional issues that block me from living as my authentic self. This human existence is far too short to waste time reliving the past and carrying emotional baggage just weighs me down. When I leave this body, I want to leave as light as possible.”

I’m sure you can remember a situation where you overheard part of a whispered conversation that went something like this: “I should tell you, he’s got baggage.”

Red flags went up immediately. You got the distinct impression that the guy’s trouble. What you probably didn’t know was whether it was with relationships, addictions, diseases, or debt. And that’s only the beginning. The potential list of “baggage” is lengthy, and none of us is immune.

Many of the bags we carry on life’s journey are small and easy to manage. They’re the type easily stowed in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of us for easy access when we travel by plane. They carry our essentials, the things we want to keep close at hand, such as medication, toiletries, a change of clothes, a book, a laptop, a cell phone, an iPod—the items we don’t want to be without.

“Everyone’s got emotional baggage; the question is, what are you doing to unpack that trunk and put it away, so your lovers, friends, and relatives don’t have to keep tripping over it?” —SHARI SCHREIBER, life strategist

The baggage that’s bulky or much too heavy to lug around is checked in upon arrival at the airport, where we receive a claim check for identification and pickup at our destination. These pieces typically contain items that we could do without if we had to. We want them, but they’re nonessential. They’re loaded into the cargo hold for the flight and then offloaded onto a conveyor belt in the baggage claim area, where they await retrieval.

As we travel through life, the overhead compartment–size baggage that we tend to keep within arm’s reach is a word picture for smaller, daily concerns that affect us. The emotional equivalent of these might include frustration, stubbornness, anger, boredom, and jealousy.

The baggage we accumulate and carry around with us is tied to a specific self, its core characteristic, an associated wellness, and a shadow side. These include:

1. Self-preservation, survival, physical wellness, and self-destruction

2. Self-gratification, pleasure, occupational wellness, and self-denial

3. Self-definition, personal power, social wellness, and self-importance

4. Self-acceptance, love, emotional wellness, and self-rejection

5. Self-expression, creativity, environmental wellness, and self-repression

6. Self-reflection, intuition, intellectual wellness, and self-absorption

7. Self-knowledge, divine connection, spiritual wellness, and self-unawareness

Because of the mind-body connection, even these seemingly small items, left unresolved, can negatively impact our body.

The larger, cumbersome pieces that are placed in the freight area are a symbol for deep, burdensome issues that have a profound, underlying impact. The emotional equivalent of these might include non-forgiveness, depression, revenge, and guilt.

These items, left unresolved, can have tremendous negative physical ramifications on our body. Physical illness that stems from emotional wounds requires emotional healing to occur along with physical healing.

I invite you to evaluate the seven aspects of self (listed above) that comprise your personality. In doing so, you’ll discover what no longer serves you well. With this knowledge you can gauge where changes need to be made—people, places, and things you need to add, alter, or remove from your life—so that you can move forward unencumbered and unleash your potential; so that you can move forward lighter and freer to create a joyful and abundant life—now!