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The Weight On Our Shoulders

Today during meditation I used a mantra. For those of you who don’t know, a mantra is simply a syllable, word, or phrase that is repeated during meditation. And the one that popped into my mind really had an impact on me: I am free. I am free. I am free. And as I repeated this to myself I felt such sadness. Tears came to my eyes and even now as I’m writing this it’s happening again. What is it about being free that touches me so close to the bone? I think it’s because I really can’t remember a time when I’ve felt free; free from this heavy weight constantly on my shoulders. Sound familiar?

I’ve lived with this "weight" ever since I can remember. It has permeated through most every moment of my life (except when I’ve been on stage or a set). I can still clearly recall an experience I had during my post-engagement trip to Maine. My fiancé and I came back to our hotel room to take a nap just because we could do so. I immediately felt anxious just thinking about doing something so “lazy”. How could I relax when I had accomplishments to achieve? As I watched my husband-to-be sleeping soundly, I had to convince myself it would be ok to just enjoy this moment and stop worrying about the future.

Maybe this stems from my childhood. As the child of divorced parents, I did feel an obligation to hold things together. I felt a weight on my shoulders even then. (This tendency to hold things together is probably why I’m so quick to take on too much, only adding to the weight I feel.) As I got older the weight got heavier, as I felt the constant pressure of achieving my dream of becoming a successful actress. (From the time I was five I knew I wanted to be an actress and nothing could deter me.)

From the moment I graduated from the High School of Performing Arts I carried this weight of having to “make it” everywhere I went. And no matter what I was doing, I couldn’t get rid of the persistent thought that I should be doing more to get further along in my career. I really believed that life didn't count until I was successful. Crazy, right? I still experience it now from time to time, although it’s definitely different. With marriage and a child my priorities have changed somewhat, but the weight remains.

Nowadays this burden comes from feeling trapped in my life. Trapped by all of the responsibilities I have. I know I'm not alone in these feelings. So many women around me are juggling the same responsibilities and feeling the intense pressure of keeping it all together. For me it sometimes feels as if I will never escape the sense of being trapped; and when I look toward the future I just see more of the same. This is when I have to remind myself to stay in the present and stop looking at things through the lens of the past. This is why meditation is so important. Meditation gives you the opportunity to sit and watch your thoughts pass by without judging them or reacting to them habitually.

Meditation teaches you that your thoughts have no power on their own; you are the one that interprets them and gives them the ability to influence you.

Wise people have said that heaven is a decision you must make. And it’s true. At every moment you have the option to be non-reactive and not “buy” into your negative thoughts.

Nowadays I experience incredible peace during the act of mediation. And that peace does carry over into the rest of my day, making difficult moments much easier to handle. So you see, the ability to let go of the weight on our shoulders is within reach. We just have to be willing to learn a new way of dealing with our thoughts.

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