About 20 years ago, as a theatre student, there was a particular play that I loved exploring. I even got a scholarship for directing part of it. „The traveller without a luggage“ by Jean Anouilh, or in French, „Le Voyageur sans bagage“ was fascinating me, and today I realised why.
Since my youth, I remember how freedom was essential for me. Running long distances gave me a sense of freedom of movement and a quiet mind, and surfing was an enormous joy of being in nature where life demands are not relevant, and thinking slows down.
Anouilh’s play tells a story of a veteran of World War I who suffers from amnesia and trying to regain his memory. When he discovers his former cruel past as a young man who used to kill animals for sport, pushed his best friend down a flight of stairs, broke his back, and other terrible things he did to his family, he decides to turn his back to his violent identity and face a new way. At the end of the play, he steps towards an unknown future with a mysterious young boy that lost his parents in a boat accident as an infant.
When there is no past, the future seems better.
The young boy’s character represents naivety, innocence, and hope for healing for the future. Anouilh’s play is about the freedom to let go of the past and renavigate your future. Many of us are easily caught by past stories, small and big, challenging our well being when they appear mainly as emotionally charged thoughts. And the question is, how can we step out of the habitual mind and find freedom from past stories?
Who would I be without my past?
Most people tend to hold on to their stories and define themselves by them. It is not easy to let those go. Who would I be without what my parents did to me, or my ex-wife, or my best friend, or life, or myself? Without my achievements, degrees, failures, or success, who would I be?
A short-acting exercise.
Imagine you are now playing the main character of Anouilh’s play, and you don’t remember your past anymore. How does it feel to have no history? How does it meet your body right now? When I asked the actor who played Gaston (the main character in Anouilh’s play), his answer was light, very easy unrooted floating in the space. And he took this lightness into his character artwork.
It might be a relief, a sense of freedom to have no past for some, but it can be terrifying for others. As you read these words, are you thinking of your history right now? Probably no. Does it make you feel less?
You don’t need to let go of your past completely, but it’s good to notice when your part doesn’t let you go completely.
When we are embodied, we are present.
We have no past and future when we dance or practise yoga poses. Sometimes we don’t even remember our names, which is not relevant in spiritual practice. We are just there. I can find myself dancing around the room or practising headstands, and thinking about things to be done. In those situations, I have enough space inside to realise that these thoughts are not so important right now. Then I choose to bring my attention back to the body. Embodiment practice can direct you to the present moment, where past and future subsides for a little while.
The soul flourishes in the present.
The mind floats between past and future while the soul flourishes in the present moment. Our most profound expression, the soul, loves the present moment, the only place it shows up. We cannot touch our souls deeply when we overthink and plan. We are also in touch with our soul through pain. When past pain arises, we can connect to our soul as we feel the pain in the present moment if we embrace it and allow ourselves to feel it without adding any stories or comments. Of course, many people make fantastic art from their pain and challenging life experiences. Still, those masterpieces’ magical process of creativity is performed or observed only in the present moment.
The sweet spot
When I practice a yoga pose and find this moment where I am fully present in the body, it feels like I want to stay there forever. It feels like a sweet pull towards something good, like the same sensation you have just before falling asleep or when you look at a baby falling asleep, you know they are going towards a good place.
This experience may sometimes arrive on the dance floor, often towards the end of a session. After some release of the body and ease of mind, some tenderness comes, and the level of sweetness rises. After years of teaching conscious dance, I notice the goodness in the air at the end of a session. Even when we dance online, people become so kind, tender and sweet to each other. And that is the most profound meaning of our practice, to come to this point of pure consciousness where the heart is open and love flourishes. There is no judgement of any kind, just the pure essence of being with other beings.
How can I apply this in my routine?
It’s nice to experience this sweetness when you practice, especially in a group, but how you keep it in your routine is the million euro/dollar question. Eckhart Tolle speaks about alertness. The moment you realise that you are triggered by anything, past thoughts of regret or shame, or pride, or future worries, that is the place where the chance of awakening hides.
How do I do it?
It is the same as on the dance floor or during meditation or any embodiment practice. Feel your body, feel your feet, notice your breath. When I breathe with awareness, I open a space where the mind can transform into a new dimension. When I listen intensely to the sounds around me, the silence between sounds, words or noise, I am more present. I AM MORE PRESENT when I open my eyes and observe the objects around me, their shapes, their colours, and appreciate their uniqueness. Then, I try to bring my attention to the fact that I am aware, present and conscious of consciousness, which brings me back to the sweet spot.
More than running a marathon or surfing a nice swell, the moment I am aware that I am triggered by past or future stories and awakened back to the present moment, I can experience freedom more profoundly. Like a traveller without luggage, I walk in lightness and ease, naively and innocently, to the unknown and unexisting future.