Blog by Alan Seale, April 19, 2021, Ordinary Life
Lou Holtz, an American college football coach, is well-known for creating champion teams as well as for his practical, down-to-earth, pithy sayings. One in particular resonates strongly for me these days: It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. He’s talking about the metaphorical “load” of the worries and troubles that we carry in life.
Yet through my own experience, I’ve learned that the problem is not actually the way you carry the load; the problem is trying to “carry the load” at all. Having been faced with some big challenges and losses over the last year, I come back to this mantra again and again: Set it all down. All of it.
A deeper wisdom keeps telling me, Stop trying to carry it and just be present with it. Listen to it. It will show you what you need to know. And indeed, when I set it down and give both myself and the situation some breathing space, it does indeed start showing me what I need to know.
We all have worries and concerns – for ourselves, for others, and for our world. We have challenges and responsibilities in our families, companies, and communities. Most of us want to live a fulfilling life, to take care of those we love, to help those in need, to hold space for difficult situations, to do what needs to be done.
However, trying to “carry the load” of any situation, whether literally or metaphorically, is usually not the answer. Much as we hope it will help, carrying the situation on our shoulders or in our hearts is not going to fix it or make it all right. Taking on responsibilities that are not ours is exhausting. Everyone has to walk their own journey – no one else can walk our journey for us, nor can we walk theirs for them. Life is a giant classroom, and we’re all learning as we go.
What we can do, however, is be fully present with what is happening. We can show up with our full attention and awareness. We can use all of our intelligences – belly, heart, and head – to listen, sense, and feel what is at the core of the situation and work from the inside out. We can walk alongside one another, give each other a hand for steadiness or a shoulder to lean on in hard times. We can support one another in finding the clarity, strength, courage, and focus needed to go forward.
Doing that with coaching clients and workshop participants has always come easily for me. However, when it comes to people and circumstances closer to home, or situations which threaten something that I hold dear, or to social issues about which I am passionate, it gets harder. And sometimes I’m so wrapped up in what is happening that I’m not aware that I’ve taken it on – that I’m carrying it. When I catch myself starting to carry the load of a situation or circumstance, I come back to that simple mantra: Set it all down. All of it.
Staying with that intention and focus every day, I am discovering again that when I don’t try to “carry” the people and situations that worry or concern me, I can actually make more of a difference. I can be much more present and available for what I truly can bring to the moment. I am able to cut through the “noise” of the situation and get to the essence. That’s where transformation happens. And it begins with shifts in how we see things, how we think, and how we sense and perceive what the situation is really about. Inner transformation leads to higher levels of awareness and understanding. Which can then lead to clear, intentional, and effective action.
What is the load that you carry? What are the worries and concerns that occupy your mind and heart? What could be possible if you stopped trying to “carry” them and set them down? What if instead you focused on being fully present with what is happening and trusted that it would show you what you needed to know?