I once had a very gentle, funny, creative and intelligent friend who was emotionally labile. My lovely friend told me she’d been seeing a therapist weekly to help battle disturbing, negative thoughts. Onerous ideas would enter her mind, burrow in, and never let go. The poor girl might, for instance, get a notion someone was upset with her. Even though the disturbing thought had in no way been validated, once implanted, the wild seed would not shake loose. Thought became focus, focus led to obsession, obsession bloomed into panic, and panic produced a state of constant anxiety.

When the “talking cure” ceased working, the girl’s shrink tendered a prescription, directing, “These pills will help you eliminate distracting thoughts.”

That was a brilliant move by this seasoned caretaker of the mind. It’s possible the magic pill did involve some subtle chemical adjustment that warded off the neurological chain that produces obsessive thought; more likely, it was a placebo whose imagined purpose, once implanted in my suggestible friend’s brain, took up residence there. With the new medicine, my friend’s entire aspect changed: the distracting thought pill transformed the lens through which she viewed her life. She went from grief to relief within days.

So here’s the lesson: we can do this on our own. In the old energy, we would label a condition, seek treatment for a cluster of symptoms, and thereafter use the syndrome as a kind of protective calling card. I’ve learned through experience that a more lasting “remedy” is one that restores autonomy and authority over our mental and emotional well-being. That tool is free will.

Wayne Dyer said it best: “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” Every thought, every belief, every idea — every representation we make internally about the world and others becomes the reality through which we move. We can’t alter our emotional chemistry, but what we can do is make a conscious choice to change the labels, the way we fix an idea in these busy minds of ours. Change your mind, and you change your world.

I’m not exemplary in this area; in truth, I’ve been a master at baggage-toting. What I have learned to do over the years, though, is to embrace the free will that is our legacy from the Creator, Grandfather, Great Spirit, the Atman — whatever name we give the Source that willed us into existence with only words. We have that same potential in microcosm: we are constantly declaring and creating.

In writing this article, I had to face myself and the fact that I have been a consummate over-packer. I’ve been truly expert at cramming all kinds of undesirable goodies into my mental and emotional rollaboard. Past wrongs, insults, traumas, humiliations, abandonments, separations, exclusions and bullyings all have been neatly compacted, air-sealed, folded and brought on board in my life. Why carry such calamitous cargo? I guess I felt vindicated in this way. I’m the good guy, they’re the bad guys: a simple division, Harry Potter style, but it spoke to the part of us that divides the world into right and wrong and wants everyone to take sides.

Cedric Red Feather has helped me with this immensely by repeating as a mantra: “Divide the world into good and evil and you have judgments.” Judgments only create more division, more separation. The Mandan Prophet Lone Man tried to teach the people hundreds of years ago: “There is no good and evil, only wisdom and ignorance.”

I realize that, on the road to enlightenment, we humans will face a few shadow moments on the journey. If we look deeply within, we will discover it is we who keep ourselves in darkness. By releasing baggage, we remove blockages to the light.

Send that baggage where all flight cargo mysteriously goes — to the Island of Lost Luggage. Leave it there permanently; don’t reclaim it. We don’t need it anymore. Eventually, we will feel only love and compassion for people and situations that “wronged” us. We will see a bigger picture, able to embrace what previously seemed a deficit but which is in reality, ultimately our greatest teaching.

Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., is a ceremonial singer who has learned over 60 traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota and sings in nine different languages. Janet was a full-time defense litigator in California for nearly eight years. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. A regular columnist for The Edge, she has also appeared in Psychic Guidepost, FATE Magazine and Species Link. Her book, Song of the Wind (2014, Galde Press), dealt with her experiences as an empath, and her journey through Mandan spiritual culture. She is currently a full-time, tenured English faculty member at Normandale Community College, having taught Composition and Literature for a span of 20 years.

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