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November 28, 2022
Lighten Your Load: A Guided Imagery Exercise

Denise Eccleston

Black backpack in the foreground with mountains and trees in the background.

What’s In Your Backpack?

We all carry a backpack with us in life. This backpack—and the rocks inside—represents our experiences, relationships, learnings, feelings, upbringings, successes, failures, coping strategies, disappointments, and dreams. But this bag has a finite amount of room.

As we move through life, our backpack gets heavier from all the rocks that we accumulate. If we don’t stop every so often to put it down and go through it, it will become too heavy, perhaps overwhelmingly so. Join me in a guided imagery exercise to help you stop, breathe deeply, sort through what’s in your backpack, and lighten your load.

Stop, Drop, and Relax

Once you stop, take off the backpack and sit down. Roll your shoulders, stretch, and breathe; feel the lightness for a moment and relax. The backpack is still within your eyesight and in your control, so no need to worry that it will get lost. Sit there until you are ready to look inside.

Examine Each Rock

You can look at your rocks in several ways. You can take one rock out at a time, dump all the rocks out, or a variation of the two. This is a personal choice. You will see different rocks and what they represent.  

Some of the rocks have been there since we got the bag. We’re not quite sure how they got there, but we’ve always carried them without question. Some we have purposely picked up along the way: maybe we thought they were useful, pretty, served a purpose, or we simply wanted them.

Some rocks have been placed in our backpacks by other people—some with our knowledge and others snuck in by others without our permission. Some people have asked us to carry rocks for them as their own backpack was too full.

Choose the Rocks to Keep and Throw Away

As you sort through the rocks, find the ones that no longer serve a purpose or bring you joy or don't need to accompany you on the next part of your journey. You can leave those rocks right on the ground where you are. Some rocks need to be tossed away, as far as you can throw them taking all of their weight with them. Other rocks need to be given back to whom they belong: they were never yours to carry in the first place.

Now, mindfully choose the rocks that you want to keep. Reflect on each rock and why you want to keep it, then place it in the backpack. When you’re ready, stand back up. The bag should now feel lighter, even just a bit, the weight will feel different because you have chosen to carry those specific rocks.

Sort Through Your Rocks Regularly

Remember to sort through your rocks every once in a while. When you feel your backpack getting heavier again, stop. Put down your load, catch your breath, sort through the rocks, and lighten the backpack. Then, only when you are ready, get up and continue on your journey.

Therapy can Help

Therapy can help you sort through the rocks in your backpack. We can help you figure out how and why they got there, choose the ones to keep, and decide which ones no longer earn a space in your backpack. When you do this, you can move forward with clarity and purpose about what you are bringing with you as you head forward on your journey in life.

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