This is not a story about how to pack, how to avoid excess luggage fees or anything else related to suitcases.

It is a story about what I left behind.1

laurieRecently, I signed up for what I thought was going to be a yoga retreat. I thought it would make a great story for my newest website, Upon arriving in Mexico City, I learned I was joining 12 others on a spiritual journey. We arrived as strangers, but left knowing more about each other and our past lives both literally and figuratively than we did about our blood relatives.

During daily visits to the pyramids in Teotihuacan, we recognized our demons and began to leave them behind. Most people were ready for this. I really wasn’t.2

So the first morning, when we were asked to leave behind something that was creating our personal hell. One man had lost his wife and remarried. He felt he still loved his first wife and that prevented him from fully loving his new wife and family. Another woman had lost a son and grieved not only for him, but was uncomfortable with the fact that some believed it was a suicide, and since she was in the treatment community, it was professionally distressing as well. Others struggled with feeling important enough, good enough or free enough. I sort of thought about what was wrong with my life. Not much, I decided. And what was I doing here?

Crystal sun pic abandoned wheelbarrow.  I knew that was it. It symbolized the overload of material things in my life–most unused and unneeded. I knew that3 was what I needed to work on.

We gathered again in the center of a grassy field. Lee drew a circle with his walking stick and each of us was to come into the circle individually to speak of what we were going to let go of. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what to say. And although I am not usually at a loss for words, I really couldn’t think of how to explain all the wine and liquor and chocolate and tea and coffee and beauty 4products and books and other samples that are sent to me to review for my websites. I also have way too many clothes –which I rationalize by saying I am losing weight (TRUE) and need smaller things. (BUT THEN WHY AM I HOLDING ON TO THE OLD BIG ONES? GOOD QUESTION.)

After everyone else had made their emotional revelations, I walked forward and said I could not honestly walk into the circle because I was not sure I was ready to give things up. I explained the personal hell of tripping over boxes, being unable to clear a pathway so workmen could get in to my loft and other complications caused by STUFF.

I explained that when I saw the rusty bottle cap, I knew it was symbolic of all the things other normal people 5would get rid of or give away.

Lee loved what I had found. He told me to get into the circle and talk about it anyway. Later he arranged for Alberto, the artisan who owned the compound where we were all staying to put a hole in the cap and engraved the Toltec symbols of an eagle and a cougar and a snake. (which is more than symbolic since I am very interested in a much younger man–a situation that is referred to as cougar in 8contemporary dialet) He also put a lucky number inside.  We decided I would wear it as a talisman to remind me of how much stuff I had. (I have not measured the impact it had on the man)

Did it work? This was only the first day and there were four more enlightening days to follow.

But I will say when I went through customs and filled out all my declarations, I only listed $35. I had bought a satchel to replace the backpack that had torn the first day ($10 and necessary so that hardly counts as a an acquisition) and a SMALL stone pendant carved like the head of Quetzalcoatl to wear on the days when I wasn’t the rusty bottle cap necklace for inspiration.

The custom agents looked at my well-worn, well-stamped passport and asked if I had any liquor? No.9

Did I have any silver? No. They looked at my two suitcases and seemed puzzled that I had so much luggage for four days. They asked me why I had come to Mexico City.  I never got this many questions when I declared lots of souvenirs and stuff coming back from other trips.

I always wear weird jewelry. So no one said much about the rusty bottle cap around my neck. When people asked about my trip, I told them it was a spiritual journey and explained the symbolism of my necklace.

What have I thrown out? The garbage. But I have an elaborate mental plan of what goes next.

laurieFor more info on spiritual recovery go to

For more info on Dreaming House go to

Madelyn Miller is a travel and food writer who loves yoga. Read her stories on,,,,,,

If you come to visit her, please do not bring any gifts.