Traveling Light

Let’s say I were going off on a trip I wasn’t sure when I’d be home from. What might I pack if I didn’t know when I’d return to my cache of possessions? What might you?

I think about this question, posed in an Isolation Journal prompt. What would I pack and what does it say about me and the time I’m living in?

The first thing I think of is my favorite blanket, a fluffy white and grey puff of fabric given to me by my friend Liz when I had Covid. Then I add my prayer shawl, knitted by my church family to remind me that I am knitted together in love, after my friend Adrienne and my father-in-law both died almost simultaneously. Every morning it holds me in the sensation of holiness.

I’d pack my pink Himalayan salt candle holder given by my friend Jaime and some tea lights, because these mark my moment of arriving each morning, of coming into presence for meditation, fully in my body and my heart. All of this, plus a shell or two, would allow me to recreate an altar wherever I go. The sacred represented outwardly.

I’d pack my travel yoga mat as a hopeful gesture that spreading it out, making a home space, and moving in my body would be possible.

And I’d pack journals—one to write my Sunday morning reflections, haikus, and other poems; one for letter writing to loved ones; and one for drawing. Along with these of course, my favorite gel pens and colored pencils.

I’d include my planner, not because there’s so much to plan or even because I believe that planning makes for control (though I admit, I sort of do). I’d pack my planner to keep a sense of time, a sense of a schedule, to keep the days from slipping into an amorphous soup of hours.

My laptop would be included to capture my reflections and allow them to be part of the world. Several books—one for morning reading to fill my spirit, one for learning something new maybe about the body or about teenage brains, two that allow me to get totally lost in story.

I’d have to pack some KN95 masks, my vax card, and some rapid tests. Because Covid times.

My big favorite green mug, made by my sister-in-law, that feels like I’m holding the ocean in my hands. Hot beverages just taste better in this mug. Earbuds to listen to my favorite podcasts—a blend of mystic Christianity, Zen Buddhist thought, and murder. And to listen to my favorite music—currently Amos Lee, Brandi Carlisle, the Avett Brothers, Taylor Swift.

Oh, of course, my clothing. Only my favorite comfy’s—currently two oversized sweaters, a couple pairs of super soft joggers, alpaca socks, my slippers. Maybe a pair of jeans just in case. I’d take all my favorite grooming products and oils, my robe, thing to make my skin feel good. And my jewelry, just some favorites. My wedding rings, a necklace that was my mother-in-law’s, earrings from my mother, a bracelet from a dear old friend.

Once upon a time, I’d have included some photographs, but these days most of them are on my phone. Nostalgia bites at me as I consider this.

As I write this, I consider what does this all say about me? I think perhaps it reveals my love of being held in softness, in the loving embrace of memory, to lose myself in the joy of contemplation and word, and to find myself daily by coming back within.

I realize, also, this is quite a lot, not a light pack at all. I press myself: if I were forced to travel lighter, I could pare down—my prayer shawl, a candle, one journal and my pens, 2 books, my computer and earbuds, favorite body oil, comfy clothes, always my slippers, some masks, and that sea green mug. But only if I were forced.

Making this list helps me remember what I find essential in my day. Yet, what do I really need? What will really help me make a journey?

What I know is that for all my packing and planning, I may not feel prepared for any journey ahead. There is always something I don’t have that I think in some measure will make life’s work easier. Yet, what I also know, is that journeying with reverence and presence, two qualities I know are essential to carry along, requires a kind of letting go into the moment just as it is. And of course, keeping in mind, the most important things aren’t things.


Just before I encountered this prompt, I finished a beautiful book called Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind, by Barbara Becker. The book feels like an important accompaniment to my life right now. I’d probably pack it, too. And so, I think of a passage in which she seems to reflect on the very idea of packing and journeying: “In the end all that really matter is your family and love, the river of love…we should drink from it…Gather your loved ones near. Get away, preferably into nature. Be generous with your time and imagination.”

Perhaps this is all I need to pack. The remembrance to drink often and generously from the river of love, gather my family and loved ones near, leave space in my schedule for time and imagination, and be sure to have some shoes that can walk me out into nature at every stop. That feels lighter indeed.

This week I’m including a recording of a practice I led a week ago that is focused on finding some lightness in movement. Just this past Tuesday was the Celtic celebration of Imbolc. It fell on the new moon and on the Chinese New Year—The Year of the Tiger, which my birth year fall in. I find all this new, celebration energy inspiring.


Christa Mastrangelo Joyce

Upcoming Classes

Join a modest community finding joy in togetherness:

Friday, February 11 •  9am -10:30am

This class will blend yoga movement, contemplation, meditation, and conversation for a new way to explore our practice in community. Covid vaccinations required for in-person practice at the Harmony Space in Shepherdstown. Limited spacing available.

Online practice via Zoom. Video recording sent to all registered guests.

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