Heavy Burdens

Interlude: Without Words, by Lynn Yew Evers

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Matthew 11:25-30]

Are you weary?  Or angry? Or frightened? Or grieving?  Jesus asks us to come to him with our feelings, our burdens, and lately I’ve been thinking that we might see our meditation practice as that yoke, part of the harness that keeps us close to our God, doing His work, rather than wandering off and getting into trouble.

I’ve been reading Women, Food, and God, An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth, and an important part of her path is mindfulness.  One premise of her book is that compulsive eating is brought on by emotions that aren’t being dealt with. You eat to avoid the feeling, to make yourself feel better, rather than being present to some unhappy emotion.  Another premise is just being mindful of when you’re hungry, and when you’re full, or just not hungry. Being mindful, being present? Yes, Ms. Roth advises her readers to take up a daily meditation practice, to hone the skills of being mindful and present.

The idea of being present to unhappy emotions is not new to me, but with my upbringing, it’s still a challenging one.  Anger – that doesn’t really fit with the “sweet, kind and good” directive.  Fear – I’m a Christian! Jesus tells us countless times, “Do not be afraid.”  Sadness? Grief? Let’s not go there, shall we? And yet, when I put these emotions in the context of Jesus’ invitation to the weary, when I put them in the context of the mindfulness of meditation, the concept of being present to them becomes a little less scary.

When I introduce meditation, I invite you to let your thoughts pass, with mental images of cars on a freeway, or water down a stream, but I wonder if, in the case of emotions, the autumn leaves might be a better image.  Some of them are blown down the street, as you sit in meditation, but others may be lifted by a dirvish, swirling around you, dropping to the ground, then lifted again. How might our lives change, if we sit, in the safety and security of God’s arms, and let the leaves fly, feel the colors of the emotions, acknowledge their existence?  Let the feelings flow through us, neither holding onto them, nor shoving them away, but just let them pass, as we do with the thoughts that pass through our minds?

What a gift meditation can be.  May we all “find rest for our souls”, in its practice in the company of God.

Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on October 27, 2018.