I’ve spent a lot of time in airports this past year, and as I watch people in frantic busy-ness and hyper activity, I think of Thoreau’s line, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”
Sometimes we go through life in a blur. We move from one task, appointment, crisis, requirement, to the next. The pace of modern life is rapid, with stimuli and distractions coming at us fast and furiously. Often we are left with very little time to reflect and process what’s happening, much less have time for those bigger questions of who am I, why am I here, where is this all leading to?
In our full and active lives, we can get into the habit of shoving down our emotions, stuffing them away. Our modus operandi is to detach and “not go there” — largely because we don’t have time, but also because it is painful to do the emotional inner work that is required to process through all that stuff.
It reminds me of when I make homemade sauerkraut. After shredding the cabbage, I put it in the container and use a wooden spoon to squash it down, compressing it so I can get more in there. That works great for fermented vegetables, but not so well for the human psyche.
Our bodies usually take the brunt of our unprocessed emotions. They can show up as headaches, stress knots, back pain, indigestion, etc. Things like hurt, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness that we have filed away eventually catch up with us. And if we don’t pay attention, that inner toxicity can turn into something worse.
A simple prayer
So what can we do about it? How do we avoid the inner toxic build-up?
One simple habit to incorporate into your life is a prayer that Fr. Thomas taught us that we call the “Jesus Come” prayer. You can do this in snatches throughout a busy day — waiting in line at the grocery store, in your workplace, at a stop light, when you can’t sleep. You don’t have to close your eyes, although when you can, it’s good to do that too.
- On taking a deep, relaxed breath in, you say, “Jesus come…”
- Then on slowly exhaling you say, “darkness go.”
Do this slowly, over and over again, as long as you can. Even a minute or two will be beneficial. The deep breathing itself is very therapeutic but it becomes a prayer as you invite Jesus in and ask Him to clear out the toxicity that is stored up inside. (If people are around you, you don’t have to pray this out loud but just in your mind.)
As you get better at it, replace the word “darkness” with things like anger, sadness, frustration, helplessness, sickness, fear, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, despair. Try out different words and see if they resonate. If something stirs inside with that word, stay with it. Breathe out the accumulated junk and let the Lord’s light fill and heal you.
If somebody that hurt or offended you comes to mind as you pray, take a moment to forgive him or her. Ask Jesus to bless that person. Then continue on.
If you get into the habit of praying this prayer regularly, you will find it a very effective way of processing life as you go. Your burdens will get lighter as you invite Jesus in. Give it a try and let us know what you think.