Editor’s note: Dr. Irene Kraegel is a clinical psychologist who teaches mindfulness at Calvin University. Her new devotional A Mindful Moment is perfect for teenage and young 20’s girls and inspirational for all.
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 11:28–30
Sometimes we need to set things down simply because they are heavy. But how often do we expect ourselves to keep holding on to heavy things out of guilt or spite or a need to prove ourselves? Maybe the heavy thing is a self-critical thought or a hurtful relationship or an insistence on doing something perfectly. These types of heavy things hurt us when we carry them for too long, and they are worth putting down. Just like setting down a really heavy box, there can be a lot of relief in letting go of something that is causing us harm because it is too heavy.
- Jesus Himself encourages us to put down our heavy burdens, and promises to exchange them for something lighter.
When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, it could be helpful to pause and ask yourself — could I give up some of this heavy burden? Is it possible that Jesus has something lighter for me to carry, something easier? How could I rest in this moment?
Practice Following the breathing space guide. Pay particular attention to any parts of your body that are holding tension. Notice if that tension is useful. If not, consider letting it go. When you are finished, jot down some observations in your journal.
This practice is similar to a regular sitting practice, but it is meant to be more portable — an opportunity to quickly “drop in” at any point during the day to check in with how you are doing. The practice is often divided into three one-minute sections that have an hourglass shape of awareness (see below). However, there is no need to time each minute separately; just set your timer for three minutes if you choose, and then estimate one minute for each of the three sections.
- Pause wherever you are and become still. If you’re able, close your eyes if you choose, or close them halfway with a soft gaze. Take a couple deep breaths, then allow your breathing to return to its normal rate. Recognize that you are in God’s presence.
- First minute: Starting with a broad awareness, check in with what is going on for you in the moment. This “wide awareness” is the top part of the hourglass shape in this meditation. You might notice things in these different areas:
Physical sensations, including your breath moving in and out
Thoughts going through your mind
Emotions, either prominent or under the surface Behaviors or urges you are having
- Second minute: Narrowing your attention to breathing (as the middle part of the hourglass shape), notice where you feel your breath most vividly (ex. your upper lip, shoulders moving, chest expanding/contracting, belly moving up and down). Rest your attention there, paying close attention to the sensations of your breath coming in and out of your body, given by God. If focusing on breath is triggering for you, choose a different anchor for your attention that allows you to regulate your emotions more effectively.
- Third minute: Broadening your attention once again (as the bottom “wide awareness” part of the hourglass shape), imagine that your whole body is breathing. Imagine the air moving all the way from your head down to your toes, and then back out through your body again. Allow your whole body to experience the breath of life, given by God, restoring your body and soul, one moment at a time.
- When you are done, open up your attention to the space around you. Notice if there are any adjustments needed in your circumstances or self-care in response to what you noticed during the practice. Thank God for this moment of life and continue on to your next activity!
Carry Each Other’s Burdens
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2
If someone has a heavy box, we might be able to literally carry that burden for a while until our arms get too tired. But what if their burden is depression, a terminal illness, or getting ghosted? There’s not much we can do to change the difficult circumstances of other people, and it can be hard to know how to help.
There are times when our burden-carrying can be practical, like writing a card or helping with a difficult task, but praying for one another is one of the most important ways we can help. This doesn’t have to be super formal. Whenever someone comes to mind in the midst of a day, you can imagine them in God’s presence and ask God to be with them. As the Quakers say, you can “hold them up in the light” of Christ and then trust that God will do the rest. God loves that person even more than you and is providing everything they need.
You never need to fix things for other people, nor can you. But you can always hold them up in God’s light as they are brought to your mind. God will do the rest.
Practice Following the lovingkindness/blessing guide, focus your attention on someone you know who is having a difficult time. As you extend compassionate blessing to them, recognize that your prayer is one way of carrying their burdens. God will do the rest.
Being kind toward ourselves and others can take some practice, and this meditation is a chance to practice that kind of compassion in our thoughts. It can be used as a prayer or blessing — lifting ourselves and others before God as we hope for good things.
- Identify one or more people to whom you will practice extending lovingkindness, choosing from the following categories:
Someone you love, care about, or admire, who brings you warm feelings when you think about them
Someone you do not know well, a stranger or distant acquaintance
Someone who is difficult for you, who you do not get along with well or who has caused you some pain
All people, animals, and plants in the world, all living beings everywhere
- Sit at the edge of a chair with your feet on the floor (or cross-legged on a meditation cushion) with a straight spine and hands on your thighs or lap. Alternately, you may choose to lie on your back on a firm surface with feet apart, toes falling away from one another, and arms at your sides.
- Get comfortable. Close your eyes if you choose, or close them halfway with a soft gaze.
- Take a couple deep breaths, then allow your breathing to return to its normal rate. Notice the sensations of your breath coming in and out.
- One at a time, bring to mind an image of yourself or the person(s) to whom you are extending compassion. If you would like, you can imagine them resting in God’s loving hands. Recognize that like everyone, you and/or the other person in your mind is in need of compassion.
- With each image in mind, choose one of these two sets of phrases (or a different set of compassionate phrases that is more comfortable for you) and repeat them several times toward each of the people you have chosen to extend compassion to during your practice. As you repeat the phrases, recognize that all people desire these good things, and all people are loved by God.
- When you are done, rest for a moment in the compassionate kindness you have practiced. Then take a deep breath and open up your attention to the space around you. Thank God for His lovingkindness toward us all and continue on to your next activity.
Excerpted with permission from A Mindful Moment by Dr. Irene Kraegel, copyright Zondervan.
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None of us can carry all of the burdens before us. Some are just far too heavy. We need to remember that Jesus wants to carry our sorrows and difficulties with us and also we need to pray for those we love who are carrying far too much. ~ Devotionals Daily