Ah, the bare necessities. In an ironic twist of human nature, it can seem that the longer and harder we work at stripping our lives down to the bare necessities, the harder it becomes. No one ever said that consciously committing to simplifying our lives would be easy, but it seems odd that something so good for our physical and mental health could be so difficult.
The story of the rich young man in the Gospel of Matthew is a perfect example. The man approaches Jesus in his travels one day and asks what he might do to enter the Kingdom of God. Follow all of the Commandments, Jesus answers.
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” the man queries.
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:17-22).
Why could the rich young man not give up his possessions when the reward that Jesus was offering was obviously so abundant? To give up material wealth, for a chance at the kingdom of heaven — why is that so difficult? Unfortunately, there aren’t too many easy answers.
This coming week marks almost halfway through our Lenten journey of physical and emotional decluttering. So, it is a naturally good place to check in on our Lenten promises and commitments and whether they are offering the kinds and amounts of spiritual benefits we are looking for.
Meditating on our current Lenten practices also offers us the perfect avenue to think about another aspect of decluttering — mental decluttering. We are such busy people! All this running around means that our brains are never quiet, and that it can be really hard for us to make the space and quiet in our minds that is necessary for a healthy relationship with God.
Meditation is one of the best ways to clear our minds. Start simply: find a quiet(ish) spot, and sit with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Let your eyes focus softly, resting on anything that sticks out, but not intentionally focused. Take 10 deep breaths, then close your eyes. As your eyes close, let your breath return to normal, and focus on the feeling of just being there. The weight of your body, the feeling of your breath. When thoughts drift across your consciousness, acknowledge them, accept them, and then let them go. There is time to write them down later, to act on them later. For just five or ten minutes, make space for yourself to breathe.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, author of the spiritual exercises (known as the Examen) said, “For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul.” This week, let us commit ourselves to quiet moments — mark them as “busy time” on our work and school calendars, and commit to a little bit of mental decluttering as Lent slips by.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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