St Joseph’s Way to a Calm Heart: A Spiritual Path for the Anxious

Hi. I’m Sr Kathryn Hermes, author of the Best-seller Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach. I’ve been struggling through these months of pandemic as well as everything else that has been affecting our hearts in these days.

So if you feel like crying right now, I understand.

If you feel like giving up right now, it’s okay.

If you can’t seem to think straight, feel deeply, and make sense of what is happening to you, I get it.

Who would have expected we’d still be worrying about COVID-19 and lockdown measures this fall? The difference is that now we have a better sense of the scope of the crisis and no clear end in sight. The world is experiencing trauma as all that we once knew has been swept away and we feel powerless before the uncertainty of what will come in the future. On top of all this, there are the fires in the Pacific Northwest, the unrest on our cities’ streets, and the ugly way racial injustice is playing out before us.

We’re facing so many emotions—uncertainty, grief, worry, anxiety, fear, depression. While anxiety and depression may seem overwhelming, I’d like to offer you a spiritual path to a calm heart. On this page you’ll find a video with some ideas you can put into practice to build a spiritual practice that works for you starting today. After that you’ll find a guided meditation, such a powerful way to feel that God, to know that you are not alone. And finally, there is a short video introducing St Joseph, my favorite saint whom I rely on always in moments of panic and overwhelm.

So let’s get started.

Hi. I’m Jeannette de Beauvoir. It’s time to take some time for yourself. In doing these meditations that Sr. Kathryn is so brilliant at leading, we take time. It’s not time out from the worry and the anxiety, but it’s not giving them power, either. It’s acknowledging them and then giving them to God. Not telling him how to fix things. Just giving them up.

And then coming back to them in different ways. Imagining Jesus telling me he’s heard my fears. Listening to a story from Scripture with the reminder that people’s lives then were not so different in their essence from what we experience now. There’s that context! And feeling instead of worrying. Feeling God’s love in ways that my hasty verbal prayers weren’t allowing.

And I have to say, when I went through this exercise, I felt… lighter. I breathed more deeply. I didn’t feel like I was handling the world’s problems all by myself. I felt God.

Fortunately, we are not alone. When the fear and sadness over our losses and our future become overwhelming, there is one person we know has lived through this, and more, and can give us a steadying hand. There’s a father we can turn to who has had more than his share of worries and concerns and fears, and he can guide us through this, too.

So he can be a role model for us. But even more than that, he can be a comforter. He knows fear and distress and anxiety, and he can help us through it all. He can be our guide, our comforter, and our strength when we feel we don’t have enough.

If you’re ready to find a way forward in healing your anxiety, I invite you to learn more about St Joseph’s Way to a Calm Heart: A Spiritual Path for the Anxious.

What does this course include?

  • seven video meditations on companioning with St. Joseph
  • six podcasts on understanding anxiety today
  • four audio presentations of practices for when you’re anxious
  • readings to find peace of heart
  • a four-part spiritual conference series on St. Joseph and living the spiritual life when you suffer from anxiety
  • six guided prayers and meditations to calm anxiety
  • two videos on coping with anxiety and the affirming power of kintsugi

I’m ready to start on a spiritual path with St Joseph

Click here to find greater peace of heart.

Seeing in New Ways

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-v5chh-eb7fdd

In the Gospels Jesus often asks seemingly useless questions. He asks a blind man, “Do you want to see?” He asks a leper, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years and is sitting by the side of the sheep pool, “Do you want to be made well?” What answer was Jesus expecting?

 

If we are suffering with anxiety or depression, or just trying to to survive these last months of 2020, the attempt to just survive can contract our personal universe to a “safe” size. Our thinking patterns can become caught in overcontrolled ruts. We lose flexibility in favor of the fight/flight/freeze mechanism that leads to hypervigilance and shutdown.

Jesus invites us to see in new ways.

From My Journal

O Love
My One only

heart within Heart
sight within Sight
taste within Taste
touch within Touch
silence within Silence
lightening within Listening
delight within Delight
prayer within Prayer
resting within Rest

“Oh my darling, what happiness it is to live in intimacy with God, to make our life a heart-to-heart, an exchange of love, when we know how to find the Master in the depths of our soul. Then we are never alone anymore, and need solitude to enjoy the presence of the adored Guest.” (Elizabeth of the Trinity, one of her letters)

September 11 – Always Remember

This September 11 my Facebook is inundated with photos and stories and the determination that we “Never Forget”…

Never forget the terror attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives.

Never forget the lives we lost.

Never forget the courage of first responders who risked—and sacrificed—their lives to save those fleeing burning buildings.

Never forget the images that have burned themselves into our memories of that early September morning in 2001 when so much changed for our country.

This year as we celebrate Patriots Day we are also still reeling from the trauma of 2020 with no clear end in sight to everything tearing at the heart of our country. I feel God asking me to open my heart even further, to hold in the stillness of prayerful silence the darkness and pain so many are suffering in these months. To embrace in the refuge of my heart the never ending flow of people he wishes to direct to my spiritual hospitality.

How will we ever be able to forget 2020? Some of us are more directly suffering greater loss than others. Others are carrying the added burden of depression and anxiety which are become a mental health pandemic of their own.

We probably all wish we could close our eyes and pretend these things never happened. If only, magically, life could return to the way it was….

Instead, my Friends, let us walk forward, steadfastly, deeply grounded in God’s presence.

Here is a prayer from the book The Celtic Vision which helps me remember that God shields me with his all-encompassing love. His love is like a blanket that keeps me warm, safe, and close to him:

The compassing of God and His right hand
Be upon my form and upon my frame;
The compassing of the High King and the grace of the Trinity
Be upon me abiding ever eternally,
Be upon me abiding ever eternally.
May the compassing of the Three shield me in my means,
The compassing of the Three shield me this day,
The compassing of the Three shield me this night
From hate, from harm, from act, from ill,
From hate, from harm, from act, from ill.

Never forget…. And my heart cries out, “And always remember!”

Always remember that God is faithful.
Always remember that people are good.
Always remember that we can make a difference.
Always remember that a new day will come.

So today, let us pray:

Lord Jesus, Prince of peace,
we see our chaotic world today
with its anguish and fear.
We feel ourselves vulnerable
because we, too, are prisoners of the uncertainties
and difficulties of our history.
We raise our hands to you,
in this darkest of nights,
and entrust all humanity to you.
We are threatened by the storms of war,
but we want to remain unshaken
in the certainty that a new day will come;
because you, Lord, are always at work,
even when all is cold and dark around us.
Help us to think of peace, to hope in peace,
to live as persons of peace, and to build peace around us;
to promote a hospitable and welcoming culture,
and justice for the entire world.
Be with all those throughout the world
who suffer persecution for your name.
Give them courage in their adversities and strength to persevere in faith.
Enable us to nurture reconciliation and forgiveness,
so that peace may penetrate our thoughts and feelings,
making us credible signs of understanding and communion.
Lord, you conquered violence and death that we may live.
Help us become living icons of your love,
so that peace may truly be the home for all.

Amen

Prayer from Live Christ! Give Christ!

Tabernacle of the Heart III: “You are like a lily growing in the valley”

“I’m overshadowed by his love,
growing in the valley!”
“Yes, you are my darling companion.
You stand out from all the rest.
For though the curse of sin surrounds you,
still you remain as pure as a lily,
even more than all the others.” (Song of Songs 2:1-2 TPT)

The valley, in this passage, is that dark and sorrowed place where the curse of sin has run rampant as weeds taking over a garden.

I have had valleys in my life.

Valleys of illness. Valleys of weakness and limitation. Valleys of disappointment. Valleys of sin.

The Lover whispers to his Beloved in the Song of Songs:

“For though the curse of sin surrounds you,
still you remain as pure as a lily…
growing in the valley.”

In the deepest valleys of our life we remain united to Jesus, tabernacles of God’s abiding on earth. Even in the valleys of our failure and our sorrow, we are beautiful to him. Lilies.

Lilies are white, symbols of purity.

I wondered for years how I could be a lily when I knew I was no longer perfectly clean as on the day of my Baptism. Jesus knows that we will journey into the valley where we will be scratched by thorns, confused, lost, manipulated. We’ll make detours. Mistake weeds for flowers. Be bitten by insects. Fall in the heat of the valley.

We all carry within us the virus of the Fall.

We begin immature and self-centered as any child, and any neophyte in the spiritual life. As lilies of the valley we are small flowers, often hidden in the midst of the weeds of the valley. But not hidden to our Lover.

He can see us. He overshadows us with his love.
He knows our hearts.
He knows every part of the journey we’ve been on, and everything to come.
He knows that we depend on his love. That we can’t achieve anything on our own.
He reaches into the thorns to find us, his lilies, his companions.

The cross is the symbol of the valley, his arms outstretched and nailed to the wood show us the extent he will go to find and save us and claim us for himself.

He arrays us in beauty: “Observe how the lilies of the field grow” (Mt. 6:28).

Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House Apostolate, is an example of living as the lily in the valley of failure and deep rejection. Catherine Kolyschkine was born in Nizhny-Novgorod, Russia, on August 15, 1896 to wealthy and deeply Christian parents. Raised in a devout aristocratic family, she grew up knowing that Christ lives in the poor, and that ordinary life is meant to be holy. Her father’s work enabled the family to travel extensively in Catherine’s youth. At the age of 15, she married her cousin, Boris de Hueck. Soon, the turmoil of World War I sent them both to the Russian front: Boris as an engineer, Catherine as a nurse.

The Russian Revolution destroyed the world as they knew it. Catherine and Boris became refugees, fleeing first to England, and then in 1921, to Canada, where their son George was born. In the following years she experienced grinding poverty as she laboured to support her ailing husband and child. After years of painful struggle, her marriage to Boris fell apart; later her marriage was annulled by the Church.

Catherine’s talent as a speaker was discovered by an agent from a lecture bureau. She began travelling across North America, and became a successful lecturer. Once again she became wealthy—but she was not at peace. The words of Christ pursued her relentlessly: “Sell all you possess, and come, follow Me.” On October 15, 1930 Catherine renewed a promise she had made to God during her ordeal in the revolution, and gave her life to Him. She marked this as the day of the beginning of her Apostolate. With the blessing of Archbishop Neil McNeil of Toronto, Catherine sold all her possessions and provided for her son, George. In the early 1930’s she went to live a hidden life in the slums of Toronto, desiring to console her beloved Lord as a lay apostle by being one with his poor.

As she implemented this radical Gospel way of life, young men and women came to join her. They called themselves Friendship House, and lived the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. In the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the members of Friendship House responded to the needs of the time.

Misunderstanding and calumny plagued Catherine all of her life. False but persistent rumours about her and the working of Friendship House forced its closing in 1936. Catherine left Toronto, feeling her work had failed. Through the seeming failure and great disappointments, she heard the voice of Christ beckoning her to share His suffering.

Soon after she left Toronto, Father John LaFarge, S.J., a well-known Civil Rights Movement leader in the U.S., invited Catherine to open a Friendship House in Harlem. In February, 1938, she accepted his request, and soon the Harlem Friendship House was bursting with activity. Catherine saw the beauty of the Black people and was horrified by the injustices being done to them. She travelled the country decrying racial discrimination against Blacks.

In the midst of widespread rejection and persecution, she found support from Cardinal Patrick Hayes and Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. In Harlem, a small community formed around her, but again, her work ended in failure. Divisions developed among the staff of Friendship House and in January, 1947, they out-voted Catherine on points she considered essential to the apostolate. Seeing this as a rejection of her vision of Friendship House, she stepped down as Director General.

On May 17, 1947, Catherine came to Combermere, Ontario, Canada, with her second husband, American journalist Eddie Doherty, whom she had married in 1943. Catherine was shattered by the rejection of Friendship House and thought she had come to Ontario to retire. Instead, the most fruitful and lasting phase of her apostolic life was about to begin. As she was recovering from the trauma, Catherine began to serve those in need in the Combermere area, first as a nurse and then through neighbourly services. She and Eddie also established a newspaper, Restoration, and eventually began a training centre for the Catholic lay apostolate.

At a summer school of Catholic Action that Catherine organized in 1950, Fr. John Callahan came to teach. He was to become Catherine and Eddie’s spiritual director and the first priest member of Madonna House. Under his guidance, in February 1951, they made an act of consecration to Jesus through Mary, according to St. Louis de Montfort. Mary, Mother of the Church, became guide to their lives and to their apostolate.

Catherine’s lifelong passion to console Christ in others propelled her forward. Again young men and women asked to join her. Graces abounded. In October 1951, Catherine attended the first Lay Congress in Rome. The Papal Secretary, Msgr. Montini (later to become Pope Paul VI) encouraged Catherine and her followers to consider making a permanent commitment.

On April 7, 1954, those living in Combermere voted to embrace a permanent vocation with promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, and the community of Madonna House was established. The following year, Catherine and Eddie took a promise of chastity and lived celibate lives thereafter. From these offerings, an explosion of life took place and Madonna House grew. On June 8, 1960, Bishop William Smith of Pembroke offered the Church’s approval to the fledgling community at the blessing of the statue of Our Lady of Combermere.

Catherine had a faith vision for the restoration of the Church and our modern culture at a time when the de-Christianization of the Western world was already well advanced. She brought the spiritual intuitions of the Christian East to North America. Lay men and women as well as priests came to Madonna House to live the life of a Christian family: the life of Nazareth. They begged for what they needed and gave the rest away. At the invitation of bishops, they opened houses in rural areas and cities in North and South America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and the West Indies.

I found this prayer of hers, doubtless written during a sleepless night, moving:

The night was dark. I lay awake. Does anyone understand the horror of dark nights, when all is quiet as if it were dead? I faced the past and shuddered; the future and shrank. Seventeen long years of pain and suffering, seventeen years of hell, and nobody knows! Indeed, I am a failure in all things—in married life, in motherhood, in any work for humanity.

Lord, as I think of all these failures, I wonder if by any chance it would be possible to find anyone who has made a bigger mess of life than I. I am sure not! Jesus, Master of all things, how do you stand such as I?

Oh, I am not complaining about my fate. How could I? For all that has come to me is well-deserved because I am such a sinner. My sins are always with me and before me, as are the graces I have lost. I often think of these graces. Are they lying there, crying, because I haven’t made use of them? Or have they been picked up by chance? Who will know the end of this mystery? Death alone will solve it.
— April 25, 1937

Brian Simmons in his book The Sacred Journey states that we are to be lilies not merely in a vase, but lilies among thorns: “when the curse of sin surrounds you.” Although we may not have experienced the type of failure that Catherine Doherty lived during her life, all of us have met rejection and felt we’ve made a mess of something in our life. We may cry out, “But, Lord, I am hurt as I walk among the thorns.”

The mystery of your heart will only reveal itself in time as your give yourself over to, as your align yourself with, the Divine Designs for your life that unfold even among the thorns. The lily of the field remains small and pure, simple and simply at the service of the One who knows and cares about its destiny and the way he will use her to be love in a world so desperately in need of his love.

Photo by Océane George on Unsplash

We are Mary’s beloved children and she won’t turn us away

As the summer slips into fall, we are experiencing more and more moments of uncertainty and fear. What will the rest of this year bring? To be honest, right now, we might feel afraid. The world is an uncertain place. We worry about the safety of those we love. And our emotions? Mine are on a roller coaster. I struggle with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, and that means that even in the best of times I experience radical emotional ups and downs—so you can imagine what I’m feeling now!

It’s not just me, though. Everyone knows what it’s like when we can’t seem to fit what’s happening in our lives into the previous plan we had for ourselves and others.

But with this new month, Our Lord is offering us comfort in the midst of our distress: he is putting our beings, our lives, our worries, everything into the loving arms of his Mother. September brings us beautiful Marian feasts, some of which aren’t very well-known. For instance, this past Tuesday we celebrated Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd. On September 8th we’ll celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On September 15th we mark the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. There are other Marian celebrations in these early days of September, including the Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 12th, and Marian titles that are celebrated locally in cathedrals, monasteries, and cities, such as Our Lady of the Woods in Galloro (September 5th), and Our Lady of Good News in Sicily (September 16th).

Think about how a mother protects her child, soothes its brow, distracts it with songs of maternal love, enfolds it in caring. Our Mother will enfold us, all of us, in her special caring. Just as children run to their mothers to kiss their “boo-boos” away, so can we run to our Mother and pour out our fears, our pain, our distress. She will listen. She will care. We are her own beloved children and she will not turn us away.

The Feast of Mary’s Nativity and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows are two twin celebrations that can bring comfort to us in these September days. Traditionally the seven sorrows of Mary are these:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple
  4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
  5. The crucifixion
  6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross
  7. The burial of Jesus

Each of these was a moment when Mary had to let go of her plans or any ideas she may have had of what she thought should be happening.  

Our “sorrows”—and there are many of them in these months of the pandemic and racial unrest—are similar. We think we know who we are and what God is asking us to do and we do our best to make that happen. And at the very moment when we feel sure, secure, pleased with ourselves, the plans break down, sometimes mercifully so.

Sometimes we may feel that when things are falling apart that we are falling apart, that our life is falling apart. But the call that God had given to Mary at her nativity, the joy of heaven at the birth of the one who would be the Mother of God, endured through the sorrows she bore in her life.

Our sorrows don’t change who we are.

They may be a moment of transition and transformation. We may grieve our loss and mourn through periods of desert journeying, but our sorrows do not negate the dream God had for us as we came forth from his creative Love, a dream he is bringing about in us even now. That is something important to remember.

From the celebration of Mary’s Nativity, we can remember that at our birth also  God’s pristine plans for our good and his delight are imprinted in our destiny. Again and again, we have to remind ourselves to let our plans go in order to let the eternally desired destiny willed by God for us to unfold.

Marian feast days come from a long and venerable tradition within the Church of honoring the Virgin Mary in her different ways of being with God, with Jesus, and with the world. Her love extends to all of us in all our ways.

If you are wondering what your life is meant to be—or that of someone else you care about—if carefully laid plans or self-images are falling apart, look back to the moment of creation and birth. The Trinity sang a song over you, has a plan for you, desired you, delights in you even now and will forever. The breaking apart of all we think should be is often the divine path back to the source of our own beauty, call, and happiness.

Holy Mary, help those in need.
Give strength to the weak,
comfort the sorrowful,
pray for God’s people.
May all who seek your help
experience your unfailing protection.
Amen.

Lord, make us more sensitive to grace and to each other…

Grieving… it’s part of the human condition, the everyday business of living our lives. Grief is associated with mourning the loss of someone we love. We could say, however, that grief can accompany the loss of anything that our lives touch, honor, create, possess.

These pandemic lockdown months of uncertainty are filled with such loss. The sharp still-fresh pangs of uncertainty around the possibilities and realities of loss over a long stretch of weeks and months have strangely and helpfully made me super-sensitive to loss. To the losses that unsettle not only my own heart, but the hearts of others who bear wounds so much greater than mine with consequences that will far outlast the pandemic….

To be rejected by a spouse, to lose a child to unexpected illness or death, to see a future so carefully built collapse through the destructiveness or spite of another, to be caught in cycles of abuse or self-hate….

I see these stories on social media and receive their pain in letters. In this new heart-awareness it is as though I can almost reach out and touch their hands in a compassionate I-am-here-for-you, I-feel-with-you. I hear their longing to be seen, protected and understood in music, in news stories, and am touched by the poignancy of their pain represented in art. I am grateful, so very grateful that a deeper sensitivity to others’ sufferings is growing within me.

On this feast of St. Monica and St. Augustine (celebrated this past Thursday and Friday) I imagine how Monica might have felt, and so many who like this faithful and persevering woman live and love in the midst of sometimes horrific sorrows. Giovanni Falbo in Saint Monica the Power of a Mother’s Love describes Monica’s relationship with her husband Patricius. Although she sought to treat him with honor and kindness, Patricius could be arrogant, impetuous, carnal, and violent. It was difficult for Monica to even speak with him. Often she had to wait until his anger blew over before she could present to him her thoughts and opinions. Nevertheless, the way he verbally lashed out at her must have cut deep. She never responded in kind, but instead waited for the right moment to confront. Women at that time had little recourse to improving the conditions in which they lived, but Falbo called Monica “a competent strategist” who led Patricius gradually toward truth and goodness, and eventually to God.

Saint Monica’s advice: three strategies for growing in both sensitivity and in strategy when life is unexpectedly tough

  1. Pray for eyes to see. Monica knew who she was and who her husband was. She was able to “see” with the deeper eyes of the heart without ignoring or discounting her needs for safety and respect and his needs for the truth and light. She knew that Patricius had a good heart deep down.
  2. Honor the experience of loss. Don’t run from loss or wish it away, but take into your heart the solitude of your own suffering as well as the suffering of all others who are bearing the same thing.
  3. Be willing to become someone other than who you’ve been. The choices St. Monica made in relating with her husband made her stronger and gentler, a mentor of other women who struggled in their marriages, and—in the end—the mother of so many tears who won the conversion of her son Augustine. Through the twenty years in which Patricius lived with Monica, he grew to respect her serenity and Christian virtue, He saw in her life a strength and grace that was not of her own doing. Conquered by grace, he entered the catechumenate and was baptized shortly before he died. St. Monica’s courage changed her into a deeper lover for Jesus, and in the end changed her husband and son.

Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP, recounts a parallel story of courage and transformation in her new book, Complaints of the Saints. Daphrose Mukansanga Rugamba (1944–1994) was in an arranged marriage to Cyprien Rugamba (1935-1994). Their marriage was very fruitful, and they had ten children, but Cyprien was unfaithful to Daphrose and neglected his family.

He allowed Daphrose to raise the children as Catholics, but he had no patience with religion. Once in her presence he took a crucifix off the wall and smashed it. Eventually they separated.

In 1982 Cyprien was struck by a rapid paralyzing illness and wrote a song about his coming death. This song became the means of tremendous spiritual light and grace in both his life and that of Daphrose. She could have remained a bitter person. He could have carried on through his illness without a thought for God and his wife. Instead both decided to become more godly and to collaborate with God’s plan as he revealed it to them. They reached out to street children, introduced the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rwanda and tried to end the ethnic tensions threatening the society in the early 90s. Both Daphrose and Cyprien were assassinated along with six of their children in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The cause for their canonization was opened in 2015.

Friends, we are in this together.

We are in the same boat of life.
We all suffer in one way or another and have so many reasons
to complain about our lot in life.
May this prolonged “experiment” of living intentionally
the uncertainty and loss of 2020
make us more sensitive to grace and to each other.
Let us take each other by the arm and run together,
our hearts open to love and loving,
into the interweaving of courage and compassion,
believing in the future,
believing in each other,
trusting in the tender heart of Love
who is ever and always
present
to
us.

St. Monica and St. Augustine,
Daphrose and Cyprien Rugamba,
pray for us.

Finding solace in the company of the saints in good times as well as in difficult stretches of the journey can help us both complain and praise, lament and love. Here are some of my favorites:

Saint Monica: The Power of a Mother’s Love

Complaints of the Saints: Stumbling Upon Holiness with a Crabby Mystic

God is All Joy: The Life of St Teresa of the Andes

Oscar Romero: Prophet of Hope

Bernadette Speaks: A Life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words

If you wish to speak with someone about your struggle and get some insight and practical tools to go forward with greater peace, email me at: startheartwork@gmail.com

Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Trust this, my friend

Julian of Norwich has always been my go-to wisdom figure when things are uncertain and pain-filled. She is utterly realistic here. We will come across times in our life when the ground is shifting and the storm blurs the way forward. Jesus himself walked resolutely through the darkness of Calvary. The important word is “through.” Because we are always and forever held in the precious love of God for us, in his strong yet tender embrace, and our walking forward is always a walking through to resurrection. Trust that, my friend.

Tabernacle of the Heart II: Finding Our Way to the Treasures of the Heart

Twenty years ago I was tormented by constant headaches. These headaches would last for days and were seemingly resistant to anything I tried to be rid of them. They became a constant companion of my every day, they were a torment of continually sleepless nights.

I gave up on OTC medicine to lessen the pounding in my head and just plowed through my work, trying to push them out of my awareness. It never worked but there was always hope in trying.

A friend shared with me a book that held on one page, in one sentence, through one word the key that begin my journey to a headache free. Surrender. Surrender to the pain. Accept it. Welcome it.

The natural thing for the body to do is to fight it. Instead welcome it.

So I did. And the headaches immediately lessened in intensity. I was elated and curious.

Why? Why did such a simple change in attitude make such a dramatic change on my physical pain?

Shortly after, a friend of the community visited. In the conversation I mentioned something about what I was noticing and she said she suffered from headaches herself. She told me that instead of welcoming them to get rid of them, I should be welcoming them and enter into the space of the welcoming, into the enlarging of my heart that was surrendering and accepting.

Armed with this suggestion I went about figuring out how I was supposed to do this. My heart. I had spent so much time focusing on my headaches, that befriending my heart was a foreign concept.

My heart.

That night I sat up in my room, sleepless as usual. My heart. I know I am feeling something. In my heart. I don’t feel anything. For several hours I sat in the silent darkness trying to become aware of what I felt. Trying to feel my feelings that somehow were related to the gradually dulling ache in my head.

Each night I took the journey out of my head into my body where the tight and taut muscles mirrored the tightness of the headaches, or perhaps they created the headaches. Who knows. Gradually, as I explored the physical sensations of tension, I found my way to my heart.

It too was tight, but in a different way. During those endlessly sleepless nights, I sat at the door of my heart and learned to feel its pain and to describe it with different words. Closed. Defended. Guarded. Shrouded. Withdrawn.

In this odyssey through the sensations of my physicality which brought me to the door of my heart, my headaches lessened until eventually they ceased altogether.

There at heart’s door I learned that I couldn’t pry open the door as I had tried to rid myself of the headaches. I couldn’t demand. It worked on no timetable of mine. The heart responds not to aggression or fearful pleas.

I had to wait.

Welcome its pain. Its fearful closing in on itself. Till it knew it was safe to trust me with its deepest sorrows and its even deeper treasures.

Can you stay with your heart’s deepest pain? Can you sit with some physical pain and ask it for its story? Take a deep breath, feel the way you are held by gravity and by the even deeper Abyss of God’s embrace. Say quietly: I am here. I am yours. I am waiting on you. I will wait always and forever. Come.

Photo by cyrus gomez on Unsplash