When our contemplation group used to meet in person, I sometimes placed a bowl by the door. As we settled in, I invited people to place in the bowl anything that was weighing them down, distracting them, keeping them from being fully present – worries, anxiety, should’s, judgments, have to’s, and so on. “Don’t worry,” I would assure everyone. “When we are finished, you can always pick them back up on your way out. Or you can leave them in the bowl, and I will dispose of them later.”
As this year comes to a close, most of us, I imagine, could think of a few burdens we would like to leave in the bowl as we step through the door from the year ending into the new year.
For example, I realize that I have been carrying around for a long time guilt for pain that I caused in a friendship. Because the other person continues to feel hurt and to express it, I have continued to carry the guilt. I have come to understand, however, that there is nothing more I can do. I have listened, I have acknowledged and apologized, and I have made what amends I can. I can’t go back and redo anything in the past, nor can I offer anything in the present that will undo what is already done. It’s time to lay this burden down.
This does not mean I no longer feel compassion. On the contrary, releasing my burden of guilt frees me to care more deeply about the other person. My heart is more open to love without the shackles of judgment, judgment of how the other person handles their pain, judgment of myself for my part in causing it. Blame and judgment go into the bowl along with guilt.
The new year is just a date on the calendar, but it represents an ending and a beginning, an opportunity for a fresh start, an invitation to leave behind what no longer serves us.
What about you? What will you leave in the burden bowl as you go through the door?
May the beginning of 2022 be a door of liberation, freeing us from the unnecessary burdens that weigh down our spirits, opening our hearts with infinite compassion, humbling us with blessings of grace, uniting us with the breath of life that we share with all living things.