Bag of Holding

One of the more whimsical aspects of a good Dungeons & Dragons game is the finding/acquiring/thieving of magical items. Some, such as an enchanted sword, are very practical, others are more whimsical like Amulet of Rain Detection which only works outdoors and while it is raining. Huh? reminds me of an old joke about the Native American weather device – basically a rock on which it was painted: if it is wet it is raining. There is a certain Zen wisdom to it.

At any rate, a device that actually has some use is the Bag of Holding – think of it as a Tardis with shoulder straps. Not that it allows you to travel in time, but that it is bigger inside than outside. You can store pretty much anything in it. As you can imagine this is quite a useful device.

For my purposes I have come to understand my body as a bag which holds all my unprocessed emotions. And it is indeed a Bag of Holding – it seems to have an infinite amount of space inside.

Currently I have been working with the emotions of my early teen years – and boy there are a lot of them!

By working on emotions I mean something like a form of Lectio but over my own history. Memories come up, I try to “read” them carefully, run over them enough times to reduce the emotional impact (you know, when you remember a particularly embarrassing event and you still cringe all these decades later?). Then I pray over the event and the person(s) involved. Not only the “teen self” but also those people who were there, whose names I might even have forgotten.

Perhaps the memory is of a grudge against a bully. At the time of the event I had no way, no knowledge, no wisdom, no teachers or sages or gurus, to help me let go of that petty anger. But now I can go back and help that younger self and release the event back into the river of time.

I do not follow any particular methodology to do this work. For example, I do not methodically go to a certain year and try to remember everything starting on January 1st through December 31st. I don’t do it for two reasons: I am sure I cannot accurately remember which year was what, “was I 13 or 14 when this event happened?”; second, I do not believe that the body cares. It is all present to my body right now, as knots of unexpressed emotion, as fears, as resentments. So I take them as they come. I am a Mnemonic Literalist – hah! What the memory throws up is what I work with. It does not matter if it is historically factual, as if I could live my life with such objectivity. The hurt/pain/anger/fear/etc are all real and doing me real damage – that is what I got to release.

So I raise that person or event to God and ask simply for Jesus to bless that person (often that is hard) and also to bless the young man (me!) who had such an emotionally difficult time. I trust that Jesus will take care of the work that needs to be done.

Sometimes, like my favorite healing miracle in Mark, I need to go over the event a few times, dozens sometimes, until it dissolves.

The event might come back later, I have noticed this happens, but it is with a different emphasis. As far as I am concerned each version and memory of the even is a different event! It is a different knot that needs undoing. So it is not a case of “I am recalling the same event, so the prayer did not work!” That is not true. The prayer works, it did release the emotion. It is just that I probably over decades have gone over the event countless times, each time adding a new strata. So I dig a little, release what is pooled in there, what is trapped and stagnant. then I continue to dig and find another trapped stagnant emotion and so on.

This is not a case of asking Jesus to help me forget the past. It is both not possible and counterproductive to forget. Forgetting just means repressing. What I actually want is release. Let the life that is knotted and trapped in that even flow freely. It removes the poisonous aspects but it  also allows for the hard lessons of life to strengthen me.

Finally, this is not something which I necessarily do by going to my room and meditating on my life. This would be a tad narcissistic. Instead it comes either when I am on my prayer walks, or because some current event reverberates at the same frequency as the past event. As soon as possible I try to recall the past event and do my praying over it.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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