We have all been living through what people on the news keep calling “historic” times, and while I believe this is certainly the case, in many other ways, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for reflection on how we navigate life in the modern world. We have been and continue to be living through many disruptions and changes to our daily lives, and while these changes have made us less “busy” in some ways, for me at least they have actually added to my internal noise. This noise comes from worrying about health and safety, deadlines from my job and school, maintaining relationships with friends and family, expectations from myself about using my time well, and a million other things. And that is what I want to focus on today, internal noise, and how the practice of mindfulness do not totally eliminate this noise but changes our experience of noise and how Jesus in Luke 19:1-10 shows us how this kind of mindful life looks.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Jesus’ Mindfulness of Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a Jew, and because of this he was seen as a traitor to the Jewish people because he aligned with the Romans to gain personal wealth even at the expense of his own people. However, he heard about this guy named Jesus who was reaching out and being kind to people that most religious leaders would ignore. The problem for Zacchaeus was that he was short, and people didn’t like him so they probably didn’t want Jesus to notice him, so he put himself out there and climbed a tree so he could at least see Jesus as he passed by. However, “When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”” Jesus didn’t just see him, but knew him and invited him in. This part that sticks out to me because in the midst of all this commotion, of all the people vying for his attention, and all the things he needed to do, Jesus SAW Zacchaeus. Jesus was able to SEE Zacchaeus because he was living a fully present (mindful) life.
What Does it Mean to Live Mindfully?
Though we don’t know if he ever actually practiced the practices of mindfulness meditation or not, this story displays how Jesus lived a life that embodied mindfulness in a significant way. Jesus was mindful was that he was fully present in the moment even amidst distractions and chaos around him. Luke tells us that the crowd around Jesus was so dense that Zacchaeus has no chance of being able to get to Jesus. However, Jesus displays, that even though he was unable to control these crowds, he could still live in such a way where he can see and respond to Zacchaeus in a tree. Even in the midst of the crowds he was able to live mindfully.
While we may never have crowds of people fighting to get close to us, in the landscapes of our minds it can often feel this way. We have the expectations of our teachers or bosses, relationships with our friends and family, uncertainty about health and safety, the list goes on of all the things crowding our minds and vying for our attention. Even though we often don’t have control over how much going on in our lives or minds, we can develop practices of mindfulness so we can see and react to the people and things that are truly important, even when everything else feels urgent.
Jesus in this text was living in such a way that allowed him to see and know the people that everyone else would discount and ignore. Jesus’ mindfulness allowed him to live differently, and I believe this text is inviting us into that same kind mindful living. This text invites us to ask the questions, what would it look like if we too lived this type of mindful life? What if we too saw those that no one else could see and that we reached out to them?
Though it’s not seen in this passage, this type of mindfulness also extends to how we treat ourselves. If we are living with present moment attention, we will be more likely to give ourselves grace. In this time of internal and external commotion mindfulness can offer a way to manage all the noise and thus be kinder to ourselves and to others. There are a number of ways to practice mindfulness including meditation, yoga, prayer, silence, attention, etc. and there is no single path to mindfulness. However, I encourage you to use some of time this week to try out one or two ways to practice mindfulness so you can find one that works for you.
A Place to Start/Soul
Centering Prayer - with Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault. Rev. Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest and an expert in centering praye who works with Fr. Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico, USA. In this video she gives a really explanation of what centering prayer is, how to, and finally a guidance through centering prayer.
A Place to Start/Body
With a gradual deconfinement happening across France we are beginning to have new opportunities to be outside. While I understand that many of the more popular places to hang out such as along the banks of the Seine are overcrowded and probably best to avoid, I want to encourage you to spend some time outside in the sun this week. We have been stuck in our homes for a long time, and with the weather warming it, simply walking or sitting in the sun can do a lot to help boost our mood. Additionally, silent walks in nature can help us to practice present moment attention and mindfulness by simply listening to the sounds of the world around us. The goal of this is not to clear your mind entirely, but to intentionally try to set your attention of the present moment.
A Place to Start/Mind
Last week I shared a video done by my friend the Rev. Dr. Lindsey Jodrey at the end of which they recommended a website called self-compassion.org, so this week I would like to recommend an exercise from that website to help us develop self-compassion.
Please take out a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.
Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.
Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?
 Is often practices through the following of the breath. It “isn’t about letting your thoughts wander. But it isn’t about trying to empty your mind, either. Instead, the practice involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that’s happening.” - Gelles, David. "How to Meditate." The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate.