Hearts Burning

If you belong to a liturgical Christian church (such as my own denomination, the Episcopal Church), you likely heard this verse in today’s gospel from Luke: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road…?” (Luke 24:32). Two disciples are commenting after an encounter with the risen Jesus that, though they did not recognize him at first, they can look back and recall a sensation within them, a feeling of their hearts on fire that would have been a certain indicator that they were in the presence of the Divine.

You might be wondering how this line relates to eating disorder recovery (or you might be put off that I’ve started this “secular” blog with something sacred). Well, stay with me, if you will.

I’ve been reflecting on this “hearts burning” feeling this past week as I pay more mindful attention to what brings me joy and peace in these scary and uncertain times. Yesterday, here in the suburbs of Philadelphia, was a glorious day. I had time to go for a morning walk and found myself grinning widely as the varied songs of birds reached my ears and as my eyes took in the scenery: deep purple irises unfolding; tulips glowing red, yellow, and pink; white, pink, and pale green dogwood blossoms opening; geese charging other geese to gain the best seat in the sun; a squirrel eating bird seed from the feeder. So many sights and sounds that gave me a joy so real it was palpable! Right in the middle of my chest was a warmth, a buzzing sensation, an energy not unlike the energy I’ve felt when overcome by a wave of harmonies during an orchestra concert or blending my voice in song with my college’s chapel choir or joining my voice in prayer with members of my congregation or being truly present with a client, a loved one, or a friend.

This palpable joy or peace, this “hearts burning” sensation is what saved me from Binge-Eating Disorder. I didn’t realize that at the time, but looking back I see it. The more I invested my time in the people and activities that contribute to that feeling, the less time I wanted to spend overeating, bingeing, restricting, or overexercising. Every activity that drew me in union with my True Self (which I and others might call the Divine) gave me some degree of that feeling of my heart on fire. It’s a feeling that I never experienced when bingeing.

So, today I want to encourage you to pay mindful attention to your body, noticing any physical sensations and how they’re linked to your feelings. If you find yourself experiencing an energy, buzzing, tingling, or warmth around your upper chest and heart, take note of what you’re doing. Remember that for the future as a possible path to your True Self. Listen to what your True Self has to say. Perhaps you will hear things similar to what I heard during my recovery and still hear now: “You are okay as you are. You are loved. You belong. You matter.”

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?”

Peace, joy, and health,