Scripture ~Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Romans 12:15-16a

Spiritual Focus ~ “Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.” – Brene’ Brown, research professor and author

Breath Prayer ~ Inhale – WE are, Exhale – not alone

Story ~ The New York Times best seller, My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (RES-mah MEN-a-kem) was the book chosen for the monthly book club. The book begins with a story about Menakem and his maternal grandmother; it is a story about trauma and resilience in her body. As the story unfolds, Menakem looks at his petite grandma’s thick, stubby fingers and asks her why they look so different from his. She tells her grandson it was the result of picking cotton as a sharecropper’s daughter from the time she was four years old. Cotton plants have burrs in them that will cut you wide open. Eventually, her hands adapted to the repeated trauma in a way that protected her. But her hands looked odd, almost deformed, as a result. *

As the story was being discussed by the group, one member noticed her fingers tingling. She wasn’t surprised by this as she has had similar experiences feeling another’s story in her body. She is an empath, someone who understands and often feels in their body what another person is experiencing. For an empath this can be an experience of pain or joy. Trained empaths exercise what is called an empathy “muscle”, anchoring themselves in the foundation of presence and being present. We all have this capacity of empathy: the intention to be present with one another, to come alongside each other, to be compassionate. It is the essence of the commandment to love one another. So many of the stories in the Jesus narrative are stories of Jesus understanding another’s pain or joy, understanding their situation, coming alongside them, being present, and simply loving them. 

Asana, one of the eight limbs of yoga, is the physical practice that teaches us how to be in our bodies. What we experience in our bodies can, in turn, inform us in how to be empathetic to one another, how to be compassionate, and to live in harmony. Being empathetic and compassionate is an experience of mutual healing. It is simply saying to another, “You are not alone,” which is exactly the promise God gives to us.    

*Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (Central Recovery Press: 2017)

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