Scripture “And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for
eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw
her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his
hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” Luke 13:11-12
Spiritual Focus “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Our poor bodies—they are not only subject to physical wear and tear, they are also impacted
by our emotions. Anxiety can make us sick to our stomach, grief can cause physical heart ache,
and stress manifests in the body in all sorts of unpleasant ways, from pounding headaches to
increased blood sugar levels. Yoga students don’t have to work very hard to come up with
examples of mind, body, and spirit connections. But how to use our knowledge of those
connections to benefit ourselves and others can be puzzling.
This week’s scripture of the bent over woman offers guidance. Many biblical scholars focus on
the part of the story that Jesus healed the bent woman on the Sabbath, near the synagogue no
less, and ticked off the synagogue leaders. This is first and foremost, however, a story of
healing. The bent over woman was crippled by “a spirit”. Jesus sees her, is compassionate, and
with loving kindness lays hands on her and she is healed; she dramatically walks tall again after
eighteen years of suffering. As the story is told, the healing process begins with awareness,
when Jesus notices her, followed by compassion.
The famous meditation teacher and professor of medicine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the
seminal book on stress management, Full-Catastrophe Living, explains this ancient, sacred
healing pathway in modern terms.
“Strange as it may sound, the intentional knowing of our feelings in times of emotional suffering
contains in itself the seeds of healing.”
Kabot-Zinn contends that this is because, “awareness itself has an independent perspective that
is outside of suffering”. And advises that, Into the non-suffering space created by awareness,
we can bring compassion and loving kindness, fostering healing.
Difficult emotions will always be difficult. But in times of distress we can choose a different way
to see and be in the world. We can purposefully increase our awareness and bring loving
kindness and self-compassion to our situation or our neighbor’s. In doing so we initiate the
healing process, benefiting both ourselves and the world.
Body Emotion Practice: Starting small, imagine a concerning but not overwhelming emotion,
such as an emotion triggered by mild stress, and then conduct a simple body scan. How does
the emotion manifest in your body? in tensing muscles? the beginnings of a headache? an
upset stomach? Or maybe it has no discernible physical impact. The process here is to simply
observe any physical sensations triggered by the emotion without judgment. Next, into the
space created by your increased awareness, bring compassion and loving kindness. What does
compassion and loving kindness feel like? Observe this too. At the end of your practice take
what you have learned off the mat and into the world.