Have you ever had the feeling you were standing in a space that held the cries of all of humanity’s suffering and also the birth pangs of new beginnings? I was in awe as I stood inside the United Nations General Assembly building and looked out over the Manhattan skyline with the 193 member nation flags enveloping the space that had been set apart to collectively bring well-being, equality, and dignity into our world, a planet in her truest nature without borders. Last week, March 11-15, 2019, Dr. Helen Rose Ebaugh and I along with over 6,000 people, attended the United Nation’s 63rd annual gathering of The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in NYC. We were invited to offer YogaMass as a parallel event for attendees from all over the world as a way to empower women bodily, socially, and spiritually. It was an honor to empower women and to encourage respect for the whole self—mind, body, soul and spirit.
The United Nations infrastructure itself was a testimony to the immense global cooperation of the 193 member states who desire world peace, humanitarian aid, human rights, and community sustainability. I felt a deep sense of connection to the Baptismal vows we say in the Episcopal Church as we promise to “respect the dignity of every human being.” The mission was clear: dignity and the right of every human being to live a decent life with access to clean water, sustainable community, economic development, health care, education, and social protection. In the United States, we often take these basic human rights for granted, while in some countries, the struggle still continues for basic survival, especially in areas of high poverty and war-torn areas. When in survival mode, I was acutely aware that spiritual advancement and self-actualization are beyond what the daily struggle to live allows.
As we walked the halls of the United Nations, my heart grew heavy. I saw photos of children without access to clean water (a startling total of 2.1 billion people in 2015,) child soldiers laying down the automatic weapons that they had been forced to use on others, and the impact of the atomic bomb explosion in Nagasaki that melted the concrete statue of St. Agnes at a Roman Catholic Church. Why? How could such cruelty have been unleashed by humankind against one another? I am so grateful for the work of the UN, and yet in spite of the good works, it was clear that so much more needs to be done.
I am proud of the delegates of The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion from all around the world participating in the meetings to work toward empowering women and girls politically, economically, civically, socially and in education. I witnessed the Church working for gender equality, LGBTQ rights, food and water insecurity, human rights for women workers, to name a few of the issues. I was hopeful when I met team members from St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, VA, who brought mothers and daughters from their parish with their female priest—they were a beautiful example of teaching the next generation to be strong and courageous! At the opening Eucharist of The Episcopal Church, the preacher offeredprofoundly, “Words without actions are empty. Our faith is bolstered through our works.”
The work of UN/CSW is critical as we work toward human rights and gender equality. I am grateful to the UN/CSW for raising up women and girls as an equal gender whose voice must be heard. Until the masculine and feminine voices are balanced, we must persevere, because survival our planet and humanity depend on this balance and harmony. Nature teaches us about balance—without balance, the ecosystem is in danger. The issue of female gender marginalization is not new—Jesus dealt with it too. Jesus had a conversation in broad daylight with the woman at the well and empowered her with new life. Jesus sat at Martha’s table enjoying meals, and Jesus empowered her sister Mary who sat and his feet and soaked up his wisdom. Jesus included women in his circle of friends, giving women self-worth and value.
YogaMass at the UN created sacred space where Spirit was invited to be a part of the conversation. As much as the meetings happening at the gathering critically needed intellectual perspectives, the women gathered at YogaMass recognized the gift of being aware of Spirit in our midst and the importance of prayer that incorporates the whole self. A Taiwanese woman gratefully told me that she would go back to her country and incorporate her faith and honoring of her body in her social work. An African woman commented that she was empowered to listen to her intuition and exercise feminine leadership as part of the gifts she brings to the table. Tears flowed as women reconnected with their hearts and their bodies as temples of the divine Spirit. Witnessing women embracing a renewed honoring of who they are, created in the image of God, was a beautiful gift.
Women, men, girls and boys—from every country and community locally and globally—need the basic support and infrastructure to grow into the knowledge and love of God, knowing that the Divine Light within them infuses their unique gifts that they offer the world. Our work must continue until every child can shine his and her light. Let us teach our children—all children, boys and girls, everywhere—to shine until the whole world is lit up with God’s light and love as infinite as the stars in the heavens.
May the Light of Christ within you shine brightly!
Today, another mass shooting permeates the airwaves. Shock, grief, sorrow, and loss make our hearts heavy. Community leaders, sports coaches, athletes, survivors, parents, and friends speak out in pain of the latest tragedy. Our collective sorrow grows—this latest tragedy is only ten days after the one that came before … the previous against a religious community. Schools, workplaces, houses of worship, concert arenas, movie theaters, night clubs … all places that we Americans expect to feel safe.
Safety is a primordial need. Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” defines his “Hierarchy of Needs.” He places the need for safety right after the most basic needs for food and water, shelter and sleep. After physiological needs are met, safety—which includes personal security, emotional and financial security, and health and well-being—takes precedence. The most primitive part of our brains causes us to fight, flight, or freeze; in essence, we instinctively do what is needed to protect us for sustaining life.
We will fight for our lives and our loved ones, thus the saying, “Never get between a mama bear and her cubs.” You won’t win that one. Our political climate today seems to be in a holding pattern at this level: if our personal and financial security is threatened, we fight back and create barriers, whether the threat is perceived or real. When we create in our minds an enemy of the “other,” we move into self-preservation mode, even at all costs.
What’s missing in my view of being in this instinctual survival mode is the ability to see the larger picture, the other point of view. In our shock and sadness, when a shooting occurs, it is of utmost importance to grieve, to stand with those who suffer with the deepest of compassion, and to make space for the grieving process, as long as it takes. I am intimately aware that knowing another’s compassion and being connected to the grace of God is how one survives such a blow in life.
And yet, it is also important to explore what could have caused the shooter to unleash such harm on innocent people. Is it retaliation, or repressed anger or hate? What is causing the anger or hate? What is feeding it? What is the source, and how can we affect the systemic root cause?
No doubt those questions have very complex answers in every unique case.
I also have no doubt that every human being born on this planet is a child of God. Everyone is born with a soul, with life lessons to learn. That is our spiritual path. Some choose distractions from the spiritual path, others simply cannot or are not given the opportunity to find the spiritual path if they are struggling with basic needs such as food and water, or safety concerns. My prayer is that even then, there is a glimpse of something more powerful beyond them, a peaceful, guiding force beckoning them home, into the light. In the case of a shooter, what is going on not only in their minds, but particularly in their hearts, their souls? What are they feeling? What need is left unmet that would cause this violent outburst? Is there a mental illness affecting their ability to function in society?
It is important to acknowledge the role of mental illness in such shootings. Mental illness is a real disease, just as is heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is one we often wish to ignore—staying in denial is a way to cope. But the illness doesn’t go away without treatment, careful attention, and nurture. I am not a physician, or a psychologist, or a mental health professional, but I am in the business of soul care. My priesthood is focused on healing. My life’s work to help others heal comes partly from a deep-seated “knowing” of the pain of being different, not fitting in, mild depression, and being the wife of a loving yet troubled man who committed suicide when I was age 29. I understand the pain of mental illness—and the impact of leaving it unattended. Ultimately, denial does not work. Every single child of God needs care and nurture to become whole, to discover a sense of well-being. As a society, we fail when even one is not given the opportunity to step into the path toward healing and wholeness.
But there is also another component to shootings. Maslow’s hierarchy defines the next level—after security needs are met—as those of social belonging: the need for friendships, intimacy, and family relationships. This need for social belonging is critical to health, and it is especially strong in childhood. Sadly, this is the time when children are bullied at school, on the playgrounds, at the bus stops, even online. It is hard to escape. Places that are supposed to be safe, schools where children spend sometimes 10 hours per day, are not always safe. I was recently blessed to hear a young woman speak at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Carrah Quigley, the daughter of a school shooter. Quigley spoke emphatically of the tragedy of bullying, cliques, racism, and prejudice in our school systems. She awakened me to the seriousness of the effect of bullying and racism on the psychological well-being of some shooters, and for her courage to speak out, I am grateful.
Ostracism, ridicule, rejection, and bullying were alive in my school days. Whether related to one wearing glasses, the shoes or clothes a child is wearing, the color of their skin, their home country, native language, their femininity or masculinity (hurtful names like “gay” or “faggot” or “butch” were those used in my days) … these words DO have an impact. It hurts me to even write these words, as if writing them down gives them credence in some way, but in truth, I must acknowledge those words were intentionally tossed around flippantly yet with vengeance. We used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Well, for me, that was a Lie. I suppose I was trying to convince myself that I was stronger than their meanness. But it was a lie. Many nights, I went to sleep sad as a young girl. Sometimes I cried, other nights I simply asked, “Why? Why are they so mean?”
Do young boys and girls who are ridiculed and bullied grow up into adults who still silently cry to belong and be accepted? Our culture willingly promotes and sensationalizes violence in the entertainment industry, and then we train our young men and women to become soldiers, placing a weapon in their hands to protect our freedom from any perceived threat that may bring harm. For some, it’s a good place to fit in, to finally belong. It offers a place to feel pride, to connect with something bigger than yourself. I know that many young adults have learned how to be acceptably mentally healthy to pass the entrance exams, even while suppressing painful emotions. We know how to “cope” and stay in denial–at least I did at that age. Tragically, our young soldiers often come home deeply traumatized, perhaps a continuation of a deep-rooted feelings from childhood, or perhaps it’s a new reality for them, trauma from encountering hate and anger, both external and internal. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in our veterans is a national emergency in our country. An alarming average of 20 veterans per day commit suicide in the U.S. This alone should cause alarm and deep compassion to radically emerge in our social rhetoric for needed change. Some shooters—and not all, to be clear—are military-trained veterans. I do not wish to stereotype in any way; I simply wish to point out that the effect of unhealed trauma can cause serious consequences.
Are we surprised that our national divisive language, hate language, universal access to guns, and the lack of resources for healing trauma, anger and anguish are tearing us apart? This is a complex problem for sure, but what seems most tragic to me is taking the position that “This is so sad, but it doesn’t directly impact me, so I’ll go on as usual. It doesn’t affect my life. I am not responsible. I will pray (a good first step, yet incomplete.) My happy life is just fine the way it is (in my protected bubble that I have created for myself and my family.)” That bubble is imaginary, however.
It seems the shooters are trying to tell us something. Even if under mental illness delusions, there is still a message. And it’s not all mental illness. Some of it may be the need to express deep emotional wounds. I wonder. Could they be saying to us, “Does anyone care about me? Listen to me. You are happy, but I have pain, even if I am hiding it. Do you care enough to see my pain? Who can I talk to, is there anyone out there? My feelings are going to explode someday soon. I don’t agree with you. “You” have hurt me. I am hurting.”
Whatever it is, we seldom get to ask. Usually, they take their own lives along with the innocent others whose lives they take with them. In the case of suicide, we are left with many unanswered questions and deep grief in our souls for things done and left un-done.
It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it is happening, and likely will continue. What forceful message are they projecting for us to hear as their “final say” screams and pierces through the air in our presumably safe places, as an equal and opposite force to what they are experiencing?
Can we hear? Can we hear? What do they want us to hear? Are we willing to listen? Can we ask, learn, reflect, and grow? Are we willing to change to create a society where healing and wholeness of everyone is of the highest priority, where everyone belongs?
Let us pray. Holy God, creator of the multiverses, you made us all in your image. Help us to see how we are all one, sharing this planet. Help us to ask how we can be a part of the solution. Help us to reach out and love those who have been hurt … on the playgrounds, in the battlefields, in the arenas with gunshots, the victims, the survivors, and their families. Help us to embrace that we are one big family, caring for each other with love, nurture, and peace. Guide us to heal our own wounds so that our lights shine for others to see. In the Light of Christ, we pray. Amen.
ALIVE at 55!
Today I AM 55.
My discovery is that turning 55 is not something to be afraid of. At this point in my life, I actually feel like a kid again. If I could do a cartwheel again, I would gladly fly through the air!
My life is likely more than halfway, and yet I feel brand new again.
I am reframing my life, reclaiming my passions, and rediscovering play. When I love what I am doing, I am playing, and that feels good.
I am redefining my priesthood—after my discovery that I am both a priest and a priestess, the masculine sun energy integrated with the feminine cool energy. I lead. I teach. And I nurture. I heal. I help others to see the truth of their essence in God. I embrace heart-knowing and body wisdom. I bring heaven down to earth, within me, within my body, to aid in healing of myself and others, and the planet, to bring forth awareness, a higher consciousness, expansion into the Christ Consciousness.
My calling to the priesthood began with an inner knowing that I am a healer. I, like many others, know the power of being healed, and the gift of sharing healing with others. I am on a journey to higher consciousness, to light and love, to fully becoming Love with no judgment, full acceptance, full allowance.
My mantra words are FLOW and INTEGRATION--applying to every level of my being and my purpose.
I flow with God.
I flow with Spirit.
I flow with my Higher Self.
I flow with my Angels and Guides who help me see beyond what I can see. One of my Guides is my Spirit Bird, the Hawk. He/she shows up to let me know that there is a bigger picture, and that God is with me. The Hawk blesses me and my marriage.
So today, I give thanks to God for being 55.
55 is beautiful, wise, courageous, creative, compassionate, loving, giving, and honoring.
55 is the feeling of being a kid again yet having the wisdom to not let the little things take away from the beauty of life and my beautiful spirit.
55 is the freedom to explore and be me, to live into my true essence and speak my truth.
55 is all gift.
Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen. Aum. OM. I Am.
I was ordained to the Priesthood eight years ago in the Episcopal Church—a church I love because we profess to be a loving community and to honor the dignity of every human being. It has been a wild ride in preparation for and since my ordination: leading worship, visiting the sick, serving our neighbors, teaching the children, opening hearts for spiritual growth, creating a beautiful labyrinth, and sharing in community in prayer, worship, meditation, and eating together. During this time, I also founded and created YogaMassâ, a unique worship experience that integrates east and west, body and breath, movement and stillness, thinking and feeling, doing and being, Holy Communion and meditation.
I felt called to the priesthood because I knew deep in my heart that I was a healer. I offer my gifts of healing every time I teach, preach, preside over Holy Eucharist, and offer blessings. Every action, every ritual, every teaching has been an opportunity to send healing into the hearts, minds, bodies, and souls of the people I have been blessed to serve. As an ordained priest, I am honored, privileged, humbled, and grateful.
I am a priest. A priest is a spiritual and pastoral leader of a community of faith. The priesthood is the leadership ordained to administer the sacraments of bread and wine, body and blood, and to bring people to know the love of Jesus Christ. A priest is strong, prayerful, faithful, focused, intentional, and loving. A priest listens deeply to God and to others, offering guidance and direction for walking in faith. A priest in the church has institutional authority to administer the Sacraments of baptism, Eucharist (Mass), confirmation, reconciliation, marriage, burial, and ministry to the sick and dying. In the Eucharist, the priest holds high the chalice filled with wine and says the words of remembrance of Jesus to invoke the Holy Spirit upon the wine being offered in the sacred ritual. A priest leads others to God and walks with people in life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and life events and transitions, always there to serve in the love of Christ.
Truth be told, I am also a priestess (self-proclaimed.) Please let me explain. A priestess also officiates in sacred rituals, connecting with the divine and deeply honoring life and creation—the earth, the oceans, and all living creatures. A priestess understands that our bodies are made of the earth and of water, and the earth’s cycles affect us too, because we are made of earth and water. Just as God’s spirit hovered over the waters, so too does the Spirit hover over us and infuse us with life force energy. A priestess honors birthing and creativity—feminine attributes—holding space for new life to emerge. A priestess naturally honors the spiritual and mystical connections she has with her Self, creation, and the unseen forces of God’s realm. A priestess intuitively seeks energetic balance within herself and in the world around her and offers healing practices for others to heal energetic blocks in their bodies and open pathways for higher knowing and divine connection. A priestess listens to her body to discover truth and offers healing through her hands, her voice, intuition, and deep listening. A priestess makes music of the angelic realm, sometimes with her voice, or a musical instrument such as a harp, a guitar, or crystal bowls. I am a priestess because I embody my spirituality and lead others to the knowing of the divine within, passionately dedicated to love, beauty, wholeness, and flow.
I wonder: why am I called into be both a priest and a priestess? I am clear that I am here to honor both the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine and to bring the Divine Feminine into a prominent and equal role for deep healing and higher consciousness to emerge in our world and in our individual bodies. The Divine Feminine is not a threat to mankind, humankind, or to the Church; she is the missing component to a healthy relationship with God, with others, with Self, and with all of creation. When the Divine Feminine is acknowledged and embraced, we will find a balance that allows us to move forward in the evolution of humanity for the highest good and potential possible.
We need priests and priestesses. We need healers who honor both heaven and earth, who honor and embody both aspects of humanity—male and female—people who are committed to bringing integration, healing, wholeness, and a balance to create harmony and peace. Jesus fully embodied both the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. It is good news that many are collectively awakening to the realization that both aspects of ourselves—and of how we perceive God—are needed to make us whole, complete, and fully human. Perhaps this is a redefinition of the priesthood into something totally new: the integration of masculine and feminine, fiery sun heat and cooling moon energy, fully in this body with Christ Consciousness awareness. This priesthood opens all to embrace All That We Are and All That Is. This is the path to higher awareness, higher consciousness, a new heaven and a new earth. Miraculously, the Christ light always shines brightly and lights the way forward.
Today Christians all over the world gather in mourning at the cruel, horrific death of Jesus. While we know that the Resurrection comes, today we remember his death, his sacrifice, his humility. It is a time of reconnecting our own souls with his heart, the heart and soul of a man so perfectly human and so completely divine that he was willing to give all for the sake of Love.
Aligning my heart with Jesus today brings up questions for me.
Am I willing to love at all costs?
Am I willing to face my enemies with courage, conviction and compassion?
Am I willing to lay down my sword, my gun—as Jesus did—so that all may live?
Could my words and my actions reflect trust and hope rather than defensiveness and fear?
In this age of rampant violence, heated gun control law and human rights debates, Good Friday seems a good time to reflect on what is most important. It is a choice, whether conscious or not, to live from a place of love rather than fear. Jesus clearly walked right through fear and danger with the most compassionate of stances, giving us a strong revelation of what being in full alignment with his Creator looks like. For Jesus, he knew he was safe—in an eternal sense—so much that he could love at all costs, even praying for forgiveness for those who were hurting, taunting, killing him.
Living from the lower chakra energy centers where survival, security, safety and protection are of utmost importance can create a defensive posturing when one doesn’t feel safe. Living from the heart center requires deep grounding and knowing who you are—lower chakra healing—while also tapping into eternal wisdom and the knowing that ultimately all is well—third eye chakra activation. The spiritual path is a movement into healing and wholeness of these energy centers that drive our actions, thoughts, and emotions.
Jesus shows us what we can endure—as loving human and spiritual beings—if we are perfectly aligned with God in all aspects of our being. Jesus shows us the Way of Life Mastery: living from the Heart center with open receptivity and wisdom. As I look for how my own speech and actions are out of alignment with pure love, I am humbled today. I am humbled at his total surrender into all that came his way, still only loving and healing others with every word, every heartbeat. Pure Love. Only Pure Love.
Be still, be grateful, and breathe in the Pure Love of Jesus the Christ.
As I reflect on MLK, Jr. Day, my heart sings
Every child dreams of a life fulfilled
Every child dreams of being known
Every child dreams of being loved
Every child needs to be held
Every child needs to be nourished
Every child needs to belong
Hearts of innocence and wonder can harden
Voices telling them they don’t matter
Finding themselves unseen and unheard
All will find ways of expression
Some creative, some destructive, some violent
All hungry for connection
What if every child knew love
No matter skin color, country of origin, religious beliefs of their families
What if every child was told they had something good to offer the world
What if every child was told they could
That someone who cared was watching
And cheering them on
What if every child was told they matter
What if every child had nutritious food, clean water, access to education?
What if every child in this world had a chance
to believe that all things are possible?
Today, look into the heart of the child near you
It may be a child of two, or forty-two, or eighty-two
Really look, with eyes filled with love
Dreams are waiting to be birthed, to be spoken
All a child wants is to be asked
"What do you desire? Tell me about your dreams."
And to be told that with God, all things are possible.
Do you know about the season of Advent, the time of sacred waiting in the Church? It reminds me of how young mothers and fathers await the birth of a child. They quickly become attuned to how fast the body, mind and emotions undergo changes during pregnancy. The first trimester is full of the awe and wonder of this brand-new miracle happening, and especially about the growing baby’s safety. During the first trimester (first 12 weeks), the most dramatic changes and development occur during the baby’s growth, from embryo to organ development to fetus. During the second trimester (13 to 27 weeks), the baby begins to build weight, and those cute kicking movements begin to appear, bringing much delight! The last trimester (28 weeks to birth) marks the final stage of anticipation: the fetus grows larger, gains weight, strengthens its organs, and prepares for birth. The woman’s body and emotions during these months undergo rapid changes also, as the baby receives his or her nourishment through the mother.
I still remember my own pregnancy, several decades ago. My entire pregnancy was like an extended Advent! I was fortunate that I didn’t experience “morning sickness,” and I didn’t feel any physical symptoms other than fatigue. My growing baby took all of my energy, leaving me exhausted at the end of the day! Physical birthing pains didn’t kick in until delivery day, but birthing “anticipation” settled in strongly early in my pregnancy. The feeling I remember most was more emotional and spiritual than physical: an extreme closeness to my baby, unconditional gratitude, and a deep awareness of the presence of God.
I imagine Mother Mary, in experiencing her own miraculous pregnancy, also felt a deep, abiding sense of God’s presence. What was growing inside of her was none other than a miracle, the Christ, and her body was the home, the temple, for this amazing new baby growing in her body.
Our bodies are like hers, too, in a way. Our bodies are the homes for the spirit within us that was birthed on our actual birth day. Our bodies are the temples for the spirit inside of us that longs for union with God (“yoga” in Sanskrit.)
The miraculous birth of Christ that we celebrate on Christmas Day is a celebration of the greatest magnitude, the greatest gift of God’s presence among us. As our hearts long for communion with divine presence, it serves us well to remember that God is birthing something new within us too—perhaps a deeper connection to Spirit, or a renewed heart filled with wonder and awe, and maybe even a heart that is willing to keep trying, to keep connecting with others because our hearts want human connection at their deepest level.
At the deepest level, the true essence within us is waiting to be birthed, to be discovered, to be awakened to. Just as for Mary, this Advent time in the Church is set apart for us to attend to the growth happening within us as we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is a wonderful, inspiring and miraculous time.
To tap into this beautiful, sacred rhythm and discover what God is doing within you, you can be intentional in these ways:
The miracle of the sacred birth is the Christmas gift that satisfies our hearts. The gift is within us and around us, now—we simply have to awaken to it.
This is the season to join with Mary and celebrate the miracle of giving birth to the discovery of our true essence, with the Christ child leading the way.
The Reverend Gena Davis
Episcopal priest, yoga educator, author, spiritual director, founder of YogaMass®
All of the major religions place importance on compassion. Compassion means “to suffer with” another. The stronger and healthier I get, the more capacity I have to be compassionate with others. Today, I am feeling the need to be compassionate with myself, to give myself time to feel and embrace the chaos inside of me. My feelings are borne out of the collective state we are all in, but the inner chaos arises from my own reactions. I know in my head that I cannot control what others do that lead to divisiveness and devaluation of integrity and respect for others. The lack of ethics in our country permeates the news, the entertainment industry, the White House, and ultimately our souls. I also know that I cannot personally stop the senseless violence that continues in our country, with yet another mass shooting unleashed on innocent people, this time in a small, rural town in central Texas.
My heart wants to cry out for justice, and yet my voice struggles to find a way to be heard. In Scripture, Jesus invites us into a relationship with him and with God so that “our joy may be complete”—yes, that is what we seek but getting there is the difficult journey.
Here’s what we can do:
Today, for me, it is easier said than done. Today, I begin again, like every day. Reconnecting with the divine in my body, my breath, and in the silence of my heart gives me strength and purpose to walk alongside others, trusting that together our voices will indeed make a difference for healing, one heart and body at a time.
The Reverend Gena Davis
Episcopal priest, yoga educator, author, spiritual director, founder of YogaMass®
As I return from a healing retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, led by the gifted team of the Institute for Spirituality and Health, unexpected blow has come to us once again, this one in bursts of rapid fire and penetrating sounds that bring us to the deepest pain within as we cringe physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It feels forceful and heavy in my body, and I close in to protect my heart from experiencing more pain. The reality is that none of us can escape this deep tragedy, a collective pain that wounds us both individually and as a whole. When we experience this kind of pain—senseless and alarming—and we experience it deeply within our bodies, it is like an alarm going off telling us that we cannot ignore this, we must pay attention. What has happened to the victims in Las Vegas and their loved ones has happened to us. Our spirits know intuitively that we are called forth to pray, contemplate, meditate, and act. We may not yet know what we can do, but as we process this together, and listen deep within, we will know. Answers will come. And each of us will play our own different and unique role, bringing voices of justice, healing, meaning making, and hope. Feeling paralyzed is part of the experience of the initial shock of it all, but this will eventually pass, and we will be guided to become a part of the solution, however that will unfold.
In the meantime, feel. Embrace what your heart says, because your heart teaches you. Your heart knows the way forward. At your October 21 YogaMass, we will set our intention for healing within ourselves, and for the collective, offering up prayers for the lives lost, that their souls be at rest in the realm of divine peace. The world needs our prayers and intention for the greatest and highest good. We will continue to strive to be the light and love of a people who profess Christ and know that love always wins.
May the peace of Christ light your way, namaste,
The Reverend Gena Davis
Episcopal priest, yoga educator, author, spiritual director, founder of YogaMass®
As Houstonians and all those living along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast face the daunting task of rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, we watch in dread as Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the Caribbean with Florida in view. Our natural tendency is to move into automatic pilot, doing what needs to be done: ripping and tearing out walls, taking food and clothes to a neighbor or a local shelter, checking on family and friends to be sure they have what they need, and volunteering in whatever way is needed at the moment.
Our very survival of our species has depended on our ability to inherently fight or flight. This is the engagement of our sympathetic nervous system. When danger is near, it provides the body with a burst of energy to respond. We know what to do, and we do it. Thank God for that innate sense that guides us to safety and to supporting each other through the danger.
We are very complex beings, comprised of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of our whole selves—integrated mind, body, soul and spirit. Once the physical is taken care of, and we feel safe, we may turn our attention to our emotional and spiritual state. This is a healthy response. When we don’t, and we deny or suppress what we are feeling, our bodies are forced to contain what we refuse (even if subconsciously) to admit or address.
When we recognize that we are integrated beings, we can allow ourselves to face what we are feeling and to allow those emotions to arise and flow out so that they aren’t harbored in the body to manifest dis-ease. After such an event as Harvey, one of our very important tasks beyond physical safety is to address our emotional state and move toward well-being. It is then that we can fully embrace the meaning of this event in our lives, our renewed purpose, and the important questions, “What next?” and “Where is God in all this?”
I admit I am experiencing a slight recurrence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) myself tied to previous chapters in my life, as are many. PTSD is a condition that is caused after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event like Harvey. It is natural to feel afraid after such an event, and some are able more easily to shake it off and move on. Often the feelings of fear continue and may surface long after the event has passed. A sudden memory or jolt brings it all back in a flash. It is natural to be afraid that it could happen again, even though it likely won’t. Working through these emotions is the healthiest response we can give ourselves in an effort to move forward with a positive outlook on the future.
During the storm and in the aftermath, we all prayed. We prayed for safety, mercy, and comfort for the victims. We gave thanks to God for rescuing us in the dark hour. We prayed and received comfort in knowing we are not alone. We have made it through the initial shock that this could happen to us. Now we begin the emotional and spiritual healing process, moving through the stages of grief together.
Our September 23 YogaMass will focus on lifting us up toward wholeness and healing through the grief process, giving renewed strength for the journey ahead. Yoga movements will open us and help us release tightly-held emotions. Intentional breathing will help ground us to know we are indeed safe. Meditation will help us find peace within. Holy Communion will re-unite us to our God in Christ who is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The YogaMass team hopes you will join us as we come together in faith with wholeness and healing in mind, location to be announced.
Until then, take good care. As one friend told me when I asked what I could do when his home was flooded, help a neighbor. Yes, that is what we do. We are strengthened to do our good work by getting grounded in the light of Christ within, and then sharing it with our neighbors in need.
May the peace of Christ light your way, namaste,
The Reverend Gena Davis
Episcopal priest, yoga educator, author, spiritual director, founder of YogaMass®