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®