Trauma and Healing
Week Eighteen Summary and Practice
Sunday, May 2—Friday, May 7, 2021
Great religion shows us what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the traumatic, the nonsensical, the unjust. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.
You can do this, too. You can face your own sorrow, your own wounds. You can stop wanting some other life, some other past, some other reality. —Claude AnShin Thomas
No matter what anyone has done to us in the past, or is doing to us now, or might do to us in the future, this innermost, hidden center of ourselves remains invincibly established in God as a mysterious Presence, as a life that is at once God’s and our own. —James Finley
When we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain—the deep, agonizing soul pain that results from historical trauma—we aren’t able to recognize that we all carry some measure of that pain within us. —Sherri Mitchell
If you’re silent, / you can hear the forest breathe, / the holy hush of the tree’s limb. —Felicia Murrell
Those who “gaze upon” the crucified Jesus (John 19:37) long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggressiveness, and victimhood.
Resmaa Menakem is a therapist who focuses on healing racial trauma. In his book My Grandmother’s Hands, he reminds readers of all races that the way to begin and to continue on the journey of healing trauma is to return to our bodies. This practice is rooted in Menakem’s memories of his grandmother. He recalls hearing her hum:
My grandmother was a strong and loving woman. But her body was frequently nervous. She often had a sense that something terrible was about to happen. It was an ancient, inherited sensation that rarely left her—a traumatic retention.
She would soothe that sense of impending disaster in a variety of ways. When she was in the kitchen, she would hum—not a steady tone, but entire melodies. Her humming was never soft and intimate, but loud and firm, as if she were humming for an audience. As a small child, if I knew the song she was humming, sometimes I would hum along with her, and my body would experience safety and settledness.
This humming practice is intended to soothe the nervous system and bring about calm, presence, and greater awareness in our bodies, as it did for Menakem and his grandmother. He instructs:
Find a quiet, private, comfortable place. Sit down. Put one hand on your knee or in your lap. Place the other on your belly.
Now hum. Not from your throat or chest, but from the bottom of your belly.
Hum strong and steady. Push the air out of your belly firmly, not gently.
Stop to breathe in, but return to the hum with each new breath.
Experience the hum in your belly. Then sense it in the rest of your body.
Continue humming for two minutes.
When you’re done, reach your arms upward. Then, slowly and gently, feel your body with your hands, starting from the top of your head. Move slowly down your neck and along your chest, then below your waist, then past your knees, until your arms are fully extended downward. What do you notice?
Experience a version of this practice with video and sound.
Resmaa Menakam, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (Central Recovery Press: 2017), 137, 35.