WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Healing Begins with Breath in the Body

By Melissa Jeter

“We’ve tried to teach our brains to think better about race. But white-body supremacy doesn’t live in our thinking brains. It lives and breathes in our bodies.”
—Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands

When I think about the earth as a woman's body, I get angry. When I think about the earth as a Black woman's body, I think of myself and I want to shake everyone and everything off of my body.

They need not be men; they may be women but they could be any person, being, or ideology or religion that reaches, pokes, squeezes, digs into, and empties out of my flesh, the diamonds, the oil, precious minerals, blood, the unseen spirits and gasses but never ever cares to be in a reciprocal, tender, loving, and grateful relationship with me.

A Black woman in athletic clothing is in child's pose on a yoga mat: arms stretched forward, head bowing, kneeling back towards her heels.

The eyes that trail the curves and that widen when they stare at my dark brown, coily hair. I want their eyes off of me. Before anyone can touch me, I have twisted and rolled and tried to shake the bastards off of my brown body.

My beautiful brown body: when I feel my body—and I am in it—I have access to this great amount of power in my hips. There is no gap between my thighs worth celebrating; all should be Thankful for the lack of gap and the fleshy-ness and muscle underneath. I am. I am grateful for the strength in these thighs that lunge forward and backward, while I curl eight-pound weights in my hands. I am pushing down with my hands and rooting down with my feet and I am strong, connected, and worth the tenderness that is in Love and Respect.

How can I feel authentic in my body when beings want a relationship of exploitation and control? Of power over me, as if I cease to be thou? How could I dare to accept my body, this earth, as less than the mind when the largest road to my security travels from the gut to my early original brain? When and where am I to be whole in the presence of such an approach to relating?

Bodily Prayer

I pray in vocal exclamation, Dear God! I pray in body, first on my knees, then in child’s pose. I breathe and I lunge forward, one knee bent in front the other behind, stretching my hip abductors, stretching my thighs. I raise my arms up, chest to the sky. I breathe into the spaces where my body has been attacked: Spirit and Breath, take this oxygen to these places and in these spaces create an openness that violence has constricted. I breathe in healing and exhale the overwhelming violence. I stretch into Mercy, I inhale Compassion.

About the Author

Melissa Jeter

Melissa Jeter (she/her/hers) is currently a full-time seminarian at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio as well as a full-time librarian in Toledo, Ohio. Melissa is the student minister affiliated with First Unitarian Church of Toledo.


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