Scripture Theme: Genesis 37: 1-28 Joseph and brothers
Joseph’s brothers are hoppin’ mad at him. He is their father’s favorite child. This unjust love by their mutual parent understandably hurts them. They feel unloved and rejected by the one who is supposed to love them unconditionally.
To add to their wounded feelings, Joseph describes a vision of sheaves of wheat, in which Joseph’s sheaf rises up taller in the field, and his brothers’s sheaves gathered around it and even bowed down to their little brother’s sheaf. Joseph’s brothers hated him because he shared such a vision. Who can blame them? Not only is their snotty-nosed little brother the favorite of their father, but now he is sharing dreams in which he is elevated and worshipped by his older brothers.
This was too much for the brothers to bear. Feelings of rejection now coupled with feelings of jealousy, anger, unimportance, and insecure. Joseph is the trigger for these feelings–understandably and justly so. Jacob should have loved all his children equally and Joseph seemed arrogant and impetuous in sharing the vision of his dream of superiority.
The brothers became addicted to these hurt feelings. They became in bondage to feeling less than, unimportant, unloved. This bondage kept them captive to their own bitterness and resentment. Out of their addiction and the concomitant bondage, they acted in violence. This is often the case when we feel captive and unfree to strong forces of emotion.
Some wisp of love in brother Reuben keeps them from killing Joseph. They settle on violently throwing him in a pit, making him suffer because they too have suffered in a deep pit of “less-than”. Then, some little bit of grace is ingested with their lunch. They decide to sell him rather than leave him there. Better to be rid of him than to have done irreparable harm to him. The brothers think, ‘Let’s get him out of our lives, so we don’t have to see him, think of him, hear him.’ This is where this lectionary pericope of scripture text ends, but the story keeps going.
The truth is that Joseph remained with them still, eating away at them even as their lunch settled in their stomachs. They had to watch their father grieve the death the brothers invented for Joseph, had to endure famine–as their insides were eaten away with guilt. Much later (chapter 45), there is a beautiful scene of reconciliation and forgiveness, but it comes after great cost.
I wonder how the story would have gone if the brothers had opened their hearts up in compassion to the one (s) who had hurt them? I wonder how my story, how your story would go if we opened our hearts up in compassion to ones who have hurt us? Like Joseph’s brothers, out of feelings of insignificance, of feeling unloved we have been in bondage. Our ability to love has been restricted. We have been unfree.
In our yoga practice, we will work on our core, the place of our gut, where our deepest feelings reside. Through twists and core work we will access the strength, the power, at the center of our being. The intercessory prayer below will help us to access the power of God to open our hearts to compassion for the “Josephs” in our lives.
Kapalabhati breath: This form of breath is cleansing. It enhances the elimination of metabolic wastes and dispels congestion. It engages the energy of the lower belly (solar plexus or core). It means literally “shining forehead” or skull, and should bring about a glow on the face of the practitioner. Sit on the floor comfortably. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, pull your stomach in, navel to spine. Forcefully expel your air from your lungs, with the primary movement being from your diaphragm. Allow your lungs to fill up naturally. Perform this cycle ten times, then allow breathing to return to normal. Repeat these cycles of ten movements, three to four times.
Utkatasana: Standing with feet hip distance apart, bend knees. Scoop the tailbone under and extend the spine long. Draw the shoulder blades down your back, and extend your arms.
Prasarita Padottanasna: Take a wide stance on the mat with the feet 3 to 4 and 1/2 feet apart. Extend both arms shoulder height. Stretch the left hand to land outside of the right foot. Place the left hand at the heart, roll shoulder blades on the back. Twist deeply. Then extend the left hand to the sky. Breathe five rounds of breath. Press into the feet to rise up. Repeat on the left side
Navasana: sit with both feet extended on the mat. Draw the knees toward your chest. Hold hands under thighs. If comfortably, release both hands out to the side, keeping the shoulder blades on the back and the spine long. Extend the legs if possible
(very effective to do this with legs-at-the-wall, or viparita karani)
Hold an image of the person you are moved to pray for in your heart. After each question, pause, so that you might join with God in a prayerful stance of listening. Stay centered in your availability to join God’s prayer.
- Holy One, what is your prayer, your deepest desire for this person? (long pause)
- Holy One, what is your prayer in me, in what way is your flow of divine love and energy making a claim in me regarding the life of this person? (long pause)
- What do you want my prayer to be for myself in this regard? (long pause)
- Is there anything getting in my way of joining more fully in your prayer for this person? Are there any boundaries I have created in my heart that I now need to relinquish? (long pause)
- Holy One, is there anything you would have me say or do in regard to this person on your behalf? (long pause)
- In what ways would you have me simply be present to this person? (long pause)
- Holy One, refashion my heart to be one with the desires of your heart for this person in the world. (long pause)
Gerald May, The Awakened Heart. (Harper San Francisco: San Francisco: 1991), 29, 30. May discusses how addiction and bondage breed violence because we don’t love rightly.
Guided Intercessory prayer is from Shalem Spiritual Guidance Program