Here. I. am.
I invite you to say this with me… Say it to yourself: Here I am.
Our minds spend so much time running off to imagined futures or ruminating over remembered pasts. It takes serious training to keep the mind rooted in the now of any given moment. The mantra: “Here I am” is a way of locating ourselves. A way of reminding ourselves that we’re not in the future. And we’re not in the past. We’re here. Right now.
And right now, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.
In addition to the coronavirus, we continue to deal with climate change, with the longstanding reality of racial injustice, with an enraging US presidential election. The past 6-months have been hard, and strange, and full of loss. Loss of nature. Loss of livelihood. Loss of in-person events. Loss of school and work as we know it. Loss of shaking hands, hugging, and standing near one another without nervousness. And, of course, loss of life. Over 50 people have died in my mostly rural county. Over 2,000 have died in my state. Over 200,000 have died in my country. Over a million have died in the world. This kind of loss is almost impossible to wrap our minds around. But our bodies feel it.
My teacher Nikki is constantly reminding us that ‘the issues live in the tissues.’ Whether or not we pay attention to them, our bodies feel the weight of all that’s happening. Whether or not we pay attention to them, our bodies feel the weight of so much loss.
So I invite you, right now, to direct your attention inward. Say to yourself: “Here I am, an embodied being existing in the field of gravity.”
What part of you is connected to the earth? Maybe your feet are on the ground? Maybe your whole back body is supported by the floor or a chair. Wherever you are, tap into the reality that you are being held to the earth through the force of gravity. Every moment of every day you are being held to the earth. You are being held.
Root down into this support and feel the connection between your body and the ground.
As I feel the ground beneath my feet I’m reminded of the book of Exodus, of God saying to Moses: “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” I believe that every bit of ground is holy. And so I confidently say: Here we are. On holy ground, held by gravity.
With all this support beneath us, let’s reach our arms up. Let’s reach up into the vastness of the universe. And feel our body’s in the space between earth and sky.
You’re alive in this moment. You’re a living, breathing, being.
Feel the rhythm of your breath.
Say to yourself: “Here I am.”
Look around you. Name 5 things that you see.
And then look inward. Name the feelings that are present within you.
Give your feelings a bit of space. Don’t judge them. Don’t control them. Let them come. Let them move.
Feelings only cause trouble when we suppress them or trap them. Notice what you’re feeling. Notice the sensation of the feelings in your body.
Our bodies feel the weight of all that’s happening. Our bodies hold the grief and trauma of our histories. And they feel the grief and trauma of this moment. In her memoir, See No Stranger, Valarie Kaur asks the question: “What does it look like for a nation to grieve together?” In response, she wrote:
I am not talking about the routine rituals of grief—singing the national anthem, lowering the flag, firing rifles into the air, or the stilted offerings of “thoughts and prayers.” I am talking about sitting with pain together, modeling how to do that in public view, reflecting quietly on our deepest values, and mourning the dead, all of the dead. It requires acknowledging the ways historically oppressed people continue to suffer—and the ways people with good intentions continue to benefit from that suffering. It requires witnessing the pain of trauma without trying to control or colonize or minimize it—then listening, and continuing to listen. Soothing words are not enough, not when trauma has traversed centuries. But if we are present to pain—if we sit together in the rooms of the heart, curtains drawn, and grieve together—we can begin to ask: How do we fight for one another?
I’m deeply affected by the idea that if we want to fight for one another, we must grieve together. Grief is not a hindrance to our healing process. It doesn’t slow us down. It empowers and inspires us. Our grief connects us with our humanity, it connects us to each other, and it informs our action.
There’s so much happening in the world and we need our best selves. Please know that our best self has nothing to do with perfection and false happiness. Our best self is the part of us that yearns to reach our highest potential. And in this moment, reaching our highest potential requires a willingness to feel our feelings and face the discomfort of uncertainty. Reaching our highest potential requires a willingness to be present with what’s real. So let’s come back to the mantra. Here I am. Say it with me: Here I am.
Echoing the Jewish prophet Micah, the Mishnah offers us this encouragement:
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Whatever our personal dharma is, our collective dharma is collective care. How can we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly? In order to do this work, we must grieve together. We must increase our capacity for discomfort and muster the courage to stay present with pain—our pain and the pain of others. We must, as Valarie Kaur so beautiful said, sit together in the rooms of the heart.
So once again, I invite you to feel your body. … Feel your feet on the ground. … Feel the coming and going of your breath. … Feel your body in the space between earth and sky. … Let your attention find its way into the room of your heart—into the center of your being.
Remember that Divine Mystery is always and already here.
Remember something that you have faith in. That the sun will rise and set. The moon will wax and wane. That God is with us. That 2+ 2 = 4. That the love you feel for your pet, for your friend, for the world will not fade. Remember something that you have faith in.
Hold your faith and your grief together. Feel them each fully. Let them inform one another. Let them inform your action. And say to yourself. Here I am. Here we are.