Breathe and Push
My friend Kim, recently shared this short, powerful, speech with me by Valarie Kaur, a Sikh lawyer, activist and storyteller.
It had me in tears (happy tears) yesterday and I really wanted to pass it on. If you need a shot of inspiration, I encourage you to watch!
Kaur begins by talking about her grandfather who was held in a dark cell for months upon his immigration to America for no other reason then his dark skin and his Sikh turban. She paints a grim picture of race relations in this country and admits to her own fears about raising a "brown boy America". She actually looks at the audience and says "the future IS dark".
But THEN she goes on to say...
"The mother in me has to ask 'What If?'.
What If the darkness is not the darkness of my grandfather's tomb but the darkness of the womb?" "What If our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What If the story of America is one long labor?... What If this is our nation's great transition?"
YES!!! (at this point the church organ starts to play and the parishioners start shoutin' to Jesus. Its awesome.) Man, I wish these were my words.
Kaur goes on to say that just as in labor, the thing we must do now is first BREATHE, then PUSH. "If we do not push, we die", she says.
OK, but many of us are wondering how. How are we supposed to push? What can I do? Do I even really know what I'm pushing for? What if I'm pushing for the wrong thing or in the wrong way?
Some of us are feeling an anxiety to do something but we aren't sure what. Perhaps we give up before we get started because it feels overwhelming.
If this sounds like you...then please keep reading!
I have been inspired daily by how many ordinary, "non-political" people are now standing up and making their voices heard.
I am in awe as I watch displays of solidarity like the "Today I am Muslim Too" rally in Times Square. Or the thousands of people who drove to the airports late at night to support stranded immigrants.
I feel so grateful to those people for showing up.
Then I wonder if I should be one of those people. Should I book myself a ticket to Standing Rock? Should I have been in Times square last week with a sign in my hand?
I get a little anxious about it. I feel unsettled and guilty for not doing more... and then I remember to breathe.
I remember that just like in a hard yoga class or a long run, if we do not breathe then the pushing is a big waste of effort. In fact, our efforts, will work counter to our goals.
I am reminded that during labor (which has been on my mind lately) that the effort one puts in to pushing is always aided by the strong involuntary wave of muscle energy called a contraction.
You're supposed to ride that wave and work with it, not against it. In fact, I learned to my dismay, when pregnant the first time, that the tearing we all hope to avoid (not to mention the exhaustion) is much more likely to occur when we push between contractions instead of during the contraction.
There is literally a natural wave of energy that you can ride in any labor no matter what you are giving birth to - a baby, a creative project, a relationship...or a country.
As an individual, how do we recognize the wave we are meant to catch?
To paraphrase my teacher, Danielle Hoffman "Claim what is yours to be, do, and have." The rest is not your responsibility.
Specifically, you know which wave is yours to catch by how it makes you feel. Do you feel energized and excited by something? This may show up as creative joy OR as anger (keep in mind anger is a vitally important motivating and transforming force but ultimately, its not the best place to stay or to create from...more on this in another post). Is there a sense that you cannot NOT do this thing? That's your wave to ride. Go get it.
Remember that if it does not belong to you then, then it will certainly belong to someone else. So don't worry about it. You can't catch all the waves.
For someone else, things like flying to North Dakota or driving to the airport to hold a protest sign is a no-brainer. To not do these things is hardly an option for some people.
For now, I know these things don't belong to me because doing them does not excite me - even though I believe in the causes and want to support them.
For now, I am finding peace with the idea that my particular form of "pushing" is to pray, write, be patient with my crazy toddler, practice my craft, uplift my clients and keep my own energy buzzing in a time when so many feel unsettled and fearful.
In fact, writing this newsletter today is something I can't NOT do. I have to. It would drive me crazy otherwise.
What is it that you can't NOT do right now? What is the thing that makes you anxious if you try to keep ignoring it? What is life shoving in your face? Try acting on it.
Let this thing be your "push", your protest, and then let that be enough. Your love and your courage are like energetic beacons that radiate out in ways you cannot always see.
Perhaps your "push" right now is to finally make needed changes in your relationships. Maybe you are continuing to travel despite the appearance of global turmoil. Perhaps you are sharing your own story more publicly. Maybe you want to run for office. Maybe you are flying to the front lines of conflict to volunteer with Red Cross.
Whether your form of pushing is personal or global don't underestimate its power. No matter what side of the political debate you fall on, or how grand or how subtle your protest is, your contribution is vital to the whole.
Its as if the energy of the planet right now is demanding that we finally "give birth" to ourselves despite what may appear to be enormous danger to do so. We are being asked to push out of our safe little buds, take risks, and make changes in order to become who we came here to become.
It is no coincidence if you are finding that the things you've been tolerating or putting up with for decades are simply no longer tolerable. Pay close attention if you are suffering from new physical problems...Your body never lies. What is it telling you? It is always trying to wake you up.
If you still feel anxious but still aren't sure what to DO then start with these questions...
Is there a cause or an issue that inspires you? Perhaps it wakes up your mama-bear sense of righteous anger?
Is there a creative project you've been dreaming of starting?
Is there something in your own life you know needs changing or attending to that you've been putting off or trying to ignore?
Can you identify what exactly is making you feel anxious? Is it time for reflection or is it time for action? Either way, some change is likely needed.
Now BREATHE and wait for the answers. Allow the energy to rise up within you and propel you forward. Settle and rest in to your body in order to feel the contraction. Wait for that wave.
First Breathe. Then Push. (then breathe again.)
P.S. I am told by my astrologer friends that we are in between two important eclipses right now. The lunar eclipse on Feb 10th created an energy atmosphere that is encouraging us (forcing, for some) to say goodbye to our old, outdated ways. The solar eclipse/new moon coming up on Sunday is all about new beginnings. This is a great time to get clear on what you really want moving forward.