When we are mindful of our breathing, it helps us to calm the body and the mind. We are able to see things more clearly and with a larger perspective, all because we are a little more awake, a little more aware. And with this awareness comes a feeling of having more room to move, of having more options, of being free to choose effective and appropriate responses in stressful situations rather than losing our equilibrium and sense of self as a result of feeling overwhelmed, thrown off balance by our own knee jerk reactions. – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full – Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
The Meditation Mantra of the Month is Pranayama – the movement of breath and energy.
I have appreciated the Kabat-Zinn quote above for many years, but in the context of our present life I think immediately about George Floyd; physically unable to move, unable to choose any response to the situation because the full length of his body was pinned to the ground, and shouting out that he Could Not Breath At All. Lord, Have Mercy. When the body is in fight or flight mode, it makes it hard to make good choices at all because you are in biological SURVIVAL mode – Surviving Was George Floyd’s “Knee-Jerk Reaction”. Lord, Have Mercy. Your heart is racing so hard, it feels like it is going to burst out of your chest. And then you Literally Cannot Breathe because there is a full-grown man putting all of his weight on your neck? Lord, Have Mercy. How On Earth is a person supposed to “choose effective and appropriate responses in stressful situations” when the stress is that you are going to DIE?? Lord, Have Mercy. Lord, Have Mercy. Lord, Have Mercy.
Now, I can’t pull the image of George Floyd crying out that he can’t breathe, and calling for his Mama, out of this Kabat-Zinn quote. Check out Kelly Latimore Icons. This gorgeous iconic image of George Floyd titled “MAMA”, and so many others are powerful meditations on our life, and point us to people, throughout history, who have changed the world, like George Floyd.
The Meditation Mantra of the Month (pranayama – movement of breath and energy) also has me thinking about the current reality of the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that has overwhelmed and thrown us all off balance, by our own knee-jerk reactions. I don’t really know what to think anymore. My response is to stay home. Keep my people close in our little bubble. I don’t like any of the options of returning to school. Nor do I like the option of starting my own home-school, no thank you.
The Corona Virus & The Racism Virus is in the air we breathe. We can’t NOT breathe it in. We aren’t immune to it, even if you think you have been there and moved on from it. It’s with us, and it isn’t going to go away any time soon. And all of the options of responding to the virus seem — UGH. Not enough. Too late. Misguided. Corrupt. Off-base. Exclusive. Not good for the Whole of Community — All Of Us, together.
I think what seems lacking in all of the options is a fierce love for each other. A resilient commitment to compassion, mercy, and grace for each other. It seems like we are only going to Love Our Way Through These Pandemics of Racism and COVID-19. That’s it. Below is a super powerful poem that is often running in the back of my mind, or at least the first verse of it. It is by Aurora Levins Morales. Please Go to her website and check her out. She has lots more beautiful art that we need in this world. The title is “V’ahavta”. The V’ahavta, as I understand it, is a Jewish prayer that means You Shall Love. You Shall Love. YOU. SHALL. LOVE.
Say these words when you lie down and when you rise up,
when you go out and when you return. In times of mourning
and in times of joy. Inscribe them on your doorposts,
embroider them on your garments, tattoo them on your shoulders,
teach them to your children, your neighbors, your enemies,
recite them in your sleep, here in the cruel shadow of empire:
Another world is possible.
Thus spoke the prophet Roque Dalton:
All together they have more death than we,
but all together, we have more life than they.
There is more bloody death in their hands
than we could ever wield, unless
we lay down our souls to become them,
and then we will lose everything. So instead,
imagine winning. This is your sacred task.
This is your power. Imagine
every detail of winning, the exact smell of the summer streets
in which no one has been shot, the muscles you have never
unclenched from worry, gone soft as newborn skin,
the sparkling taste of food when we know
that no one on earth is hungry, that the beggars are fed,
that the old man under the bridge and the woman
wrapping herself in thin sheets in the back seat of a car,
and the children who suck on stones,
nest under a flock of roofs that keep multiplying their shelter.
Lean with all your being towards that day
when the poor of the world shake down a rain of good fortune
out of the heavy clouds, and justice rolls down like waters.
Defend the world in which we win as if it were your child.
It is your child.
Defend it as if it were your lover.
It is your lover.
When you inhale and when you exhale
breathe the possibility of another world
into the 37.2 trillion cells of your body
until it shines with hope.
Then imagine more.
Imagine rape is unimaginable. Imagine war is a scarcely credible rumor
That the crimes of our age, the grotesque inhumanities of greed,
the sheer and astounding shamelessness of it, the vast fortunes
made by stealing lives, the horrible normalcy it came to have,
is unimaginable to our heirs, the generations of the free.
Don’t waver. Don’t let despair sink its sharp teeth
Into the throat with which you sing. Escalate your dreams.
Make them burn so fiercely that you can follow them down
any dark alleyway of history and not lose your way.
Make them burn clear as a starry drinking gourd
Over the grim fog of exhaustion, and keep walking.
Hold hands. Share water. Keep imagining.
So that we, and the children of our children’s children