by Danna Faulds
from Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.
Move slowly into the mystery—that’s the line that catches my heart.
Say, I apologize for the limiting language of walking in this poem. I so hope you will translate it into all the myriad ways we have of moving, literally and figuratively. Every kind of movement will get us there.
On the morning when I first encounter this poem, I’ve been listening to Valerie Kaur’s See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto About Revolutionary Love. In the first chapter, she writes about how she grew up in the Valley filled with wonder—the fields, the stars, Papa Ji’s prayers—until she begins to encounter in elementary school and beyond the racial slurs and the Christian hegemony of her classmates. Can she stay connected to wonder? Can she breathe?
Later she learns about the history of the European settlers encountering the indigenous peoples much as her classmates encounter her: with racial slurs and Christian hegemony and much, much worse. What would have happened, she asks, if the settlers had greeted the indigenous folx with wonder and curiosity, instead of with fear and dehumanization?
Starting from wonder, I can imagine the sheer unexpected joy of arriving in this new land to discover the presence of people who already know its ways. What would it have been like to love learning a new language and love sharing my own? What might we have discovered if we had struggled to survive together? How would history—how would this present moment—have changed if this country had been built on wonder and collaboration?
Such re-imaginings are fanciful and partial, maybe too sentimental and idealized. But what activist Valerie Kaur and poet Danna Faulds are inviting us to do now is to slow down long enough to notice our fear, our worry, and our judgment—about ourselves, about this pandemic, about the state of our city, county, country, and world.
What if we turn toward all this disruption with wonder?
Oh, I’m not asking us to stifle our anger or our grief. No, I’m suggesting that we can breathe into them. We can lean into them, listening for what they have to tell us, following their guide on what we are to do.
Beloveds, as we launch into a new month on these still-unfamiliar shores, how can we remember, each day, that “waking up to life is what we were born for,” that the strangers we encounter are our kin and our teachers, and that cooperation and collaboration are our path to healing and health?
We’ll all have our particular ways of moving toward this mystery—this learning how to be alive in the face of everything. Let’s coordinate our movement; it’ll be smoother sailing that way.
Let’s start with wonder. Start with breath.