Wonder, Grieve, Breathe, Push, Love – A Practice

On the first page of Valarie Kaur’s beautiful book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, she remembers a time in her childhood when “there was no question: The earth under me, the stars above me, the animals around me, were all part of me. And wonder was my first orientation to them all, the thing that connected me to them: You are a part of me I do not yet know.

You are a part of me I do not yet know. What an amazing way to greet everyone and everything in the world.

Granted, that was a time in Valarie’s life before she, a brown Sikh girl, shows up in elementary school, where her Christian friends fear she is going to hell, and bullies call her racist names. She has to grow into her resilience and resistance before she can renew her sense of wonder in all things. She has to learn how to grieve, to fight, to rage, to listen, to reimagine, and like a person giving birth, she has to learn how to breathe and push.

I wonder, though, whether Valarie’s journey can offer us a map. What if we recognize that going through all of it—wondering, grieving, fighting, raging, listening, reimagining, breathing, and pushing—is our way to renewed strength and resilience?

At the end of her book, Valarie offers a spiritual practice I’d love for us to try. We begin by thinking of each day as though it were an entire lifetime. Sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it? But for this practice, we’re not measuring how long the hours feel. Instead, we’re re-imagining each day as though it were the full span of time that we have.

As the day ends, we ask ourselves some questions. Here’s how Valarie’s inner Wise Woman names them:

  • “What was the hardest part in this lifetime [this day]? Notice where you sense that hardship in your body. Now how did you get through it? …
  • “What was the most joyful part of this lifetime? … Notice what made it joyful. Sense what joy feels like in your body.
  • “What are you most grateful for in this lifetime? … Sense that gratitude in your body.
  • “Now … are you ready to think of the work you have done today and know that it is enough?” Are you ready to let go of this lifetime, and rest?

The questions themselves aren’t new. It’s thinking of each day as a lifetime that makes this practice fresh. This—this day—is the span of time we are given. Each day is full and complete, so it matters how we “labor in love,” as Valarie puts it. Each day has its hardships, joys, gratitudes, and questions about whether we were or did “enough.” We store these feelings in our bodies. They have something to teach us about resilience.

This practice invites us to look even at ourselves with wonder: You are a part of me I do not yet know.

With this practice, day by day, lifetime by lifetime, we build a store of renewed strength and resilience, in which all our joys, sorrows, gratitudes, and surrenders have their place.

Motto, map, metaphor—all these threads I have drawn from Valarie’s book are about noticing, and breathing, and then allowing ourselves to give birth to what is waiting to emerge. We’ve got this, beloveds! We really do.

With wonder at our resilience,

Rev. Nancy