Posted on February 16, 2023 by Jenn Zatopek
As we edge closer to spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m reflecting on the practice of befriending ourselves, of listening to our bodies with great kindness and care. And since my word for the year is “Rise,” I’m asking myself questions like this: How can I rise above false storylines created by past trauma, stress, and overwhelm and become my most authentic self? What might rising look like in the context of my personal and communal experiences? What does it really mean to rise since we as humans can’t actually fly? Or can we?
Recently a wise elder made a suggestion that I’ve come to appreciate more with each passing day: What would it be like to explore the word “Rise” as an acrostic, in which each letter of the word stands for another word, offering a deeper exploration? It’s been an engaging process to sit with my word as I settle into times of stillness, turning it over in my mind like a diamond, noticing each of the multitudinous sides with curiosity and courage.
The word that came to me for the first letter of rise feels strongly connected to rising, and it’s the word resilient, a concept that our county mental health authority emphasized when I worked there as a counseling intern with the poor in the Northside of our city. Resilient means we can bounce back from our challenges and endure with hope. We chose to believe that a Love greater than our own fear and shame is our true home, beckoning us to love and forgive ourselves and others so we can awaken to the glory and wonder of living.
This notion of shared belonging and interconnectedness with each other and the Divine can help us rise above that persistent shame that seeks to define us. Setting the intention to believe in ourselves and that we matter is resilient. Our ability to choose what we focus on is truly precious and rising above painful storylines rooted in self-loathing and stabilizing ourselves in Love is just one way of practicing resilience.
All of you reading this now are resilient whether you buy into the concept or not: You are still here with us and that is a good and beautiful thing. You have found the courage, strength, and wisdom to endure in the face of hard and hallowed times. Your resilience in the face of adversity is a gift to be celebrated, and it can also become a habit you cultivate too.
One of the ways to practice rising above painful storylines is sitting in stillness with a stance of radical acceptance. I often read a few pages of literature that’s meaningful to me, while settled in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a journal nearby. I’ll connect with The Holy for guidance and then begin the practice of breathing deeply, letting myself focus my attention gently on my breath. Settling in, I’ll notice how I’m feeling and attend to whatever images, body sensations, or feelings that arise, recalling the words of the mystical poet Rumi:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
As my emotions, sensations, and thoughts arrive, I’ll notice them with great respect, remembering this is my body, helping me live, the place where the Divine and I dwell as one. As they linger, I’ll embrace them, saying “Let it be here, it’s already here.” Sometimes I’ll sit with a question and listen for the answer, noticing sensations and thoughts that respond to them, like a friendly call-and-response with a dear friend. Other times I’ll focus on a sacred phrase to give my mind something to focus on. In all experiences, I’ll slip out of being productive for a while and remember it’s vital I rest in Love, which helps me relax.
Afterwards, I might journal about my time and what came up for me. I’ll reflect on the experience of stillness and any shifts I noticed, but I won’t write too long. I don’t want to avoid my discomfort by distracting myself through working hard. Often I’ll feel tears brimming my eyes, and I’ll practice being tender to my body, holding myself kindly as I weep or laugh or gasp with joy.
But no matter what happens in stillness, I remember that rising is a practice, a choice I make each day. I’ll welcome everything that emerges within my body with compassion. I’ll let myself be still and know that we can fly after all, even as we rest ourselves in a Love bigger and more expensive than anything we can fathom. This is our work and privilege, our chance to become salt and Light in a time when more peace, compassion, and love is needed for all of us to flourish and be well.
This is my hope for us, and I’ll leave it like a blessing: May you and me practice receiving care to our beloved and bruised bodies, trusting we are sacred and loved as we are.
Image: Clouds above the sunny foothills of Sandia Mountains, Jenn Zatopek