For the past ten months, I have had the absolute privilege to be a part of the lives of two boys, ages 6 and 3. The younger one, I nicknamed Brave King James. I originally did this to remind him of his strength and bravery, at times when he was unsure of his ability to try something new or step outside of his comfort zone. Now, Mr. Brave King James, without even meaning to has become one my greatest teachers (over the course of the past year) - reminding me each day that we get together, that he is "my Brave King James" -- upon hearing these words and seeing his confident smile I am reminded that I too am strong, even when I falter and to breathe easy with this knowledge.
A few short months before I met, Mr. Brave King James, he had been diagnosed with Doose syndrome. He was only two and a half years old when the diagnosis came so to him, a life of medication and occasional trips to the Boston Children's Office (hospital) have become the norm. Does he like being a patient? No, not really, but who would?! He does though, approach the situation with a hesitant smile, knowing that he is surrounded by those that love him dearly. This strong young kiddo has kept me smiling when dynamics in my life felt unsettled or sad. It has been nothing short of a gift to be able to witness him blossom into the dynamic personality and energetic boy that he is. At first, saying "No, Emily, I can't do that!" to "Hey, Emily, watch me do this!!" (sometimes, I wonder if I empowered him too much as he now shimmies up the rope "spider web" ladder structure at the local playground, fearless and proud) - he truly is a very Brave King James. To watch him grow, take chances and gain confidence in himself demonstrates to me the importance of remembering that within each of us lives a Brave King or Brave Queen -- we just have to let go of doubt and trust in our true self.
To stay in one location and not move frequently, to allow my mind to still, to let love in, and to trust that I truly can create beauty in my life takes strength for me -- I really do have to channel my own Brave Queen Emily. And I recently did just this! I made the decision to stay in Massachusetts to live, instead of moving away from many people who I love and who love me deeply in return, from an area I love, from new connections and from dreams that are beginning to turn into realities. Taking more than one deep breath, talking with my father, sitting in meditation and moving through meditative practice on the yoga mat, as well as, listening to Brave King James triumphantly exclaim that he is -- Brave King James! -- helped empower me to listen to my heart, to trust my soul and to let go of fear -- to stay instead of run. As Marianne Williamson once said:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
So, I say thank you to Mr. Brave King James - for trusting me to keep you safe, to guide you in the right way and to care for you in the way of love. Thank you to Brave King James's parents, for trusting me and welcoming me into their home with open arms and for letting me love your children, as if they are my own. Thank you to his brother, one of the coolest dudes I know, for letting me in to your life to share in adventure and wonder with you.
Thank you to my father, who has always been a smooth stone in the water for me, even when it got rough. Conversations with you are grounding, introspective and reassuring, reminding me of the beautiful light that truly does shine within each and everyone of us, including my Brave Queen self (when I forget).
Thank you to my mother, whose unconditional and selfless love provided a strong foundation of trust and security for me, especially as I began to take on the world on my own. Conversations with you are real and true, allowing me space to explore the good moments and hardships of growing up.
Mom and Dad, your love inspires me -- radiating bright, filling even the darkest day with sunshine.
Love, it is what we all seek -- to be accepted for who we are, as we are, flaws and all, imperfectly perfect in our right. To know this love is the greatest gift.
May you all know this love, especially in the way of love for self, love for the Brave King or Brave Queen that you are. The light that shines within is there to shine bright.
When Brave King James, questions his strength or feels frustrated, which of course still happens, I ask him if he is breathing... of course he is, naturally, to be alive. But is he aware of how!? When he is scared, nervous or frustrated, his breath becomes shallow, his body tenses - the same takes place in us, as adults. After asking Brave King James if he is breathing, I ask him if his body is calm and then sometimes, before a response comes - I let him know that we are going to breathe together and then we will both have calm bodies. To this, he smiles, melting my heart instantly. And together, we Breathe. Inhaling slowly and exhaling slowly. His little body relaxing right before my eyes. Sometimes, as we do this, we touch foreheads - Brave King James, once said that it is "to make sure that our third eye breathes too". ... Kiddos really do say the darnedest things. ૐ
We all breathe, we must to survive, but do we always breathe into our strength - I know we do not and that is OK. We can return to the breath, when we falter, when we doubt ourselves, or become fearful - we can breathe into our light shining within.
From the moment I met Brave King James, he stole a piece of my heart and has continued to do so over the past several months. I will forever be thankful that our paths crossed, that he and his family came into my life and I into theirs and am grateful that when one role ends, the connections made do not. To Brave King James and his cool dude older brother, in the words of A.A. Milne, words spoken to Winnie the Pooh by Christopher Robin:
"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Children may be our greatest teachers, viewing the world as is, with a deep curiosity - always wanting to experience more and understand why things are as they are. If you want to know love, hold a child in your arms, they have yet to learn to judge another, to feel as though they are less than another, they embrace differences as a new adventure instead of something to fear... they are totally honest and true.
Thank you Brave King James - thank you for stealing a piece of my heart.
No, I am not Muslim and I do not practice Islam, but I do not believe that to matter. I am human, as are you - who finds yourself reading my words in this moment. I maintain the belief that we are spiritual beings experiencing human existence. I hold onto the truth that there is more than brings us together, than divides us. Societies have created labels to define, categorize and separate us. Perhaps, in our human state, we did this originally as a means of survival -- I do not know -- but I do know that definitions placed on one person or another seem to have increased, not only in number of definitions, but also in importance (to me this is silly and not based on love, which is the foundation that I chose for my journey now). So, I fasted in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters. My dad and I both participated in fasting from sunrise to sundown -- this is something that a large majority of Muslims do during the entire month of Ramadan.
Now, I have a confession to make. I did not fast properly, as I drank two glasses of water throughout the day and chewed gum. I did not know that chewing gum was not allowed while fasting, but must confess that I did know that drinking water was something to abstain from. -- I found myself developing quite the headache come mid afternoon and as a nanny at work, I felt it best to drink water. I read an article after fasting, written by a Muslim gentleman titled -- Ramadan 2017: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask -- It was in this article that I learned that gum is not to be chewed even or the fast is broken. I also learned from those that lead EnjoinGood Inc. that the act of fasting, which begins at sunrise, begins much earlier than I first thought - it begins at 3:30 a.m. when prayers begin. It is during the time when prayers are said that people fast. I did do this correctly, but not in the same way, as I learned after participating in a solidarity fast, that those who fast for Ramadan do. When fasting for Ramadan, persons begin their day before the sun is up, before the act of fasting is to begin with a large, protein-filled meal. After this, many return to bed for a couple more hours of sleep. My father and I had our last meal before fasting at 6 pm the night prior, so perhaps our pains of hunger were a bit more than others - I do not know - but that is not what it is about.
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast, without it I find myself feeling lethargic and a bit impatient sometimes (if I am to be completely honest!). So, when I awoke on the day that I fasted, I felt a tinge of grumpiness creeping up on me, as I thought about how I could not eat breakfast or indulge in my morning coffee that day. When I became aware of this thought, I realized that I was being a genuine participant in the act of fasting if I was going to be bitter about what I could not have, but wanted. I thought even, well it's just coffee - I can get away with that, but I knew that would break the fast, so I withheld. I found that my energy levels were lower that day and that my thoughts were less hectic. As the day continued, I just felt that my whole Being, my body, mind and spirit fell into a sense of calm. I thought much of those who fast for the entire month of Ramadan and the spirit of community that must come from this shared experience - the article above, speaks to this, in a way that I did not completely expect - as the author wrote that many look forward to the act of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
We live indulgent lives, many of us, whether we feel that way or not -- that is the main reflection that I left that day with. I woke up thinking "I need a cup of coffee". I can attest to the fact that I did not and do not need the morning cup of coffee, sorry Dunks, but I can make it without the stop. We need water, we need sustenance to survive, all of this is true. Much of what I find myself and others defining as a need, is in fact, a want. There is nothing wrong with wants, that is not what I am saying here -- but it is important for us to be able to distinguish between our needs and wants. Humans need connection for developmental, emotional and spiritual growth. Humans need water and sustenance for physical development and well being. Humans need rest so the body may restore from the day's activities... much past this, the things we need are more so wants than anything else.
To go without for a period of time, especially by choice is a humbling experience. It provides space for reflection. Whenever something we are used to having in our routine is cut out for a moment, space for all else that is there is created so that more attention may be given to it. To go without, without a choice in the matter, is what millions do each day. I have not had to do this in my life, so I cannot speak to the experience, but I can only imagine that a greater appreciation for all that is there is created. When I traveled to India in 2010, a country that I miss dearly, I found myself immersed in a village of people who lived off the Earth. Their homes were made from tarps found around in trash piles or donated to the village. Many of the children were bare, except for a colorful piece of string wrapped around their midsection so that they were not completely nude. The majority went without shoes . All ate food sparingly, when it was available. And yet, despite all this, I was immersed in the most giving village of persons that I have met in my entire life! Each day when we arrived to build homes, alongside the villagers, they greeted us with coconuts they cut from the trees and necklaces they made from local flowers. It was humbling, emotional and nothing short of incredibly beautiful. They are who I hope to someday be -- a person who is appreciative for all I have, who wants what I have, who needs no more than what is necessary, who gives without reservation. I will admit, I do not find it easy, always. I worry about finances at times, I wonder how I can give, when I am striving to earn more... and yet, I remember those who had what appeared to be nothing in a material sense and yet had more than I may ever have in regard to their level of appreciation and willingness to give to others. Fasting for Ramadan reminded me of this colorful, love-filled village in Pondicherry, India, it reminded me of just how much I do have, of how much more I have to give etc...
I believe it can do us all a bit of good, to give without from time to time, to let go of the comforts of life to help those less fortunate than ourselves, to sit in reflection, to just Be present more with the journey we are on and less connected to the journey of earning and buying. Peace and Blessings to all and to my Muslim brothers and sisters, thank you - participating in the tradition of fasting opened my eyes and heart.
A spiritual being on a physical journey, striving to make a positive impact on this world through my actions and loving intention. I believe that we are all capable of greatness, it is how we channel this great energy that matters... I choose to express it in the name of -- peace and love.