I want to start with a story. It is a much abridged rendition of Paulo Coelho’s The Fifth Mountain. There once was a man named Elijah. He was forced from his hometown and found himself a foreigner in Akbar, a strong and prosperous city. Everyday he asked God when it would be time to go back to his people and do his work. He got denied on the regular. He was confused and upset. He started to fall in love with a woman and she with him. One day, the city is attacked in the dead of night and the woman perishes. Right before she dies, she whispers to Elijah of her love and to protect her son, and she says, “I am Akbar.” The city is destroyed, and all that is left are the very old and the very young. But with “I am Akbar” ringing in his ears, he works to clean and rebuild the city. At first, he is alone. The old cry and watch him, and the children hide. Then, he is joined by others who courageously move and build. He is determined to rebuild this city as a promise of love to her.
I was deeply moved by this story. The power of the words ‘I am’ can create new worlds. They remind us of our deepest truths about who we really are, the work we are really called to do.
The words, “I am” are tools. They refer to our being.
I am powerful.
I am strong.
I am capable and creative.
I am love.
I am present.
Your words matter.
We often use these words, “I am” to refer to a moment or a feeling or an experience that is passing through us and it confuses our minds and our bodies.
We say things like, “I am bad” when we make a mistake or fail to do something. We say, “I am upset” when we are hurt or confused or lonely.
We make the totality of this feeling or experience create our being.
The truth is that your being remains powerful even as you experience or feel powerlessness. In those moments, you are having a moment of wholeness.
“Wholeness,” Parker Palmer writes, “does not mean perfection; it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” We can be whole and feel pain. Wholeness is present in moments of deep joy, like when the bride marries her groom and sheds tears for her mother who has died. Both things are possible, even in the same moment.
Our being and our experiences are two different pieces that represent our whole selves.
We practice this by using “I am” to refer to our being the still small voice within, and “I feel” or “I experience” to discern what feelings and sensations are coursing through our veins at this very moment.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neurosurgeon, explains that emotions (and the resulting chemical processes that flood our systems) live for 90 seconds in our bodies. If you let yourself feel the emotions and BREATHE, they only NEED 90 seconds to pass through.
But ‘HOLD UP!’ You say. Then why can I be angry at my partner or roommate for dirty dishes in the sink for a whole 24 hours? Because the story we tell ourselves causes us to relive those emotions, on repeat.
Let’s be clear that many of us don’t get a ton of practice recognizing what we’re experiencing. I recommend checking out Dr. Yvette Erasmus’s Feelings and Needs Sheet as a part of your toolbox for identifying what you’re experiencing.
Acknowledging who we really are AND acknowledging our current experience, being with what really is in this moment, allows us to build truth bridges back to our hearts. When our hearts know that we can hold both our inherent wholeness and our ability to be with what hurts, our hearts speak to us.
I am whole. I am worthy. I am powerful.
I am feeling/experiencing…[insert here]
To hearing the still small voice within that is your beauty AND to acknowledging your experience exactly where you are right now,
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