How is Your Heart?

Photograph of a mural with bright orange and blue flowers that reads Everyone is Different, Everyone Belongs

Over the last month, our college’s Black Lives Matter at School book club has been reading the wonderful Gholdy Muhammad’s book Unearthing Joy. There are many, many things I love about this book and the way that it centers Black joy, culturally and historically responsive teaching and learning, and attending to children’s spirits as much as their minds. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

One of the questions Dr. Muhammad asks us to reflect on in the book is, “How is your heart?” From the moment I read this question, I had to pause and sit with this. I felt this question deep within me. Generally, people will ask, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” or even “What have you been up to lately?” These questions (for me) are easy to answer on reflex, rather than with reflection and connection to our hearts and our breath. I typically answer these questions with, “Fine” or “Okay” or “It’s been pretty busy lately, but I’m sure it will get better eventually.” But am I fine or even okay? Will it get better eventually?

I don’t actually think, for myself, that “it will get better eventually,” without a lot of intentional attention, care, and unlearning. How am I doing? If I think about it, I actually don’t know, because I don’t know how I am doing half of the things I take on, things that require more energy and effort and time than I really have, if I am doing the work of attending to my heart.

So I return to Dr. Muhammad’s question, “How is your heart?”

I pause.

I inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

My heart is tired. My heart has been tired for a long time, tired from carrying around years of grief, and from running (metaphorically and actually) from one thing to the next. My heart has been tired from sustaining a body and mind that always keep going. My heart has been tired because it is attached to a mind that is unforgiving of itself when I have human moments, when I let someone down, when I am less than my best self, when unlearning is slow.

But today, my heart is also full. It is sustained by community, joy, laughter, good food, fellowship, music, my family, my children, my passion. It is uplifted by educators committed to children’s well-being and belonging, committed to justice and the work of learning and unlearning. It is uplifted by beauty in nature. Today, my heart is bolstered by fugitive spaces of resistance that have existed and exist still, around me, with those I love.

Today, I had the privilege of attending the second annual Teaching for Justice conference at the University of California, Irvine. The conference this year was focused on AAPI belonging and well-being. The first workshop I attended was led by Dr. Stacey Lee Gobir who is the Assistant Director of Pepperdine RISE (Resilience-Informed Skills Education). In her workshop on resilience, she reminded me of these things that I wrote in my notes:

  • You deserve to take your time.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Resilience can also be honoring our capacity to say no.

It is a journey that I am on. There is always more to do. But I have to return to my heart. I have to return to who I want to be. I deserve to take my time on this journey, to be gentle with myself.

If I continue to get caught up in all there is to do, I will not be who I want to be. I know this. And when I let myself, I feel this. Resilience can be honoring my capacity to say no.

How is my heart? It is strong. It is beating. It is expanding its capacity for love, rest, and joy.

How is your heart?

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