By Brittany Graves
Imagine and reminisce about an answered prayer that you are able to express gratitude for in this present moment. Is it an answered prayer for greater health for yourself or a family member? Is it the recognition of supportive friends and community surrounding you? Is it thankfulness for overall spiritual and material well-being? Is it release or peace from a once stressful situation?
What is at least one thing that you are grateful for that allows you to see how far you have come?
It is the spiritual practice of gratitude that gives us greater capacity to be present to each moment. Often, when we focus our attention too much on the past we miss the blessings that surround us in the here and now. While it is important to look back to reflect and course correct so that we better understand the terrain we are working with in the present day, if we stay stuck in the past it is much more challenging to live in the fullness of presence.
Please do not get me wrong, by all means if we have not done the work to look back at past personal, familial, systemic, or even theological constructs that have the likelihood to impede growth and wellness for ourselves, then that is one of our most important starting points to live in the present moment to the best of our ability and create more beneficial community around us.
When we are present we are able to check in with ourselves, mind, body, and spirit. In our western faith traditions, we are more connected to how we express our theology by how we think about certain things but frequently deprioritize the way God speaks to us through our body. Many of us can gain the head knowledge to understand how an unjust system can be harmful to the whole of society or deconstruct it by taking a deeper look at our belief system. But we often miss how these things show up in the very vessel that we breathe in and breathe out from—our bodies. And when there is an ailment in our bodies we are hasty to want a quick fix. If we have a stomach ache, we all too easily reach for the nearest bottle of ibuprofen instead of asking ourselves what is the gut reaction I am having right now and why.
Do not miss the moment to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Our bodies have a spiritual awareness and coherence, just as much as gaining head knowledge gives us the ability to think for ourselves. At some point, we have to be able to move from our head to our hearts to embody the paradigms and forward progression we want to see in the world.
For instance, if we want to respond to the racism that permeates in the world we cannot just be antiracist by thinking of racism’s ruthless history, we must also be pro-liberation by integrating freedom in our everyday lives. We must be willing to look at essential freedoms lacking within systems, but also recognize the liberation that is deficient within oneself. It is one thing to look at racism’s past and know it is wrong. It is another to be present to racism today and work towards integrating freedom in your relationships, even within oneself.
We all have varying personal or communal work to identify the way issues like racism connect to our experience. It is the way we live each and every day that speaks to the ways we liberate ourselves and the people we interact with, work with, and are friends with that helps instruct greater sustainable change as we address those issues in bigger, systemic ways. Think of this as it relates to other paradigm shifts you want to see around you also.
It all begins with our interior world and self-awareness. There was a time in my life where I could more readily tell you what I thought about something versus expressing how I felt about the very same thing. The more I have grown to healthily emote, the more awareness I gain connected to all of my senses and being in touch with the wisdom of my body overall. It is the reminder for me to pay attention to pain in my body that may just be connected to greater healing that is looking to get my attention. It is the reminder to slow down and realize the wisdom that lives within each of us.
We need more people in the world proactively being rather than performatively doing. It is this kind of embodiment that can help us co-create a more authentic way of living that is true to our divine essence that can then transform the exterior world, if we do it altogether.
Rev. Brittany Graves is Creative Preaching Pastor at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas, an all-around advocate, dream worker, reiki practitioner and co-host of Nuance Tea Podcast. Keep up with her on www.patreon.com/revbrittanygraves and Instagram @ambitiouslyBrittany.