I have been trying to pay attention to what is happening around me a little more. Not just the larger societal trends, but the smaller moments where “something happens” between people. I have been touched by these moments, however brief, and have begun to feel inspired by the impact they have had.
The “something happens moments” I am noticing seem to include the emergence, often spontaneously, of what I would call essential states of our humanity. I notice them like I notice a candle when it is first lit, or when a cooling breeze passes my face, or that initial feeling of longing that blooms in my chest. These brief essential states could be thought of as those unexpected moments where there is an offering and sharing of the experience of love, generosity, joy, grief, laughter, loyalty, hurt, grace, commitment, endurance, pain, equanimity etc. The possible essential moments are endless, but they are where the truest parts of our humanity are sparked, often in the connection between two or more people.
My grandmother always talked about being “touched by” something someone did, or felt, or said. This is another example of a vital intersection in humanity. “Being touched” wasn’t simply thinking a thought like, “Rachel was brave when she decided to take an acting class.” Instead it was the felt experience of being moved by some thing or someone. Perhaps literally moved. “That song was so moving.” Your body feels it.
When we feel it in our body it cannot help but create movement, even if it is subtle. It also feels really good, most of the time. I found myself paying more attention to feeling touched or moved in these moments. And then I began to wonder if it might be possible to have them last longer or somehow travel further. Our thoughts come and go (or go round and round in circles). Maybe being touched by our essential humanity can last longer or somehow travel. I hope so. But how?
A whole series of things started to happen. I began to think about, and look for those essential states within me. Next I began practicing and sharing with others some of those things that moved me instead of cherishing them quietly inside of myself. Then I began to notice when other people were speaking, even standing for something essential to our humanity. Felt experience or being moved was being spoken to, acknowledged, shared. Shared. It cannot travel further unless we bring it forth. Giving voice to it. Whether it is through speaking or acting.
Perhaps, to create more than a brief flicker, we have to connect with our essential experience and then give it voice. The culture has begun to call women forward to step up, and to speak up. We cannot do that well, unless it is from an essential place within us. AND we find the courage to speak it.
Within the course of a week I heard five different women speaking to what they believed was a vital space for them, a space they wanted to continue to devote more time and attention to. One woman spoke of the importance of the creative process being central to her development and the development of others. Another had spent two years learning about the power and the gifts of surrendering. A third talked about her challenges at work where leadership was requiring the measuring, quantifying, and the documentation of the staff’s work of love in a residential treatment facility for children. A fourth came to Washington, DC for her fourth International Results Conference, and described the power of the group working for real change in the life of the poor. And then there was me. I wanted to give voice to the stand each one of them was taking, witnessing them truly listening to what was important to them, taking steps in response to that, and giving voice to these essential matters of humanity. I would not have known what was going on with each woman, had she not given voice to what mattered to her. And it was given in a way that it could be felt, therefore shared, in a way that was moving for me. I felt moved to hear and see and experience these women’s voices. I felt relief and gladness that there were these voices, located across geographical distance (Brussels, Denmark, California, New York, and Washington, DC), each one holding a kind of candle for the essential. Which, by definition, will ultimately move all of us.
No longer do I want to appreciate this as a sideline of my life, but as integral every day. I think I need to continue to give this “being a voice for…..” my own heart-felt voice. That’s where it all starts. At home, within each of us. Maybe we can then see our essential humanity expand so that these are no longer just a series of wonderful moments, but become a way of life.
So, what moves you? What do you want to become a voice for?
Katherine T. Smith, PhD