Why Are You Here, and What Should You Do?

Right now most of us find ourselves in unfamiliar territory – everything is different across every platform whether it’s work, home, school, or our relationships. As we struggle to adjust to such immense change, we’re also presented with an opportunity to reflect on a great many things.

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A woman with surgical mask, sitting on a metro train

Great questions, don’t you think? Especially now, during this most strange and challenging time. I’m finding with less travel, less movement, less time wasted looking for parking, I have more time to think, to ask, and to reflect on questions that arise.

The first question feels beautifully and mysteriously poetic and can be taken in many ways. From a leadership or work perspective, you might question why you are “here” in your particular work role, in a certain place, and with the team you have. “Here” can also mean many additional things – it could refer to your home or your relationships. It could also mean your state, country, or even your existence on this planet we call Earth. What mindset or feelings arise when you reflect on what “here” means for you?

The second question, what should you do, is more practical. There is no way to avoid or escape answering it. It requires making or not making choices. What should you do about the pandemic, the election, and climate change? What should you do for your livelihood, for your relationships, for your health and wellbeing? What should you do with this life?

At the moment, I’m noticing that my response to the first question involves a process of inquiry about my mindset and feelings, and this process is heavily influencing my decisions. One answer for me to the second question leads me to plunge into focusing my time, energy, and activities toward more learning, investigating, and healing. I’m watching, reading, and writing a lot – to expand my worldview, to open, and to attempt to find greater awareness and freedom.

Recently I watched the documentary film, The Pieces I Am, about the life of the writer Tony Morrison. She died almost exactly a year ago at age 88, after writing many profound and important books, and winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Here are a few of her words.

If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” 

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

Genius, with heart and purpose, is definitely something I want to be around and learn from.

I’m also enjoying What Comes Next and How To Like It, a memoir by Abigail Thomas. This book was highly recommended by Annie Lamont, one of my favorite writers. It’s a book about learning, exploring, and healing. The first few sentences are:

I have time to kill while waiting for the sun to dry, and I’m mulling over the story I spent years writing and failed to turn into anything, trying not to be depressed. Nothing is wasted when you are a writer. The stuff that doesn’t work has to be written to make way for the stuff that might; often you need to take the long way round.

Thomas crafts sentences and ideas masterfully, combining the expected and the unexpected, leading me to open my mind and heart.

I’ve begun reading My Grandmother’s HandsRacialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem, a powerful book about racism, trauma, and the role that our bodies play in both. In an early section of the book he opens a section on Acknowledging Our Ancestors with these words:

“Our bodies exist in the present. To your thinking brain, there is past, present, and future but to a traumatized body there is only now. That now is the home of intense survival energy.”

Such brilliant and powerful writing and teaching, filled with pain and possibility. Much of the practice of Zen and meditation is about healing through the body, by sitting still, allowing the body and mind to function more freely and fully.

Why are we here, and what should we do?

Right now most of us find ourselves in unfamiliar territory – everything is different across every platform whether it’s work, home, school, or our relationships. As we struggle to adjust to such immense change, we’re also presented with an opportunity to reflect on a great many things.

This week, you might consider:

  • Why are you here and what mindset, attitude, or approach are you cultivating in your work and your life? How does this approach influence the decisions you are making? How does your attitude influence your definition of “here.”
  • Why are you doing the work you do?
  • What do you aspire to do?

Start with what are you doing, now, today, and this week. Try taking a step back and a broad view. Acknowledge that things are difficult right now, name the difficulty, and allow yourself to feel the sensations in your body. Then consider ways to keep things simple so you’re focused on what matters to you most, right now; right here.

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