To Be Okay in My Heart

Sheena Koops

My hands are in the hot, soapy water; I can smell the orange fragrant bubbles, but my forehead is like a clenched fist and I swish each glass as fast as I can. I remember attending a mindfulness meeting and the facilitator said that washing dishes can be done mindfully. I breathe deeply, slowly into my belly. My tight temples relax. One more breathe in and I see that the bubbles are white and beautiful. One more breathe, seeking peace, but I just can’t slow my hands down, and pretty soon I’m thinking about the turkey soup I still need to make tonight, the table tennis club paperwork, the upswept floor, the pile of papers in the corner, the brown sugar in the package that needs to go into the canister, the best way to pile the plates in the dish rack, who will be at Sunday Circle in the morning, the article I need to write for Sister Triangle by tomorrow, my blogger writer’s block I’d hoped to break this New Year. Pretty soon the tight temples and clenched forehead is back.
I take my hands out of the water, dry them on a tea towel, and walk down the stairs to the computer. I open my blog.

When I started writing Treaty Walks the banner said, “Join me on my year-long-journey to and from school ‘every day the buses run.’ As I walk I will meditate on treaties, blogging and posting pictures along the way.”

I love thinking about that first year of active awakening to the Treaties signed between many of the First Nations people of Canada and the British Crown. I learned so much. But maybe the strongest lesson was realizing something I hadn’t learned.

Three days from the end of that year-long journey, here is a confession, of sorts, after a marriage counselling session:

“One hundred and ninety eight days ago, I claimed the word meditate, and after today, I’m wondering if I have any idea what that word really means. I thought I was practicing mindfulness walking to and from school, and I’m sure on some level I was, but the counsellor said something to me today that nailed my heart to the back of my chest.

I said something about these last two Treaty Walk days and Michael not knowing what is going on in my world, then later the counsellor picked up on this, and looked right at me, and said, “If you’re going to be a treaty woman, you have to be okay in here,” and he tapped his chest.

“And maybe it was right away or maybe later in a different context”, but he added, “I just spent five days at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and we encouraged people to say everything, to get it all out.”

“So here I am, near the end of my journey, with two free days tagged on, but in some ways, today is the last day. I hope I was able to give something back, to be an ally, to offer a little restitution in the name of treaty, but I also know what the counsellor said was right. If I’m going to be a treaty woman, I have to be okay in my heart, and right now I’m not. So maybe part of these walks were for me to get to this day and know I need to get serious about my own healing. And maybe it’s not getting serious, maybe it’s lightening up, playing, being mindful. 

I wrote those words almost two and a half years ago, and I’m happy to report that I did start learning about and practicing meditation as an act of mindfulness. Serendipitously, I believe the Creator began putting people in my path who were practicing Sabbath. It may sound weird, but I have been practicing REST. At times I’ve felt like I’ve abandoned my activism, but I haven’t; I’ve just learned that everyone needs to rest, and those of us who forget that for long enough, burn out.

I’m thankful that tomorrow is Sunday. Once I’m done this article/blog, I’ll go upstairs and finish the soup, the dishes, and maybe even sweep the floor. Tomorrow, I’ll attend Sunday Circle to listen and share. I’ll remember my sacred teachings and find comfort and grace. Then, I’ll come home to rest, so that I’m okay in my heart for another week of the journey.

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