When the ancient Mayans were greeting or parting, they said In Lak’ech—“I am another you.”
Imagine saying those words. If we let them, they have the power to scrape away the very barriers of hate, fear and anger that often separate us from one another.
These two words allow us to see each other as we actually are—irrevocably connected.
Let’s take a moment to close our eyes and imagine someone we know; someone we may disagree with or may not entirely like. Then imagine saying, “I am another you.” How did it feel? Did saying those words feel genuine or hollow in meaning? Say the phrase again and take notice of the effect those words have, not just on who we’re visualizing, but within ourselves.
Perhaps we feel a sense of warmth toward the other person. We might even realize something new that we did not know before about the actual circumstances of the other person’s life. Or maybe there’s a spark of understanding or compassion lit within our hearts.
If those feelings toward the other person haven’t changed, then I wonder what would happen if we imagined stepping into that person’s shoes.
See if you can play out an entire day in the life of that person from the moment you wake to the moment you close your eyes for sleep. Literally trade places with him or her in your mind. What do you see? How do you feel? If there’s tension in your body, get curious about it.
If there was some kind of positive shift, then how do you see yourself interacting with that person in the future? Play out a few interactions or scenarios in your mind’s eye. Do you notice any difference in the outcomes of those interactions? And how do you feel?
In Lak’ech. It is here, this place of acknowledgement of our common bond, where the wellspring of compassion dwells.
Now, if you’re willing, let’s picture in our minds a city street where Black Lives Matter protestors are being pushed back by a line of police officers in full riot gear. Flesh out the scene—what do you see, hear, taste, sense or feel around you? Inhale deeply and then exhale audibly. Can we put ourselves in the shoes of each side? If so, what feeling arises? Perhaps you’ve learned something new. Was there anything about the visualization that was surprising or unsettling?
If you’re open, let’s take this practice a little further. Bring into focus the face of one of the black men who was killed by the police the week of July 4th. Then say, “I am another you.” Observe and take notice of anything that you feel or see. Now let’s repeat this exercise by picturing one of the Dallas police officers who was killed this past week by a sniper and say, “I am another you.” What did you feel and observe?
For me, the pain starts in my chest and then erupts up my spine and out my mouth, as I cry. Your heart beats like mine does. If you’re cut or shot, you’ll bleed red just like I will. When you take your last breath, shock reverberates throughout my body, as waves of sorrow and anger crash into me. I don’t have to know you, to feel this way.
Please, let us not keep saying these heartbreaking goodbyes. Remember, In Lak’ech.
Author: Parisa Jade Vinzant
Image: Tareck Raffoul (used with permission)
Editors: Emily Bartran; Caitlin Oriel