My loves,

I am writing you this on a sandy bank. An emerald-green river moves unhurried to the sea. Cicadas are sounding in the trees. It looks like it might rain. Michelle Alexander once told me: “The world right here is just as real as the world out there.”

I hold fast to those words. Amid daily news of pandemic, climate crisis, assaults on rights, and war — and all the invisible battles we fight each day — there is still wonder all around us. When we open our senses to the earth, we can find breath.

Look around you — what is the most beautiful thing you can see? A tree out the window. A potted plant. A sleeping child. A crease in your palm that reminds you of your grandmother’s hands. Notice what happens when you breathe this in.

In this installment of our summer series, we explore how to breathe as a practice of revolutionary love.

Let’s start with a definition. Breathing is the practice of noticing your breath and letting it deepen. It is also the act of slowing down to care for our bodies, minds, and spirits. Taking the time to breathe, literally and metaphorically, is a way to assert that our bodies are worthy and beloved. Loving our bodies is the first and primal act of loving ourselves.

Notice I say: loving ourselves. I do not believe self-care is an accurate term for what we need. When the world tries to choke our breath, it can feel like another violation to hear: just practice self-care. We need community care. We need institutions and networks of relationships that work to meet our needs. Breathing in community is how we last.

You deserve to last.

Integrating breath-giving practices into your daily life doesn’t need to be overwhelming or expensive. You can start where you are, right now, with what you have.

Scroll down for your toolkit. Share this email with a friend and practice together. Small acts can strengthen the network of people in our lives to breathe with and lean on. Then tell me how you are breathing this week in the Community Conversation. I breathe with you.


A Guided Inquiry

Place your hand on your heart and another on your belly. And now let the breath come, feeling your belly fill up. Hold for four. Let it go. What does it feel like to let this deep of a breath into your body?

Take in your surroundings. Let your eyes fall on the most beautiful thing around you. Notice its color and shape. Notice the way the light falls on it. Notice its beauty. No matter what is happening out there in the world right now, no matter how dark, or violent, or cruel, this beautiful thing also exists. The world right here is just as real as the world out there.

Take another deep breath. Notice if it’s a little easier. When we give our attention to wonder, we call it breathtaking. But perhaps we should call it breathgiving. Awe stretches out our capacity to be present and let in even a sense of joy. Notice what you feel in your body.

Is this feeling in your body familiar or is it rare? How have you been breathing? What do you need to be able to breathe like this every day? Get quiet and listen.

This Week's Practice

Bring a new practice into your life. Choose something that puts breath into your body. It might be movement, meditation, or mantra. Pick a time of day. This could be first thing in the morning, or just before you go to sleep. You only need a few minutes. Tip: Tether the new practice to something that you already do every day. For example, wake up with the words, “I get to be alive. I get to be alive today. I get to be alive today with you.”

Practice for one week. At the end of the week, reflect in your journal: What did you notice in your body? What was challenging? What was helpful? What do you want to do next?

Here are some ideas for activities that give breath: singing, chanting, dancing, drumming, bathing, breathing mindfully, burning, walking, writing, tasting, sleeping, stargazing, moving in nature. What does your body long for? What gives you pleasure?

Read an Excerpt
“I had been made to believe that overwork was the only way to make a difference. I had come to measure my sense of worth by how much I produced, how well I responded, and how quickly. I had worked for so long, and so hard, and at such great speeds, that I had become accustomed to breathlessness. I could not remember the last time I had a long night of rest. Or gazed at the night sky. Or danced. I told myself that it was for good reason, that the need was so great, and our work too important. Perhaps you too have felt this way. This is what I want to tell you: You don’t have to make yourself suffer in order to serve.” – excerpt from See No Stranger, Chapter 7

Explore the Compass

Start here with our introduction to the compass. I teach ten core practices of revolutionary love, backed by research and infused with ancestral wisdom. Imagine these practices as points on a compass. Point the compass toward whomever you want to practice loving— another, an opponent, or yourself. Decide what practice you need. You can use this compass as a tool in all arenas in your life.

Listen to Valarie walk you through the compass and explore stories, lesson plans, meditations, and music on our learning hub. Click here to explore!

Go Deeper

Take the Revolutionary Love Training Course. Just pop in your earbuds and go on a journey with me. Intimate, inspirational, and practical, this course is a deep immersion in the practices of revolutionary love: How do we love when it’s hard? How do we tend the wounds in ourselves, and others? How do we stay awake to the world and still find breath, pleasure, and joy in our bodies? If you are hungry for transformation that bridges the political and personal, spirituality and social justice, this is for you.

Donate to the Revolutionary Love Project

The Revolutionary Love Project envisions a world where love is a public ethic and shared practice in our lives and politics. We generate stories, tools, and thought leadership to equip people to practice the ethic of love in the fight for social justice.

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The Revolutionary Love Project is a project of Community Partners, a nonprofit fiscal sponsor and intermediary organization that provides us with administrative services, expert guidance, and the benefits of tax-exempt status.