Ayeka – Where are you?
A couple of years ago my grown kids bought me a tattoo for Mother’s Day. It was my first tattoo, but, I really wanted it. It was the Hebrew word, Ayeka (i – eek – ah). I placed it on my forearm, where I’d easily and frequently see it. The moment I first learned this word I was moved by it. Ayeka was instantly meaningful to me because it speaks to my own story. The tattoo artist put three dots above the “e” because I wanted to include symbolism of my husband and kids with the word. The tattoo is very special to me.
The word originates in Biblical literature from the story of the Fall in Genesis. God said to Adam and Eve, “Ayeka?—Where are you?“ when they became separated from him. My favorite part is that he wasn’t asking, “What’s your physical location?” Growing up, I believed that’s what the English version of this story was telling me—they were hiding and God was seeking. That’s partly true but, not the whole story.
The Hebrew meaning is richer, “Where’s your heart?” It was about being present mentally and spiritually. Notedly, in the Genesis story there was an element of fear in Adam and Eve which compelled them to hide. I can relate to that. Admittedly, my own heart is prone to hiding. Even so, God wants more for them, for me. He focused on their hearts with a word that embodied a question of the heart. Consequently, it’s a question I ask myself, regularly. During this pandemic, “Ayeka?” Is particularly relevant—a question with profound inherent benefit. It emphasizes the here and now.
Here and Now
I’m a graduate counseling student at Trevecca Nazarene University. In that context I am learning a great deal about presence and how it influences mental health. In therapeutic circles “here and now” refers to what’s happening inside of me at this very moment—here in the present. It’s focused on what I’m feeling and all the clues that unearth that truth, such as, the myriad of signals my body gives to communicate my feelings—some, of which, I might even be unaware.
Subsequently, if I were looking for here and now information I may ask questions like, “What’s the experience like?, What’s it like at my house right now?, How am I experiencing my anxiety?, What do I feel in this moment?, What’s it like to be socially isolated?, What’s it like to adjust to new ways of learning or working? What am I most afraid of right now?” The point is to become aware of the information that aids emotional processing.
I > You
Thus, it’s important to use “I” statements when answering these questions. It’s common and sometimes feels like human instinct to answer, “You have to stay in doors and that’s hard on you.” Instead, it’s important to answer, “I have to stay indoors and that’s hard on me.” “I” statements focus my brain and my heart on how I am feeling. I need to acknowledge my feelings as my own in order to process them.
Where’s My Heart?
Furthermore, it’s critical to target what I can control, rather than fixating on what I cannot. (I’ll talk a little more in depth about that in part 2.) I can control how I respond to my feelings. I cannot control how government agencies respond to this crisis nor how politicians behave. For this reason, it’s better for my mental health to concentrate on my feelings and my experience. To that end, it’s helpful to ask ourselves, “Where’s my heart?, What’s my experience like?, How am I feeling?, What is my body telling me?—Ayeka?!?