I watched her draw in a deep gulp of air, opening her airway, chest firm and ready for battle. La Maestra closed her eyes, and on her mark, in unison, twenty-two of us let out a hum whose vibrations and frequencies resonated across our torsos. We could feel each other without touching.
From where our feet were firmly planted and our arms craned like coffee cups, resting on our hips, La Maestra taught us how to belt out a grito. The open-throated, passionate surge of emotion from the diaphragm was a sound familiar to many of us in the room. To others, it was a struggle to be so open about one’s ability to control the voice, the body, and the well of emotion built inside each of our bodies.
Gritos are hard to produce. People spend their entire lives perfecting the stance, like a yogi flexing in positions we never think is possible for the body to bend. It matters much your proximity to someone else and the way observers, sometimes participants, form a posture around the person loosening the grito from her ribs.
Like a prayer, a grito emits a powerful vibration into the universe wrecking atoms and colliding against possible debris, causing galaxies to feel their friction against the expanse of space. And beyond that, God understands the birth of such vibrations. God even feels the vessel from which the vibration came, the throat that called out to the universe in joy, pain, sorrow, or thanksgiving.
We may not all have gritos in our upbringing; we may not have anything similar, but we have the ability to produce a vibration with a prayer, a call to action. These calls can also be nonverbal expressions. Prayers are frequencies beyond understanding, and a language all its own, similar to gritos.
How we pray, how we make sense of the world to connect with God, matters deeply how we connect with others.
Recently, I heard an interview with Omid Safi on the Spark My Muse podcast where the Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University and Director of Duke Islamic Studies Center, delivered an incredible thought that since has pressed firmly into my life. He said, “Love is our journey from God, in God, through humanity, and back to God.”
Prayer is the language of our bodies, through humanity, for God.
Like a prayer, a grito situates us in a vulnerable position, eyes closed, emotions pushing to the forefront, vocalized in a frequency that if in close proximity, our bodies automatically energize with a frequency of emotions. We can feel each other without touching.
Sometimes, we can’t find words to explain what is happening to us or to others. In understanding our own body and our proximity to others, we can take a hopeful gulp, releasing a vibration that maybe twenty-two other bodies, or more, will feel. Like a grito connects us to our ancestors and to the earth, so a frequency far beyond our immediate understanding can link us to one another no matter where in the world we find ourselves.
When it’s hard to make sense of the world, I find a grito lodged between a gulp and a strain of sorrow. I loosen it after a deep gulp of air. I remember what La Maestra taught us about language, body, and our connection to the earth. I recall the vibrations of twenty-two different people creating a pulse in the universe that brought us all together, that emitted light similar to a prayer.
When it’s hard to make sense of the world, I pray on a different frequency.