, Denmark

“There you go. Here I am.”

When the person we most need to meet is ourselves

By Kenny Mah

There you go again.”

The cyclist turns around and returns to the café. He pauses, as though wondering if he should enter and have a coffee, or head off again to some unseen destination. There is only there much I can see within the rectangle of the basement-level window, the sunlight seeping in from the street above and the cacti sucking it in, gratefully, greedily, I imagine. There is only there much I can guess; the cyclist’s intentions are unknown to me. As are the intentions of others.

As are my own intentions, unless I pay attention and I question. Unless – and I grimace at this thought – I ask, nicely.

“There you go again.”

Ronald Reagan was known for deploying this phrase to disarm his opponents – perhaps most famously (and effectively) during the 1980 presidential election debate against then incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

I remember this during my morning meditation practice, as my cup of black coffee slowly cools, for no discernible reason. But one doesn’t need a reason for thoughts to arise. It happens. All the time. It’s normal. It’s okay. And as I was about to acknowledge it and diffuse it with a note of “thinking”, a sort of nod to the thought, an idea came to me.

“There you go again” could describe thoughts arising just as easily, as I am trying to focus on the present. To be mindful. But that phrase is powerful partly due to its note of disgust and infuriation. I was trying to dismiss the thought more gently.

The “again” is what makes it so powerful and negative. How do I reframe that?

And so it came to me: When a thought, a distraction, arises, I say to myself, “There you go.” Acknowledging without judgement. And then I return to the present by saying “Here I am.”

There you go. Here I am.

It feels less combative. The practice becomes more pleasant. And often a smile sneaks in; I can’t help it. And this thought makes me smile even more, because that is okay. We should all smile more.

There you go. Here I am.

The cyclist finally parks his wheels next to the other bicycles in front of the window. He enters the cafe and orders his coffee, a flat white. He sits on the sofa opposite me, looking relieved. Making a decision can be tough but afterwards, everything is easier. We smile at each other, companions in defeating inertia and indecision.

There you go. Here I am.