I wanted to acknowledge and mourn the devastating events of last week (July 2016) here in the US. Personally, I have been sitting with so much grief and sadness over the senseless and tragic loss of life — the police killings of African American men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the subsequent killing of the officers and wounding of peaceful protesters in Dallas.
I find it difficult at times to hold the enormity of the loss of these tragedies, and all of it on the heels of what happened in Orlando… How do we meet the gravity of these events? Or the continual news of suicide bombings, war, and refugees?
These tools of mindfulness couldn’t be more needed in times like this, when the centuries-old issues of racism and slavery, of oppression and privilege, are bursting into flame in public consciousness; when ideological and religious differences lead to hatred, terrorism and violence around the globe; and when the political discourse has become so sharply divided in our own country that true dialogue seems to happen rarely, if ever.
Mindfulness training offers us the strength of awareness, the ability to keep meeting the waves of emotion, to ride them, at times to sink, and still to emerge with clarity. It gives us the ability to understand the roots of our emotions, to see the humanity in others, and to translate our values into meaningful words and actions.
So I want to encourage everyone in our community – if you are not already – to include in your practice what is happening in our country and in our world. This means not only knowing what’s happening, but also opening to the truth of what is present in your heart — to all of it. To the grief, to the fear. To the rage, the anger, the confusion, the hopelessness. There is space for all of it to be held, to be seen, and to be known in loving awareness.
I also want to encourage you to take care during these times. Take care with your heart and mind. In my own practice with such feelings I find it immensely important to be on the lookout for overwhelm, and to do what I need to do to stay balanced.
For when we are overwhelmed we cannot learn, we do not see clearly, and we cannot act helpfully. Certain internal systems simply go “off-line”. This means that, strange as it seems, we may need to look away (from the news, from our feelings) and to allow our hearts to close, in order to be able to look back again, to let our hearts open.
The opening and closing of the heart is natural. It is as natural a rhythm as the cycle of our breathing, as the circadian rhythms of our life.
And yet if we look away unconsciously, if we turn away from the pain too reactively or for too long, our hearts can can harden in defense or shrink in fear. So give yourself the space to feel what you feel. If you need to look away or take a break, do so consciously and out of love. And then come back. Look again when you are ready; open to the feelings that come.
I offer all of this with the hope that it may provide some sense of solidarity, connection and support during these times. We can use these tools of mindfulness to connect lovingly with what is present each of us, to understand the deeper needs beneath our feelings, and then to meet the world with an open heart, with eyes of clarity, care, and strength. And from this place, to engage in meaningful action to address the wounds that ail our society and world.