In the Wake of Tragedy

Today, December 14, 2012, has been weighed down by unthinkable tragedy. A shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A knife attack at an elementary school in China. It is a reality that is utterly unbearable.

And yet, in a world that could allow such tragedy, how do we go on and how do we respond in a way that begins to create healing change?

These are the questions I have been sitting with today. I don’t believe there is one right answer here, but I do believe there are tools to support us on this path. And I believe that if we commit to them together, new possibilities may arise.

Tragedy such as these evoke trauma responses in many of us. It is easy to react in a fight, flight, or freeze mode. It’s easy to tune out and numb ourselves. Or to busy ourselves with distracting action. It’s most difficult to stay still, to tune in to our bodies and to acknowledge the deep physical and emotional impact on our beings. I believe most strongly that, if more of our population took the time to do this, we might slowly discover our next steps to supporting safe and healthy communities. If we challenge ourselves collectively to bear these unbearable emotions, we will evoke new responses that bring about deeply needed healing and change. This, at least, is my prayer.

With this in mind, here are some possible beginning steps to accepting what is truly unacceptable. Take your time with each step. If it’s helpful, write down your responses, speak them out loud, or share them with a friend or loved one.


Audio of meditation:

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In the wake of tragedy…

• Find a comfortable position and sit still.

• Allow your body to rest in the places where you are supported: feet on the floor, thighs and sit bones sink into the seat.

• Bring attention to your breath. Do not change it. Simply notice your breath as it is right now. Notice how your body receives each inhale and how your body releases each exhale. How full is each breath? How much of your lung capacity is used in these breathes? What is the pace of your breath?

• Bring attention to your body sensations. How do your muscles respond to this tragedy? What are the sensations in your jaw, your shoulders or your hands? What do you feel in your stomach? What is the sensation in your heart?

• Take a moment to acknowledge whatever emotion(s) are present right now. Whether sadness, anger, fear, shame, even happiness. Can you allow yourself to accept and fully feel whatever is true for you right now? If there are tears, allow tears. If there is a roar, allow that roar. If heat rises, feel the heat. If your body shakes and shivers, allow it.

• Notice any urges to act or respond that come now. Can you notice what they are without yet acting? Can you stay still and fully present with whatever physical sensations and emotions arise? Can you do this for 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 30 minutes?

• Bring your attention again to your breath. Notice if your experience of breathing is the same or if there is a change. And simply be with your breath as it is.

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