September 11, 2011

9/11/11: A reflection on terror and peace.

On September 11, 2001, my alarm clock went off at 8:08 a.m.

On the radio, a man was saying something about an airplane hitting a building in New York. Half asleep, I remember thinking it must be some silly gag. I rolled over and fell back into the dream state. 

As I slept, people were dying in New York, being burned alive. America was under attack. We were under attack. By the time I woke up, the smoke was billowing from lower Manhattan on Good Morning America. Was it an accident? Was it intentional? Nobody knew. The imagery was nothing short of apocalyptic. Humans throwing themselves out the window of a burning building. Live. In real time.  The billowing smoke. Would it choke us all?

The sky was clear blue in Austin. I headed to UT for my ten o’clock class. Campus was eerily quiet. Even the towering Live Oaks seemed to be mourning. As I walked into the College of Communication, I saw a group of people riveted to the television in the lobby. No one could look away from the burning buildings. I rode the elevator to the computer lab on the seventh floor. CNN was projected onto the wall. Then the second plane with the second suicidal megalomaniac onboard plowed into the second tower.

There was a collective gasp. With the next in-breath, the world had changed irrevocably. Life as we knew it exploded with terror.

I could not —cannot— imagine the nightmare of that morning nor the ten years since for the people who were in New York or Washington on 9/11/01. The images on the screen were showing us our stark new reality: war.

But who am I to talk? I had no direct connection to 9/11, other than American citizenship. I’m just a yoga practitioner and teacher and human trying to make sense of life, to do my little part to help out when I can.

What I do know, today, on this normal, quiet morning ten years from that chaotic, black morning, is that mindfulness is more than medicine, it’s absolutely 100% necessary for everyone.

Mindfulness and compassion are the foundation of a peaceful person and a peaceful, productive community.

So, practice peace. Peace is the means and the end. You can only become more peaceful, mindful and compassionate by practicing peace, mindfulness and compassion. Yoga is a great place to start, or sitting meditation, or both. Every one of us must meditate, in some form. Sitting, standing, walking. All of the above. We need to look at the detrimental patterns within ourselves as individuals in order to revise our attitudes and behavior, first personally, then as a society.

What if we quit hating and dividing ourselves with labels and brick walls? What if we instead cultivated Bodhichitta, the compassionate wish to realize enlightenment for the sake of others? It would be the end of terrorism.

I leave you with some of the most eloquent and touching, shocking and amazing 9/11 commemorations I’ve come across this week:

Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive 

Remembering 9/11 by Not Forgetting 9/12 by Tom Grasso

Witness to Apocalypse – the fall of the trade center told moment by moment and person by person, drawn from over 600 interviews collected in the September 11, 2001 Oral History Project

The 9/11 Anniversary Reader from Foreign Policy Magazine

Did Osama Win? by Andrew Sullivan

Speechless by Jonathan Safran Foer

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