“How to Respond to a National Tragedy.”

Via elephant journal
on Jul 20, 2012
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Followed up by, “I am so grateful that all of you are here. I am so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection,” he said.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/07/obama-on-colorado-shooting-such-evil-is-senseless/


Image, above comment above via Reddit.

 {Updates: donate blood} What can we do? A culture of compassion begets compassion.

Breathe deep. In and out. Repeat. Feel our heart. Slow down. Pray. Meditate. Slow down.

Let our prayers be with all innocents, everywhere—and Aurora in particular, today.

Update: People keep saying that this tragedy is a reminder to tell those we love that we love them, today. Might be a good practice for all of us to do. I just did.

Update, via New Era Colorado: There is a vigil tonight at the Aurora Municipal Center at 7pm at 15151 E. Alameda Parkway in Aurora, Colorado.

Update: The death toll is still mounting as the severely wounded pass away.

Update: Here’s something anyone close by can do: “anyone in the area that can go donate blood. Please for your fellow human beings.” …”the Red Cross calls me at least daily when I’m able to donate again. They’re way low, and giving blood is literally the easiest thing you can do to save a life.”

Bonfils Blood Center is asking for blood donations, especially O neg, A neg and plasma. The need will continue for many days, so if you can’t get in today, call 303.366.2000 to make an appointment for early next week.

Update, via Reddit: “Marilyn Manson’s commentary for Rolling Stone after Columbine is just as relevant for today’s shooting in Colorado.”

“We never understand what leads someone to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Life is very fragile and it is precious.”
~ President Obama.

“It is beyond the power of words to fully express our sorrow this morning. We appreciate the swift work by local, state and federal law enforcement. Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis. This is one of those times.”
~ Governor Hickenlooper

1:27 am, local police scanner: “Bring as much crime scene tape as you can.”

The Batman is a symbol of justice, rising out of injustice and crime—a symbol of the protection of the innocent, against all odds. We can not blame our fictions for this real-life crime.

But our speediness, our tech-induced ADHD, our culture of violence, our glorification of fame and riches…are not helpful. If we create a container, an atmosphere, a context of kindness and connection, of gentleness and true warriorship, we can hope to apply a preventative tonic of wellness to those who would, through instability or isolation, strike out…and in so doing, save ourselves.

Please share your heart and support for this senseless tragedy, in a wonderful world that is nevertheless full of such senseless tragedies. A culture of violence begets violence. A culture of compassion begets compassion.

“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.” ~ President Obama

Excerpt, The New York Times:

“A witness told CNN affiliate KUSA that he was in one of the other theaters showing the movie. ‘It’s crazy to think I could have been in the other line,’ he said.

‘We were watching a scene of the movie — it was a shootout scene, there were guns firing,” he said. “Then loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater, and it was really thick and no one could really see anything. Me and my sister were sitting there wondering what was going on. Five people were limping, wounded, slightly bloody.’

‘I saw a girl who was pretty much covered in blood. It made me think the worst,” the man said. “A cop came walking through the front door before everyone was cleared up and before everything was completely under control holding a little girl in his arms, and she wasn’t moving.'”

> For more.

> In such times, we Buddhists practice a meditation or active prayer that develops compassion. There’s nothing magical to it: it simply furthers our ability to connect and focus on empathy (click here for video instructions).

Excerpt, via Pema Chodron:

In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean —you name it— to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. In fact, one’s whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.

The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that which is all around us— everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem
to be.

We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.

At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us.

People often say that this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together. Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we’ve tried so hard to create around ourselves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego.

Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we begin to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. At first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or so solid as they seemed before.

Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those that are in pain of any kind. It can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if you are out walking and you see someone in pain —right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send some out some relief. Or, more likely, you might see someone in pain and look away because it brings up your fear or anger; it brings up your resistance and confusion.

So on the spot you can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward.

Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.


“Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—

—whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.” ~ RFK


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21 Responses to ““How to Respond to a National Tragedy.””

  1. matthew says:

    Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness-MLK
    My thoughts and prayers go to Colorado, and the people of Aurora. May justice be swift and peace come to those who have lost so very much. Devastated by this news.

  2. HVBB says:

    'Self cherishing'
    A mental attitude that considers oneself to be supremely important and precious. It is regarded as a principal object to be abandoned by Bodhisattvas. See Eight Steps to Happiness and Meaningful to Behold.

    Until THIS concept, and this concept alone is understood by westernized buddhists, yogatards, and vipassana attendees, what you wish for will NEVER happen.

    "love yourself first"
    "get rid of what doesn't serve you"

    These are all "self cherishing constructs.

    I will no longer hold my breath.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    You bet. But don't go to far in the other direction. Middle Way, as Buddha discussed. Maitri is also vital, but you're right, it couldn't be any more different from self-centered self-cherishing.

  4. HVBB says:

    I have several articles to write before I go. They will be done within the week. I work great against deadlines and no deadline could be more severe than the one I set.
    The following will be in one of my articles.
    I went to the IRS the other day to submit paperwork for my 2008 taxes. The estranged wife committed tax fraud. They're doing an investigation.
    The Agent I spoke with asked so I told him about her cluster of disorders, and her misuse of buddhism, which seems to be more common these days, ask ken wilber, to validate these disorders.

    I told him about "the narcissism epidemic" and "boomeritis"
    His eyes lit up, he slid back in his chair, and he said "that's HUGE!!!"

    He has invited me to his church to talk about this, this weekend.

    It will be my last teaching before I pass on.

  5. HVBB says:

    He asked "how do you fix this? Because this has become the norm. EVERYONE acts this way now. It's by design. Look at our media culture."

    I told him, I could only tell him the cause

    "there are no losers, because we all palyed the game…."

    He said

    "so the thing that was meant to solve it has created a greater problem?" (that's when he said, it was huge….)

    I told him it has invaded even buddhism, so I really don't know how to fix it any more.

    Instead, I have elected to take my leave, so I am tying up loose ends, before I go.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    People keep saying that this tragedy is a reminder to tell those we love that we love them, today. Might be a good practice for all of us to do. I just did.

  7. Roger Wolsey says:

    The call to give blood and plasma is so very welcome! Another thing we can do to help is to write our congresspeople and urge them to enact single payer universal health care that covers mental health. http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

    And finally, we can all smile more at people, hug people, and tell them that we love them more.

  8. Roger Wolsey says:

    We can also contact HHS and urge them to end the antiquated ban that prevents gay men from giving blood. They bleed red too and I'll happily welcome their blood should I or my son need it. http://www.hhs.gov/ash/contactus/contactus.html

  9. elephantjournal says:


  10. elephantjournal says:

    See, this is great and super helpful! I'm glad you're communicating this stuff, you're making the comment section more worthwhile than the blog above.

  11. vplane9 says:

    Thanks I was about to post the same reminder.

  12. yogi tobye says:

    TV the drug of the nation. Every other show is some kind of cops and bad guys, crime/guns/fighting thing.

    And Batman? What is all that about? Everyone is using the Batman image as some kind of support? "Winnie the pooh and tigger too" is compassion not "Batman 4" or 5 or whatever.

    Stop the whole interest and sensationalism on TV and in the movies for horror/guns/violence/crime/hatred because every mad man thinks he's fighting the good fight, taking down the bad guys when, in actual fact, there ARE NO BAD GUYS, just people reacting to a situation the only way they know how.

    We talk about compassion, but how many people in the US actually KNOW and TAKE INTEREST in their neighbour?

    And, the second amendment is killing you all and keeping you prisoners in your own country!! If it's not metal detectors in schools and shopping malls, it's fear of your own fellow man. Americans are known globally as a nation of permanently paranoid people that are scared witless of everyone and everything. You have a right to life and bearing arms isn't life, it's death. It doesn't protect you, it keeps you wrapped in chains of your own paranoia and delusion!


    Towns in Colorado are voting against the selling of medical marijihuana, but quite happily living with the second amendment and gross alcohol abuse!

  13. […] So what to do? Send the help that you’re able to send when disaster strikes and then turn off your television. […]

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Pitchford Their are millions just like him in America. More Gun Laws are not the answer. In case you haven't noticed, Aurora, Co. has very strict laws which were totally ignored by the perpetrator of this atrocity.

    elephantjournal.com Also, to the point of arming our entire nation, we're already the most gun-happy, gun-permissive nation on earth—and, for some reason, that hasn't made us safer. Rather, the opposite. The solution to violence may not be more guns: it may be better access to mental health care, and more training of responsible gun owners, and a re-ban of assault weapons.

    Pitch Pitchford We are all much safer and I'm proud to live in America where a responsible person can become proficient with a weapon(s) of their choice. We already have the best training requirements in the entire world for legal gun ownership. I am reminded of the axiom that a gun in the hands of a responsible and sane individual is a danger to no one but a bad person.

    elephantjournal.com Pitch, milliions? Who's sounding paranoid now?

  15. elephantjournal says:

    I hear you on the Batman imagery. I thought about it, and concluded that 1) Batman is not at fault here and 2) while Batman is all about violence, his origin story and his manifestation is sadness and resulting desire to protect innocents and 3) the violence inherent in his protection and the imagery is, while debatable, well, debatable: and that's the point.

    We should, in a non-ALL CAP manner, use this tragedy and the (too) many others as an occasion for respectful debate, learning, a time to find common ground.

  16. yogi tobye says:

    For sure!

    I wish they made films about guys dealing with that kinda stuff in another way.

    From personal experience love and respect is stronger than violence…. from personal experience I said, I've tried it, it works 😉

  17. […] But, too, we must learn from our tragedies. We must not learn hate: we must not learn trauma. We must learn how to protect. We must learn how to let go. We must learn to keep our hearts open, and how to be strong enough to protect our ideals from our fear. […]

  18. […] on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but […]

  19. […] on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but […]