July 20, 2012

“How to Respond to a National Tragedy.”

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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