Words are a bridge between us and the world.
Sometimes words help us express ourselves, and then sometimes they fail or desert us completely as we confront something wondrous, inexplicable or, in the face of the events in Paris and so many other parts of the world these days, downright horrifying.
Sometimes it’s okay to be at a loss for words, to not know how to be, or act, or express oneself in the wake of tragedy and the feeling of hopelessness that can follow.
We are all struggling to be better humans. We should never forget this. Every single one of us, without exception.
This is how we, and the world, move forward together, in one piece. Even when it looks like that piece is shattering into a million smaller, more jagged ones, and we don’t understand the hows and whys of it all.
Instead of finding my own words (they were definitely in hiding), today I went looking for a bundle of cards bought in Dharamsala, India a couple of years ago; on each is a quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They’re sold all over the place there, colourful, paper jewels lining the hilly streets leading down the mountainside to Kalachakra Temple in this thin-aired, sacred space. They positively emanate peace, goodwill and compassion to visitors and to the rest of the world below.
I needed to read these words today, to have them filter gently and slowly into my being, and hoped they might be of benefit.
Another powerful thing to do when there are no words is meditation.
Let’s take a comfortable, upright seated posture and be silent, and really attend to the moment: the present moment of our thoughts, feelings, fears and bodily sensations (our body is truly the map of our past and ongoing mental processes).
Simply watching the breath and gently guiding ourselves back to the breath when the mind wanders is an astounding tool for grounding, heart-opening and stress-reduction.
Tonglen Meditation, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, is also an extremely powerful, cathartic and effective meditation to help us generate compassion and contribute to a state of inner and outer peace. I’ve described this meditation here, and there are many fantastic guides to Tonglen on these pages (for example, here) and elsewhere.
It can be as simple as this (though I encourage you to read more about Tonglen):
Find a place where you can be quiet and still, and then proceed to slowly breathe in the suffering of the world (or any particular people you’d like to imagine, who are suffering), imagine it transforming into a bright white light of peace and goodwill, and breathe that goodness out onto the suffering parties.
In between the words, and in all the dark spaces, are the seeds of promise, and a reminder of the inevitability of—and potential for—change.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Tammy T. Stone
Editor: Emily Bartran