When tragedy happens to others it’s our human nature to want to block it out. But when something devastating happens it’s almost incomprehensible.
Two days ago an earthquake of 7.9 magnitude struck Nepal.
At least 2,430 people died in Nepal alone an another 61 people died in India. It’s feared that, as the epicenter of the quake moves from Nepal to India, things could get worse. And they are getting worse according to my friend Vishakha Shukla.
Vishakha is a surgeon in Delhi, India, who has been helping patients injured in this natural disaster. “Things are turning from bad to worse,” Vishakha said. “I felt three more tremors this afternoon. I just saw a building collapse in front of me.” Talking about the injured she has been treating Vshakha says, “I am shaken but I have to hold it together and stay grounded for my patients. Most of them are outside and not ready to be moved to the hospital and it’s rough treating them.”
Vishakha will be leaving with a rescue team to help at the epicenter in Nepal tomorrow, though she’s not sure how they will manage.
I have other friends who I have been speaking to. They are all safe. But knowing people that are involved seems to make something like this feel real. What can we do when it feels like we have no control?
Well aside from continuing to send messages of support we can do some practical things like donate to organisations helping in the thick of things, even a few dollars helps.
I’m not one to pray,while living in a tibetan Buddhist community for the last year. I did do a daily compassion meditation called Tonglen. The idea is to take on the suffering of others and give them happiness and comfort.
From my own experience, not only does this change us but it also inspires us.
“Whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.” ~ Dalai Lama
It’s important to understand that taking on suffering doesn’t involve burdening yourself with other peoples suffering. Studies show that compassion meditation can change our psychology and the very structure of our brain, helping us be more focused and mindful.
With the inhale you breathe in the wish to take away the suffering, and exhale the wish to send comfort and happiness to people, animals, nations or whatever it is you decide.
You can do this for a single person or many. Breath in as fully as you can and, as you exhale, radiate as widely as you can.
Here is a video I did that explains the practice and guides you through the meditation. I invite you try this practice:
Author: Aron Stein
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Sarah Tzinieris on Flickr