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Monday, March 14, 2011

Dealing with Disaster

This weekend, we were all shocked and saddened by the enormity of the disaster in Japan, and the losses suffered by people there and elsewhere along the Pacific Rim.  All of humanity is affected by an event of this magnitude.  We cannot have so much loss experienced by so many on the planet, without all of us feeling it in our  hearts.

As I've struggled to understand what has happened, I've been pondering this question: what can I do?  How can I best respond to this event?  How can I help?

If you are in a location or position to be able to go to Japan (or one of the other places affected by the earthquake and tsunami), then you can directly assist the people who are suffering right now.  Most of us, especially here in the US where I live, are not able to do this.  So, what do we do?  Send money?  Japan is one of the richest nations on the planet.  Do they need financial help to deal with this catastrophe?  I'm not sure, but it seems unlikely.  So, what do we do?

In my meditations, I've come to think that there are three key things we can all do in response to this disaster.  First, we can choose not to increase the suffering.  There is so much suffering in the world right now, experienced by those who are directly affected by this event (or other tragedies of many kinds) that it is important NOT to add our suffering to it.  This is hard, because we live in a culture that encourages us to suffer in response to other people's pain.  Let me explain this by an example.  On Friday evening, I was waiting in a restaurant for take-out food.  They had a large-screen TV, with one of the 24-hour news channels showing the video footage of the tsunami in Japan.  The first time I saw the video was informative, helping me to better understand the magnitude of the event.  However, over the next 20 minutes, this video was shown on the TV at least eight times.  (The event itself happened once in 20 minutes.) Rehashing and replaying the event over an over does not increase awareness; it only causes viewers to suffer.  Now, I don't want to be too harsh on the news networks reporting this event.  They are in an unenviable position of trying to raise awareness without raising suffering.  I have no idea how best to do this.  What I do know is this: it is important that you and I do not add our suffering to the suffering that is already there.  Adding to the suffering is unhelpful.  And, it reduces our ability to respond to what has happened.  Be informed, certainly.  Just be careful not to drag yourself into a place of suffering.

The second way we can help with this disaster is to re-center ourselves, get ourselves grounded, and get ourselves into a state of empowerment that allows us to respond to this disaster.  Each of us must do this for ourselves.  Come back into the core of your being, the awareness that is centered in your heart.  Use your yoga, meditation or spiritual practice to ground yourself in awareness.  Reconnect to the gift of divine grace. Allow yourself to experience the power of this gift, and allow it to flow through you into this world.  When we are centered, grounded, and empowered by grace, we are much more effective in helping others, than when we are suffering.

Finally, for those of us who can not respond directly to the disaster, we can gather in groups and offer our gifts of grace to others in need.  Over the past few days, millions of people have joined together in prayer groups, meditation groups, blessing groups, yoga classes, and many other spiritual gatherings, to offer support to the suffering people in Japan.  When we gather, with grace in our intentions, we generate a powerful response that makes a difference.  In much the same way that we all feel the suffering of those in need, others feel the power of grace when we offer it to them.  That's why this past Saturday, our yoga class offered our practice to all those who are suffering.  And, this Tuesday evening I'll be hosting a Deeksha Gathering dedicated to providing support and love to the people of Japan.  Join with others to make a difference.

It is not easy to explain why disasters occur.  Nor is it easy to respond.  We can choose, however, to limit the suffering by not adding ours to what's already there.  We can center ourselves to be empowered in our response.  And, we can gather with others to offer blessings of love and grace to those who are suffering.  We can make a difference.  Please, join me, in your own way, in love.


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