The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Payne
It’s been some time since the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad, but trauma doesn’t simply fade away for many people. Trauma can etch itself into your brain, your cells, and your being. Its impact can leave you feeling jittery, unsafe and triggered into alarm by unexpected noise or movements.
The attacks that took place in Paris, in particular, bring home a different reality to comfortable Westerners, a glimpse into the daily experience of thousands of people who live in worn-torn countries or areas besieged by terrorists. Instead of bursting into anger or blame, this can be an invitation to walk in the shoes of the war-weary and let it break open your heart.
For your own sanity, it can help to establish a way of responding to these deeply unsettling events, which seem to be occurring with greater frequency. And, in fact, terrorism, murder, death from hunger, rape, and abuse happen everyday whether they're visible to us or not.
You may still be shocked by the brutality of a sudden devastating event, but you can have a positive practice in place to care for your own heart and to extend love and kindness to others who feel the pain, sadness, grief, or anger of tragedy. An established practice will help you avoid falling into fear, hopelessness, sorrow, blame, or anger for long periods of time as well.
You don't need to wait for the next report of violence from the media. Begin a daily practice now to strengthen yourself for whatever might occur in the future.
This Is What I Do
I pray. I pray for all who are suffering, the victims and the perpetrators. I pray that everyone realizes the uselessness of violence. Violence only perpetuates more violence, and the cycle continues from day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, lifetime-to-lifetime.
Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. - Gandhi
I drop into my heart and send love to those who are suffering, misguided, or dead. Love is a potent antidote to anger along with patience. By strengthening your own love, you’re more likely to respond to others with love, understanding, and care. I also believe we can help people find peace after death by directing positive thoughts and emotions toward them.
I remember all the goodness in this world. This helps me stay out of discouragement.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ - Fred Rogers
I practice accepting impermanence. Everyone and everything in this world is subject to decay, decline, and death. Nothing will survive in the long run. We just don’t know when it will dissolve.
This might sound like a dismal proposition, but accepting impermanence will help you appreciate what’s here right now, live more comfortably with uncertainty, and let go of the expectation that everything should remain the same.
I try to cut the root of violence in myself. Prayer alone is not enough. We must actively work toward creating peace in our families, our community, our country, and our world.
Violence comes from confused or painful thoughts and emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger. Are any of us entirely free of these negative emotions? We need to begin by transforming our own mind.
So I practice mastering my own thoughts and emotions, and I help others learn to do the same. In brief, this means to refrain from harm, practice goodness, and to transform my negative thoughts and emotions into positive ones.
It’s not always easy, of course. A storm of negative emotions can easily sweep you away. But once you start practicing, these pesky mind-states will gradually erode away.
I’ve helped in active ways as well. I’ve rescued battered women and helping raped women recover from their terror. There are countless ways to help from assisting a single person in need to making donations of food, money, or clothing to becoming an aid worker.
I love this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert, which reminds us there’s always someone in need of our help,
But when the world starts to feel overwhelming in its sorrows, I always ask myself to look around me — to narrow down my focus — and to notice somebody who is nearby me, who is suffering. I can’t help the millions, but maybe I can help one. You never have to look very far to find a suffering soul.
Another way is to simplify your life, aim to be more sustainable, and say no to the temptations pushed upon us by the media and large corporations.
Every choice you take, makes a difference in this world for better or for worse. We may not be shooting guns or throwing bombs, but when we buy more than we need, for example, we’re contributing to melting ice, rising tides, warming temperatures, and dangerously wild weather events. All this leads to death too.
Is anyone innocent? Live simply so others can simply live. Say no to corporate greed.
Remaining steadfast in the midst of chaos is not meant to make light of the travesties that have occurred nor does it make you unfeeling. Naturally, pain and distress will arise. But you will have a way to allow them and then let them go so they don’t become a heavy burden in your life.
I don’t have a special affinity for Paris, like some of my friends, though I’ve visited the city many times. I’m not praying for Paris, the city. I’m praying for her people who have been killed, wounded, or traumatized. I know what trauma feels like since I've been a victim of violence myself. At the same time, I’m praying for everyone, everywhere who has been killed, wounded, traumatized, or suffers in another way.
I am praying for peace.
I know some people will say it’s easy for me to write these rose-colored words since I live in relative comfort and ease. That’s true, but I’m doing what I can and hope you will too.
As much as I wish for peace on earth, I’m don't know what the future holds. I do know it doesn’t help to speculate or project into the future. I also know we can create peace in our own mind and heart right now. This simple way of being will ripple out and positively effect others as well. Choosing peace, even when it feels like everything is falling down around you, always remains a possibility.
How do you manage when tragedies occur? Let's share our wisdom so we can gain strength together.
Thank you for reading! I appreciate your presence. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free blog posts by email. May you be well, happy, and safe – always. With love, Sandra