In the wake of the Boston bombings, many of us are still struggling with processing the horror of what happened, sharing the collective grief of a nation whose peace was once again disrupted by an act of terrorism, and trying to make sense of something that is completely senseless. Even people who were thousands of miles away from Boston, and who weren’t worried about family or friends, found themselves filled with sorrow and hopelessness about a world where these tragedies can happen.
How do you find your center in the middle of so much darkness and turmoil? Is it even possible?
On Monday evening, I posted this on The Conscious Cat Facebook page: “Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the senseless attacks in Boston. Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers, and hug your kitties for some comfort!” At times like this, we all hold our family and friends a little tighter, and for most of us, our cats are family. And spending time with cats is certainly one of the best ways I know to help us pull out of sadness and despair – because it’s just not possible to spend time with a cat and not feel better.
But I needed more. I don’t watch the news. I did not watch any of the footage of the bombings, not on the day it happened, and not in the days following. I got my information from trustworthy news sites on the web, and as part of that coverage I saw plenty of still photos that were disturbing enough. I did not want to see 24/7 coverage of bloody streets, distraught victims and bystanders, and manhunts. Some people may say that I’m sticking my head in the sand, but I know myself well enough to know that once these images enter my brain, they will not leave, and I know that’s not good for my mental health.
I cried a lot last week. Like everyone else, I looked for ways to cope. And then I came across two blog posts from deeply spiritual women I admire, and they offered different perspectives. Because they helped me so much, I want to share them with you today.
Mary Muncil is a spiritual counselor who shares her wisdom (and photos of her adorable cats, including tortie Eleanor) on her blog White Feather Farm. Mary had thought about going to Boston on Monday to cheer on a friend who was running in the marathon, but something made her decide not to go. When she turned on the TV later in the day, her mind couldn’t grasp what she was seeing. She finally realized that there is no way to comprehend what happened. Mary wrote:
“You cannot figure out, or make sense of this. You are here now. You are alive, and there is work for you to do in this world.”
So today I am doing what I know to do. I am first of all, appreciating Life. I can be of no help to others if I’m down so low that they need to lift me up.
Sometimes, when a tragedy strikes, we feel that we must be in despair so we can join those despairing, but we are so depleted in that state, that we have little to give. There are those despairing today. I can “join them” in my heart by feeling and seeing a more expanded view of life. This is not saying, “buck up” or “there must be a reason” or any other trite response. For me, the most helpful prayer is when I can go within and Know that we are in bodies (and in these bodies there can be terrible suffering, terrible tragedy) but we are not our bodies,…we are essentially, beyond time and space.”
I needed to hear those words more than I realized. In a world where everyone is connected to everyone else via the internet and social media, it’s easy to view everything through the lense of what the media shows us in a never ending cycle, and to draw the conclusion that life is a never-ending tragedy. It’s easy to loose sight of everything that is good in our lives.
Susan Chernak McElroy is a teacher, master storyteller, and author of the New York Times Bestseller, Animals as Teachers and Healers: True Stories and Reflections. She took this concept one step further in her post “Of Bombs and Bugling.” Susan wrote:
“I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim. Those of us who have lost loved ones, it is our task to grieve. For the rest of us, our task is to walk and speak and pray in beauty, so that others may draw from our soil of soundness.
If you are hooked to the horror of the TV today, turn it off, now.
If you are plugged into the news stations on your computer, unplug now.
If you are crying for people you did not know, stop crying now.
If you are sick inside with hopelessness, stop it now.
Go outside. Sit on the grass. Listen to a bird sing. Hum a song of healing for those who need it. Tend your gardens. Walk your dogs and hug them. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself smile and be strong. That strength is medicine that will find its way through the power of mystery to all those suffering in Boston.”
The words from these two wise women made me realize that the best antidote to darkness and evil is to appreciate the good in life. That’s how we can help ourselves, and the world, heal.
I hope that by sharing some of what helped me cope this past week, I can bring some healing your way. And if all else fails, remember to hug your cats!