Sunday, December 16, 2012

Responding to Tragedy

Yesterday I found myself weeping while listening to NPR's story about the Connecticut elementary school shooting.  What a horrific tragedy.  My heart goes out to the parents and families of the children and teachers who were killed.  The scope of their grief is unimaginable to me.

My response has been deep sadness, anger and confusion.  And the part of me that wants to fix it, prevent it, says:  What can I do to help?  How can I make a difference?   While I do believe that serious gun control regulations could make a difference, I also think that people who commit such violence would come up with other means to express their feelings  if they couldn't get guns.  I think the root of the problem starts early, with families, child-rearing, and social pressures.  So while I'll do my part with gun control, I'm more passionate about sourcing the root of the issue.  And I realize it's incredibly complex, from media influences to drugs, to family issues and mental illness.

Questions arise like:  What makes people want to commit such horrific acts?  Why and how did they learn that violence was the best way to handle their feelings?  What happens inside of them to drive them to such measures?  As one of my teachers said, everything that people do is because they think they need to do it in order to survive.  

Almost two decades of teaching yoga and spiritual practices has shown me that the greatest human suffering we face is related to our emotions.   We want to be happy and don't have skillful training in how to express ourselves or how to get our needs met.  We are told (especially for women) that it's not okay to express our anger or (usually for men) our sadness.  And we either bottle it up and let it make us sick, or we lash out at ourselves or others in some way.  We feel separate and alone because we forget our inner light, that we're ultimately all the same on the inside and want the same thing: happiness.

So I've been studying various communication skills and spiritual practices because I want to help myself and others with this emotional suffering and confusion.   I want to learn and teach people skillful means for self expression and self-honoring, and how to see the love and beauty in themselves and in each other.  Through my recent foray into the Hendricks' work,  I'm discovering how to love myself more fully, finding the courage to express myself authentically, and learning how to coach others in doing the same.   It's another level of my yoga practice, a powerful and sometimes terrifying journey of exploration, and one that I'm deeply committed to for it's great rewards. 

I'm enjoying bringing this work forward into my weekly classes and longer courses, like Awakening the Voice of the Heart, and eventually I plan to coach individuals, couples and groups.  But when tragedies like this hit, or when I hear stories about long-term prisoners who've committed murder, theft, rape or abuse and lost 20+ good years of life because of deep suffering and emotional outbursts, I imagine taking this work out where it can have the greatest impact:  to children, parents, teachers and prisoners.   

I pray that we can live in a society where we know and love ourselves enough to share our true feelings, have the courage to ask for what we want, and can see the light within and in everyone we meet.   

Many Solstice Blessings to you,