On Suffering #Nepal #Baltimore #Ahimsa #Silence #hellonearth


My youngest son woke up this morning like a rocket. Today his class is taking a field trip to a natural landmark about two hours away.

I said to him, “You should go on field trips more often; you’re so ready to face the day!”

He said back to me, “I just like the idea of getting away from the regular. I’m excited to be on a charter bus, and use the bathroom if I want when the bus is rolling along. I’m excited to sit with my friends or read a book or play ‘yellow car’ or ‘alphabet signs’ on the trip.”

“Yes, it’s nice to change things up.” I agreed.

“I am sad for the world, Mom,” he said. “Finnegan and I got into a fight last night; I couldn’t take the news. I went to grab the remote and I accidentally scratched him and then he got mad and put his hands on me… It was scary, but it was my fault. I should have just walked away.”

“WHAT? Where was I when this happened?”

“Teaching yoga,” he said.

“Oh. Dad was with the dogs?”

“Yes. We stopped almost right away, but I know we are both sad about Baltimore and the earthquake and the drones…”

He is eleven.

When I was eleven, I don’t think I knew who was president.

Let’s see… it was 1939 …

Earlier on that day, my older two came through the door from school very concerned about the riots in Baltimore. Confused, angry, and scared. Their sadness turned to apathy which turned to antipathy not long after watching CNN.

“This solves nothing. This isn’t about equality. It’s about violence. It’s about intimidation,” one of them said.

“It’s scary and it’s wrong. It’s also mis-channeled rage. This is also completely missing the point,” the other added.

The words and fear and sadness and fear fear fear were flying at me. I was overwhelmed with how to tone them down, how to get them to feel safer. How to get myself to feel safer.

I had just spent the afternoon watching “The Road” on video — a movie adaptation based on a beloved book of the same title by Cormac McCarthy. The Road is about a post-apocalyptic America. It’s also a love letter from McCarthy to his son. It’s about “keeping the fire” and “being the good guys, not the bad guys.” The world envisioned by McCarthy’s words is not a world I want to live in; the world envisioned by the director of the film, John Hellcoat, is gray, smoky, dark, fiery, inhumane, dirty, gritty, smelly, dead and terrifying. I don’t think anyone wants to live there.

I decided that silence was the answer. Only silence can tell us what we need. So I asked them to turn off the TV, the screens and to open the door and listen to the birds and hear the breeze rustle through the newly sprouted leaves. To look around themselves and to see what we have left — to appreciate it and to be grateful for it because as we woke up to on Saturday, it can be snapped apart like it was in Nepal, vaporized by earth; or it can be destroyed by choice as what we’ve seen far too frequently in Baltimore, Ferguson, the Bronx, North Charleston… and that’s what happens to make the headlines.

I often say to my sons that I don’t believe in hell. I believe that we can do a fine job right here by our little ol’ selves creating hell in our minds, on earth and in our thoughts. There’s no reason to fear an afterlife — what could possibly be worse than the sadness and fear we inflict on ourselves and project upon others –wittingly or not– on a daily basis?

So last night, I dedicated my yoga class to Nepal and Baltimore and all the corners of the world — privately held internally because we are all suffering at one moment or another and publicly known — because stopping, breathing, listening and putting our hands to our heart, and our heads to our heart, and praying and intending peace and compassion — FOR THE SELF FIRST as well as for the world — is to me, the only way to stop this train of suffering.

It absolutely must begin within. If you harbor dark thoughts and feelings toward yourself, there is NO WAY you can authentically extend compassion and peace for anyone else. It’s just not possible.

It’s in the mirror. The answer to all of this is in the mirror. Love yourself, accept yourself, and then you can share that with the world in thought, humor, deed, and spirit. It’s the first tenet of yoga: Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence, which means it must absolutely begin in you. You don’t have to be a yogi to do this. You just have to be aware, sentient, and humane.

You’ll drive a little softer, speak a little kinder, smile a bit wider, laugh a little longer and love more sincerely.

Thank you.

7 responses »

  1. It takes practice, but putting “the bad” in a box (not to be forgotten, just mentally contained) can unburden us so that we make something beautiful in response. Thanks for writing.

  2. You know you touched in a couple of points and stimulated my think thank: “Fear, fear, fear” and “and that’s what happens to make the headlines.” First with the fear, it is learned and we can unlearn it (not that I have) but it has been reported in countless medical journals blah, blah, blah…last week after much back and forth I either laughed at fear in the face or shot myself in the foot by resigning from my job of 10 years, no security blanket, not another job lined up, just the thought of turning 50 in that same office, same company, same job terrified me…time will tell…was I brave, stupid, irresponsible or what I like to tell people took a leap of FAITH and resigned?, no parachute, no safety net,…
    On your other comment “and that’s what happens to make the headlines.” I often ask myself what would the headlines be, if less people would tune it to see the evidence they seek? that this world is unjust, imbalanced and pretty much hell on earth? If we would focus our collective energy and awareness and consciousness on the other side of that coin, what kind of world would we see? My opinion on this is purely personal and perhaps maybe naive, but I quit all the news and TV years ago, zero interest in it, nada. My mom says, “but how do you know what is going on in the world?” one, I can’t fix it and two , my own little world, the one I can affect and changed if I choose to work on it, keeps me plenty busy thank you very much.

    Good article,
    Thanks for letting me share

    • Yes, I personally do not watch the news. I avoid it at all costs. I used to think that the only news which matters to me is the weather and sometimes the traffic. Both points of info I can get from my phone / laptop without going anywhere near the news.

      I do get a daily newspaper and I do get feeds from WaPo and NYT — I am a newspaperman’s child and a writer in a world, so while I do read headlines I often don’t read much deeper unless it’s really interesting to me. I dig health news, but only if it’s fitness-based or yoga-type info.

      I suspect pain can be unlearned; I just work in the mindfulness and that seems to help a lot. So I preach to my kids. They got caught up in it all on their bus ride home; it’s also impossible to miss the chatter about Nepal and while I agree with you on some aspects, I definitely feel it’s important to be an aware person in the world. Apathy does me no good, but to each her own.

      As for you: GO T!! You quit that job! Insanely amazing. Congrats!!


      • First, thank you for your cheer about me quitting the job, it helps.
        on a separate subject I find it interesting that in my initial post I stated “fear can be unlearned” and you rephrased it as “pain can be unlearn” …interesting. I appreciate your lengthy explanation as to why you watch or read or whatever the news, when you don’t owe me or anyone any. Also it is possible to miss the chatter about Nepal, your article is the first time I hear from it, as for my lack of enthusiasm about “the world” I think the opposite of apathy is what got me that way, when I used to watch it, I used to wear it for days on, I think is part of my immature emotional development. I could not agree more with you in that ” it’s important to be an aware person in the world” I just choose the awareness to be about my inner world, but like you so rightfully said “to each her own.” and thank you one more time for putting stuff out there for a writer like me to sink my teeth in and for giving me a chance to put together some words.


      • isn’t that amazing? i read my comment later and i was surprised to see “pain” also; i was thinking maybe it was a typo, but no: the letters are quite far from one another. i’ve been a little preoccupied with my knee of late; i seemed to have done something to it on a run last week. also, another reader commented on my post about chakras and pain body / sides so i was just coming off that post / reply as well.

        but it is MOST interesting…

        i completely understood your point about the opposite of apathy as being your reason for tuning out on the news; i went through a similar stage after 9/11 and then the war and katrina and other events. i realized though that i didn’t like what i considered to be a disconnection from the world. i had a friend who was absolutely wrapped around the axle with anxiety after 9/11. while i could understand her reasoning, *to me*, her reaction and depth and longevity was fringing on obsessive. she couldn’t understand how i could be so “ok” with it (my brother was about 100yds away from the first collapse and we didn’t hear from / about him for about 11 hours, so i was anything but “ok” with it) but in the end, i had to submit. i had to accept that this is the world we live in while hoping for a stronger and more peaceful one at least in my children’s lifetime, although i feel that’s ambitious. the cycle continues: there will always be disasters man and God -made.

        as for staying on top of the news — i’m not saying anyone who chooses a different path is apathetic, and that was a poor choice of words, but i was feeling defensive, because as i said, i’ve tried the other route. for me, it didn’t work.

        *today,* i am now of the mind that i can observe the news while retaining my base opinion that it’s all about ratings and fear and dependence and loyalty to a network; it’s entertainment and manipulative. it’s anything but “news” — i prefer a newspaper overall because it can provide more in-depth coverage and you can easily turn the page to another section altogether without losing track of time (as the TV suckhole does). but i feel that i can be in the world, just not of the world.

        in the final analysis, i’m just not sophisticated; i may know lots of fancy words and have a flair for stringing them all together, but i lead a pretty basic life.

        i feel like if i know about suffering, i can extend a positive vibration — and yes, anyone can do that at any time, but i’m not there yet. i like to know what’s going on. even if it’s a couple days or weeks old.

        xo, m

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