Facing other people’s pain

It’s hard to know what to do when terrible events occur far beyond the reaches of our ability to fix them, both in terms of geography and the limits of our own power.  It’s upsetting to watch the news, but too much exposure can create a sense of overwhelm and helplessness, especially if we are already struggling with our own challenges that can leave us feeling shaky on a regular day.  At times like this, I remember the power of bearing witness to bring a presence of healing to the world.  To be in pain is one thing, to be alone in pain is another entirely.  To bear witness, bringing compassionate attention to the moment, brings an element of presence and support, no matter how far it travels.  However, for the person bearing witness, the emotions can become unbearable.  The practice of Tonglen Meditation can be of great help.  In this practice, we imagine ourselves to be as great as the sea inside, so great that even a stinging searing pain becomes like dropping a lump of coal into the great ocean.  We can then visualize breathing in pain, allowing it to transform inside the great space inside, and breathing out peace, calm, ease.  Breathing in, I am aware of breathing in pain.  Breathing out, I breath out peace.  Breathing in, I breath in confusion and anger.  Breathing out, I breath out ease of well being.  Each time the events that occurred in Connecticut cross my mind, I think of this, and take a long, easy breath, and then, go on.   Breathing in, I breath in fear.  Breathing out, I breath out calm.


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