12/20/2012 12:25 am ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

5 Simple Steps to Cultivate Healing During Times of Tragedy

Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. -- The Buddha

When I checked the news on Friday, I was saddened to see reports of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. We all fear the loss of those that we love, and to see others experiencing the pain and suffering that arises in a tragedy of this magnitude is truly heart-wrenching.

In a situation like this, it can be so hard to know what to do. Lacking other practical options, and having no way to protect those who have already been harmed, it can be easy to be overtaken by intense anger and other destructive emotional states. Sometimes it feels as though these emotions are a protective force. We feel that if we get angry enough, then perhaps nothing like this will ever happen again. At other times, the anger simply fills the gaping hole that we all feel inside when we are confronted with just how unfair and precarious life can be.

While strong emotional reactions like these are completely understandable, I very much believe that allowing ourselves to be overtaken by anger and hatred can diminish our ability to help and support those who are suffering in this situation. Sadly, if we allow ourselves to be filled with anger, hatred and rage instead of more positive qualities like love, empathy and compassion, any light that we have to share with those affected by this tragedy will be completely diminished, and we will have lost touch with the only qualities within ourselves that can truly facilitate healing.

So, what can we do?

Once, when a friend of mine had lost a family member to an early death, I asked my teacher what I could do to help. I'll never forget what he told me. He said during times of pain and loss the best thing that you can do is to engage in activities that cultivate good qualities within yourself and others. In that way he said, at least some good would come out of the pain.

To honor all of those recently lost in Connecticut, I'd like to suggest that we put his advice into practice by stepping up our efforts to decrease our own destructive emotional states and do everything that we can do to cultivate our own basic goodness.

Here are a few simple healing activities that you might consider engaging in over the course of this month:

  1. Spend time with those who help you feel a sense of love, connection and kinship.
  2. Find solace in sacred texts, spiritual communities and healing prayer.
  3. If you meditate, devote extra time to your practice during this challenging time. Meditations on the breath and Tong Len can be very helpful.
  4. Every day, do your best to perform simple activities for the benefit of others. Do anything possible to spread light and goodness.
  5. At the end of every day, dedicate your prayers and the merit from your work to all of those affected by the recent tragedy. Send as much loving energy their way as possible and pray for their healing.

Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
pour into the rivers, and join together in the oceans,
so may the power of every moment of your goodness
flow forth to awaken and heal all beings --
those here now, those gone before, those yet to come. -- A Buddhist Prayer for Healing

For more by David Magone, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.