Last week I was away at my seminary for studies and preparing something to share with you on the peace practice of "rejoicing," which seemed so right for this holiday season. Then the news of the tragedy in Connecticut hit me, and suddenly that post didn't seem right at all.
It has taken me a while to process all that i have thought and felt about what happened -- and I am sure that I have not finished. I heard the news during a break in one of my classes. Just an hour before, during our session, we had been joyously interrupted by the sound of the next-door schoolchildren singing loudly. As the young boys' and girls' voices poured out, "When the Saints Go Marching In," we all instinctively stopped our discussion, and then added our voices to theirs for the refrain, a sort of spontaneous kirtan of innocence.
And then we got word of what had happened back east, and the juxtaposition of those two experiences was... powerful. Several days later, one of my fellow ministers-to-be suggested that perhaps on some divine level the children we had heard singing were ushering their brethren from across the country across this worldly threshold. The experience of hearing that was.. profound.
One of my nieces is a teacher, herself. She shared with me a way for us to physically and emotionally and spiritually support those directly involved in the awful events, and I am passing this on to you. It's for a Facebook page called "Ordinary Heroes," and here is a brief description:
Be an Ordinary Hero and join America by sending a written note of encouragement to the Connecticut families.
The little children who were taken names are: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison N. Wyatt.
Imagine how these families will feel to receive several million notes of love and prayer.
If you are interested in this, please visit their page by clicking here.
I imagine that receiving such letters can provide a little solace to those whose hearts were shattered by the horrific events; and I know that sending them can do a little of the same for us.
Another practice you might adopt in these times is a "meditation to heal a broken heart," which was given to me by a neighbor of mine familiar with the Sikh tradition. It goes something like this:
Sit on the floor with legs crossed or in a chair with feet firmly on the ground; hold the spine upright (no slouching on a backrest or against a wall). Bring your palms together, lightly touching. The tips of your middle fingers are placed at the level of your forehead just above your brow-line (i.e., the "third eye" point). Hold your forearms horizontal to the ground, with elbows high. Close your eyes.
Breathe slowly and deeply in this position for five or 11 minutes. To end, clasp your hands together and stretch the arms up for two minutes.
This practice can positively affect your automatic nervous system in a manner that helps to relax and renew your heart/mind. The hand positioning (ie "mudra") creates balance and generates a subtle pressure on the heart energy channel (ie "meridian" or "nadi"); holding the elbows high involves the armpit reflexes, while the fingertips at the forehead help to ground emotional activity storming through the mind.
Finally, I want to offer a brief reflection on the notion of a "broken heart." It seems that most of us -- myself included -- are not used to, and are very scared of feeling, big emotions. We spend most of our time in our heads, thinking about our lives, rather than experiencing them in their immediacy. And within our mental worlds we build all sorts of interesting cognitive structures that we think will safely contain that "experience."
Until something big happens that doesn't fit within those mental frameworks, causing them to break down, or be blown apart. And that is usually about the time that someone thinks, "My heart is now broken."
But it is not really a broken heart, is it?
It is the thinking mind, the cognitive framework, that gets blown apart; and it is the heart that takes on that brokenness, and holds it, and heals it.
When you feel broken, the heart is actually more alive than ever. And in these moments -- in this moment, as painful as it is -- we have the opportunity to lose our minds so that we can come to our senses, and in this case perhaps finally take actions to limit such senseless violence.
Perhaps some good will emerge from what has happened. And perhaps in some way simply knowing that our hearts are beating, are feeling, are so strong we can barely handle the actual experience of life, is something that we can actually rejoice in.
For more by Doug Binzak, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.