On March 11, Japan was hit with an immense earthquake, followed by a catastrophic tsunami that reached the shore just minutes later. The damage from both has left thousands dead, missing or injured, has left millions without water, electricity and transportation and has caused concern over nuclear energy. For many, the world as we knew it has forever changed.
We've watched innumerable photos and videos of the devastation, horrified, shocked and determined to reach out and help where we can. What has come from this tragedy is a global outpouring of love and support not only for the people of Japan, but also for those in need globally. Perhaps it took an earthquake of this proportion to literally shake us into being more mindful of the world around us.
For the past few weeks, many have felt helpless in not knowing the best way to reach out to Japan, and fearful from the concern over the possibility of radiation reaching the shores of the West Coast of the United States.
In an attempt to provide support, we reached out to some global inspirational luminaries and asked them to share their thoughts on how to stay grounded in the midst of such turmoil. We also asked for the best recommendation on how to help the people of Japan during this difficult time. Here are their thoughts:
In a time when the compound tragedy in Japan is one in a long string of disasters, natural and otherwise, happening around the world, our greatest enemies are [apathy and feelings of being overwhelmed]. Japan is in a dire situation, while Pakistan and Haiti and even New Orleans are still reeling from their own. My response is an attempt to stay true to my own purpose. What good can I do today, either for Japan or for a friend, client or neighbor? How can I help financially, either by donating to relief efforts in Japan or keeping up contributions to the charities I regularly support, charities that will suffer a decrease in donations because people are, understandably, giving to Japan instead? This is a time to remember our connectedness and the way that helping an AIDS clinic in Africa or an animal sanctuary in West Virginia goes into the "goodness bank" that, in a way we can't necessarily comprehend, uplifts us all.
I learned many years ago that where I look is where I go. My focus determines my inner experience. If I focus on negativity, problems, difficulty, loss, turmoil, pain [and] suffering, I can certainly find that and experience it. If I focus on positive possibilities, solution, blessings [and] gratitude and ask, "What if this is for me?" I create an entirely different inner experience. I ask: which focus, which resultant me, will be in a better position to take action, help, assist and contribute to others and toward healing and restoring the situation? When I face toward the light, the shadows disappear.
The most important lesson from Japan's tragedy is not the earthquake or the tsunami (although both touch our lives in the Bay Area daily) but the dangers of nuclear devastation. We are reminded of the Butterfly Effect, that when the butterfly flaps its wings in China, it affects all of us in California. Ours is a global village; we need to care for and learn from all our sisters and brothers. For example, we must question nuclear power and develop alternative sources. Meanwhile, let us pray for one another!
--Father Miles O'Brien Riley, California
How can we help our children process the feelings and effects of a major disaster like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan? One excellent resource for parents of grade-school children is reading together "The Big Wave" by Pearl S. Buck. This award-winning children's story describes two boys who live through a tsunami in Japan. One boy, Jiya, loses his entire family and is taken in by the other boy's family. As Jiya processes his deep sorrow with the help of his friend's family, he eventually embraces life and hope once again.
The tragedy in Japan has been a powerful and heart-opening reminder for me. While I can't reach out and comfort a survivor, I can write checks to relief organizations. Perhaps even more importantly, there are those in my town, alone on the streets, that could use a blanket, a meal, some cash and kind words. These are the actions I have been reminded to take.
In our lifetime here on earth we will experience moments that will be less desirable than others. In these moments we are called to lead by example and shine our inner light bright so that others may feel safe to turn fear into power, anger into love and despair back into belief. I encourage all my fellow lights to be part of the solution and be LOVE by showing love to others, because every moment is precious, no matter if it's less desirable than another.
In times of such fear and uncertainty it is important to remember that you need to keep your mind out of fear mode. How do you do this? Maintain habits that heal, or adopt healing habits. Eat regularly and well, including lots of greens, seaweed and alkalizing drinks. Read inspirational books and poetry. Keep your mind focused on what is good. I am not saying pay no attention to the realities of your situation, but when you can, take time to be still and take care of yourself. There are many angels and guides who want us healthy happy and safe. Remember you are loved.
There are three ways to deal with a negative situation. The first is to condemn it. The second is to attempt to fix it. The third is to create a new vision that renders the old problem obsolete. Always aim for the third way. Condemning a problem or working to fix it causes you to focus your mind on the problem. But what we focus on, we magnify. The third way forces you to work towards a positive new vision. A dent on your fender that will cost you $900 to fix? Don't focus on the dent. Focus on improving an aspect of your career that will make you $900 more this month. A community destroyed by floodwaters? Don't focus on repair; instead, focus on rebuilding the streets and buildings into a newer, more beautiful version of what they were before. The third way activates our creative potential; it helps avoid the pain of the bad situation and gives us positive momentum.
We have an opportunity to use the tragedy in Japan as inspiration to fight harder and mobilize more people for safe energy, away from nuclear. Let's all also send healing thoughts in the direction of Japan.
There are times when words just don't matter, when minds grow numb, when emotion itself lies suspended and reality seems unreal. Watching helplessly as nature's fury wrecked thriving towns in coastal Japan was one such experience. Events like this force the realization upon us that everything, even life, is transient and fleeting. That we must stay grounded in gratitude for everything we have. That we must reach out to try and make a difference, no matter how small. That we are all part of a collective humanity, sharing a tenuous existence on a shared planet. That we all matter. That we all must love and care for each other. We should act. Because we are one. No act of help is too small to have an impact, no contribution too worthless to be dismissed.
The pain is indeed all around us. But so is the joy -- the joy of seeing people come together as one like never before, neighbors getting to know neighbors for the first time. And above all, the total calmness of the Japanese. No looting. No screaming. Just loving.
As I've watched the tragic events in Japan unfold, like so many others, I've felt deep compassion and a desire to help. So, I've donated to the Red Cross, I've sent my love and prayers daily, but I've been asking myself what more I can do; Japan is half a world away. The answer came when my co-author of "Love for No Reason," Carol Kline, related this anecdote to me: Yesterday, Carol was walking to lunch wrestling with this same dilemma when she passed a very old woman on the sidewalk, who asked her to help her across the street. The woman, who had already taken two buses, was bringing her ailing cat to the vet. After escorting the woman and her cat to the doctor's office, Carol realized that this was what she could do; she could send money and prayers to Japan, and she could help those in her immediate environment in any way possible. We can all do the same. This gives new meaning to the saying: Think globally, act locally.
One of the beautiful aspects of life is how tragedy seems to bring us closer together. Adversity of this magnitude brings us the chance to witness love in everyday actions. We have a greater appreciation for the things we'd normally take for granted, express our love more freely, offer kindness to strangers and hug our children a little tighter.
We now have an opportunity to reach out and give in our own communities, while we send our love, prayers and financial support to the people of Japan.
If you're inspired to donate, Google Crisis Response has provided this direct link to donate to the Japanese Red Cross.
We invite you to check out our daily free inspiration! Thank you!
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