Tenderness in the Presence of Tragedy

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop led by Tara Brach. The topic was Nourishing Loving Relationships and it was two days of  talks, reflections and meditations, journaling and sharing.  It was billed as including her “signature practices for bringing mindful attention to our inner lives and engaging in our outer world fully and compassionately.”

Canyon Light Life Coaching

Photo Credit: Kirsten Skiles via Flickr

I’d looked forward to it for months. Her work has been so helpful to me and I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear her in person. The evening before the event, comfortably settled in my hotel room, I took some time to read over the news. The terrorist attacks in Paris filled the headlines. It was horrifying and heartbreaking. And when I got to the event the next day, it was a topic that filtered throughout the conversations.

As the world, shocked and grieving, faced another tragedy, I did what I was there to do, attended the workshop. I spent two days being reminded to listen to my body, to connect with the embodied sense of being alive with all the wisdom, clarity and insight that offers. I was led in practices designed to cultivate empathy for myself and others. We were encouraged to observe our self-protective strategies and talk about them with others in the workshop. We sat, knee-to-knee, sharing our fears and our least favorite behavior patterns with people who, before that day, had been complete strangers. We were encouraged to witness, investigate and explore the layers of our experience, thoughts and emotions. Encouraged to meet it all with kindness, hold it all with kindness. 

At the end of each day I checked the news, saddened by the loss, pain and fear of so many.

As the event drew to a close, I looked around the room. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 people filled that space. These people, from all over the country, had spent the last two days listening to teachings, practicing exercises, finding tears, struggles and tenderness long buried and holding a compassionate, loving space for each other in the process. 500 people gathered on this random weekend, in this random city to open their hearts, to practice compassion, to deepen their empathy. Not in reaction to the most recent world events. We’d registered days, weeks, & months earlier. We came together out of the desire to create, to uncover, to cultivate life-enhancing skills within ourselves. Skills that will and do bring internal peace and that overflow and expand in concentric rings around us, like rocks tossed into a pond, to the people in our families, communities and work environments. I wondered, if there were this many of us here in this one location, how many others were there around the globe doing something similar?

I looked around that room, heart open and full and tender, eyes red and soft and unshielded, knowing that there is more than pain in this world. There is more than violence.

There were no cameras in the room that weekend. No headline news. No graphic imagery to capture the world’s attention. But what we did in that space will spread. Is spreading already. It didn’t begin with the people in the room that day and it won’t end with us. It already holds with love the deep grief we see and feel. It already extends out to others in gratitude, compassion and kindness. It supports us and shows us a better way as we face today’s news and today’s struggles. It helps us develop wisdom born of clarity and guides our choices and actions.

In the face of so much tragedy, this too is the world we live in. A world where people gather, without fanfare, and go about the business of building a better life, a better community and a better world one breath at at time.

Let’s remember that too. 




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