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Thich Nhat Hanh’s Greatest Teaching on Love and Mindfulness

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The first time I was exposed to well-known Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hanh, who visited Boston over the weekend, was when I read his book, Miracle of Mindfulness in a college course on Buddhism. I still recall one of our homework assignments for the class. We had to wash the dishes…which was awesome for my roommates. I’d pulled dish duty. A monk said so.

But, the assignment wasn’t to wash the dishes the way any of us typically wash the dishes, dashing off a chore so that we can move on to something better. Instead, the assignment required us to wash the dishes while being fully present and mindful. Never mind what happens next. We were learning through real-life practice that the powerful moment–the only one over which we have any guarantee or influence–is the one happening now. Don’t wait until later to be compassionate or kind, attentive and aware. A mind does not get stronger that way. It stays distracted and anxious about what comes next… And after that?… And then what?

On Sunday, in Copley Square, I was again reminded how miraculous mindfulness can be. I went with the expectation that I’d sit quietly, among hundreds of other people, in the presence of a revered Zen master, but didn’t anticipate much more. I knew it would feel meaningful and maybe solemn. I imagined we’d hear car horns or passing Duck Tours as we meditated. Quack, quack! I hoped he’d speak a little bit. Hopefully, we could hear and understand him. I momentarily wondered if it was unsafe to congregate in an open and vulnerable public space doing something spiritual, possibly viewed as religious. After all, we were in front of a church, among hundreds of Buddhists, yards from the Boston Marathon finish line, where two bombs went off five months ago to the date.

Trinity Church’s Reverend Dr. William Rich acknowledged this fact as he introduced Thich Nhat Hanh, who was now sitting under the hot sun clad in a knit hat and multiple layers of robes and meditations shawls. Wasn’t he melting? It struck me that it couldn’t be a coincidence, this event to sit in peace and healing near an area subjected to so much suffering a short time ago. The week before had also marked the anniversary of 9/11, the reverend noted. We were still at war and now considering military action in Syria. The day before marked the Jewish holiday of atoning for sins, Yom Kippur. In any number of ways, no matter who you were, the message of the day was clear. We are here to be together in peace. We’re here to practice greater awareness and compassion because the world needs both right now.

Small and centered, the 85-year-old Vietnamese monk in a knitted hat.

Following his introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh did something surprising to some. He said nothing. He didn’t even open his eyes. Instead, he sat silently and meditated, signaling for a typically pulsing cross-section of the city to join him. I don’t recall car horns. Definitely no quacking. A few small children giggled or cried briefly in the crowd, but mostly, it was very quiet.

When he eventually spoke, about 25-minutes later, the famous monk said only this: Breathing in, I am aware of my breath. Breathing out, I am aware of my breath, a simple mantra to set the stage for a talk that would succinctly and poetically teach a diverse group what it means to be mindful and how it creates peace. Next, he said: Breathing in, I enjoy breathing in. Breathing out, I enjoy breathing out.

The mantras and teachings gained momentum from there. We breathed in and out qualities of a mountain’s solidity and stability, water’s stillness and reflection, a flower’s freshness and beauty, and space. Breathing in, I have the element of space within me. Breathing out, I feel free… Space: free. Nothing was too heady. No one was left out. It was the most simple yet moving talk I’ve ever witnessed on meditation or Buddhism. If I was exposed to this teacher first in college, I was now getting schooled in a whole new way.

Then, the talk dovetailed into territory I would not have predicted for an 85-year-old celibate monk: love. It could have easily represented love for a family member or friend, but to hear a monk use the word darling in three different types of mantras suggested romantic love, and it made everyone smile. Darling, I am here. Darling, I know you are here. Darling, I know that you suffer, and I am here for you.  

“The most precious thing you can offer your loved one is your presence,” he said. “To be present means to be there. How can you love, if you are not there?” His voice was gentle, but the message reverberated. Love (romantic or otherwise) doesn’t work if we’re distracted or hiding– behind suffering, the TV, iPhone, alcohol, who knows. We all have our means of avoiding reality, some healthier than others. To love means to understand suffering, our own and our darling’s.

He linked the two segments of the talk seamlessly– the meditation, breathing, and mantras– with his thoughts on love. We practice meditation so that we can restore our presence and feel more stable, free, fresh, and beautiful. “You cannot buy it in a market,” the adorable monk cautioned in his sing-song accent, of the level of presence needed for true love. “You have to produce it yourself.”

Somewhere along the way, my tear ducts started producing an abundance of water. I was overwhelmed. It was too beautiful maybe, the day, his words, the fact that my present moment looked, felt, and sounded the way it did, and I was sharing it with hundreds of other people, some of whom must have been having a similar experience. Their suffering was all around, their love, too. I felt a hand on my arm, which startled me. It was a kind woman offering a tissue. I could hear others nearby also weeping. Monks and nuns were chanting now, singing the name of Avalokiteshvara, the saint of compassion, and a cello played. Damn cello, gets me every time. Vast blue sky space stretched overhead, and the ground on which we sat felt solid and stable. We were being restored.

The Buddhist monks and nuns chanting… also the cello. Sniff.

Life will always contain suffering, and it will offer opportunities to cultivate compassion, grow love, and strengthen our minds through presence and practice. Copley Square will always be the place where we went after the marathon to leave flowers, candles, sneakers, and letters. It’s where people cried and prayed  Often, they felt hopeless. Today, a proper memorial resides in the same spot, on the periphery of where Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation event occurred. The earth, there, hugging the edge of the space where so many people sat in peace and thought about love.

I still hurry through the dishes most of the time, and while writing this post, I wolfed down an apple and peanut butter so fast, I barely tasted either of them. My spoon scrapped the bottom of the bowl, and I thought, heyyy, who ate my snack? But, then, a teacher or moment reminds me of the miracle of mindfulness and skill of being present. How I can always practice, beginning simply with breathing in and breathing out. And, sometimes, the expectations in my mind are blown away by the real-life experience.

 

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Beautiful Makeshift Memorial at the Site of The Boston Marathon Bombing (Slideshow)

At the site of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, mourners have pooled their efforts to create a beautiful makeshift memorial – reminding us once again of the true spirit of humanity that can grow out of such tragedies. A member of our Intent team visited the memorial and snapped these amazing, heart-wrenching photos. One visitor remarked that the site looked like a “huge outdoor cathedral,” indicating just the level of reverence and contemplation that these photos certainly depict.

It’s good to take a break from all the ongoing news coverage surrounding the bombers to remember the victims and the hearts and communities left broken. The memorial brings this reality to the forefront, and we are inspired by this gesture of compassion and community resilience. Please enjoy, share, and show your continuing love and support for those affected by the bombing.

Teen Fangirl Becomes #FreeJahar Activist After Boston Marathon Bombing

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In a surprising display of solidarity with the accused Boston Marathon bomber, a 14-year-old One Direction fangirl recently changed her Tumblr URL to “Free-Jahar” and began advocating for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s release (“Jahar” is the nickname Tsarnaev’s friends call him.) At first glance this may seem unfathomable. So much media attention, the gripping chase, the incriminating photos and other convincing bits of evidence – where’s the doubt in that?

Turns out the Internet has spawned an entire campaign, primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of thousands of people proclaiming Tsarnaev’s innocence. The rhetoric of the movement argues that there are too many holes and inconsistencies in the evidence to ascertain 19-year-old’s guilt, let alone give him the death penalty. #FreeJahar Tumblrs  use images, sarcasm, and claims of conspiracy to make their case. This isn’t the first time Internet fans have rallied behind accused mass killers. The Columbine and Aurora shootings inspired similar contingents of advocates, illustrating the kind of intense, bizarre, and deluded fandom that can spread rapidly through social media.

One twist in the #FreeJahar cause is that the fiercest advocates are largely young and female, and many point to Tsarnaev’s attractiveness as the inspiration for the movement. Combine a fascination for conspiracy theories, a passion of contrary online social movements, and a weakness for good looks, and you have a much misguided cyber community on your hands.

Some questions that this story raises for us:

  • Are fangirls the new social activists and grassroots organizers?
  • Does physical attractiveness lead to greater sympathy and more “get out of jail free” passes?
  • Are we entering an era of the truest free, egalitarian, open-forum democracy we’ve ever known with the growing power of social networks? And if so, is this a change for the better?

 

Photo credit: Gawker

Why Last Monday Changed My Life: A Boston Marathon Mom’s Story

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By Christine Cronin

Monday started as a happy, exciting day. The day had arrived, a day we had been waiting for, for months. We would see our son Ryan cross the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon. After hours, months, miles and the soreness and tiredness of training, this was IT! We were texting with him as he made his way by bus to the starting line in Hopkington; he was feeling good; this was going to be a glorious day.

Boarding the train in Beverly with our daughter, we were glad to see so many enthusiastic people off to see the race or going to the Red Sox game. The train was packed, everyone was jovial and exchanging banter with each other and the conductor. This was off to a great start!

At North Station, we decided to walk toward Boylston Street. The weather was beautiful, and we just followed the crowd heading in the same direction. Walking through the park, we paused to soak it all in. We had decided to settle in as close to the finish line as possible. Shannon, who is a photographer, had packed her best equipment, and we were hoping to get as many great shots of Ryan, and his running team mate Paul, as possible. It was getting really busy, and people were already five or six deep as the first wheelchair athletes were coming down the street. Everyone was cheering them on and we happily joined in. We found a great spot on the right side of the Marathon Sports Store, against the wall next to LensCrafters. It was a perfect spot! We could see the runners, yet we were not in the thick of the crowd. We knew we had quite a few hours until Ryan would be there, so we settled in, chatting with the people in the Marathon Store enclosure, which was reserved for their employees and guests. I was envious of their wooden benches and thought how great it would be if we could climb on one of them when Ryan came through to get a better view. Maybe I will ask them, I thought…

The elite runners came through, and the rest of the pack was starting to cross the line in earnest. We were tracking Paul and our son and knew that they should be arriving roughly between 2.45 and 3pm. We had been standing there for more than two and a half hours, eating the lunch we had brought and cheering on with the crowd, when Shannon asked if we wanted to go with her to the Nike store around the corner. My husband was not particularly interested and wanted to stay put. The two of us started to leave when I turned back and reasoned that we should all have a coffee, find a bathroom, and be ready to follow Ryan as soon as he crossed the line. And we did just that, going to the Starbucks on Newbury street. Walking back, we decided to take a right down Boylston instead of going back where we were, as the crowd was a little less dense and we hoped for a spot at the barrier. Within a few minutes, we spotted Paul coming down the street. I was cheering and capturing the moment on my phone for him. I knew that Ryan was right behind!

The next 60 seconds changed all of our lives.

The loud explosion left us stunned and wondering what could possibly have happened. Brendan thought the Jumbo-tron had exploded, maybe some massive electrical malfunction had occurred. It sounded like a reasonable explanation, except the smoke was a little ways past the large screen and it just did not seem likely. Before we could have another thought about it, the second blast ripped through the air on our right, making the ground shake and fear took a grip on our hearts.

What came next is better left untold. Cameras were rolling and captured the mayhem for the world to see, and the images that are imprinted on my brain are better left alone, to hopefully fade as time goes on. Shock set in, as well as a deep visceral need to find my son, see him and touch him, to know that he was unharmed. He managed to call us about 15 minutes later on a borrowed cell phone, as we were trying to make our way towards the Marriott Hotel, where we eventually reunited as a family over 2 hours later. He had been stopped at the 25.8 mile mark.

The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions, the very high highs of knowing we are all safe and the very low lows of knowing so many are not. The feelings of disbelief, looking at the pictures and the reality of what took place where we had been standing just a few minutes before the blast. The immense gratitude and thankfulness, but the “why them and not me” questions that keep coming. The lack of control over the emotions, and the surprise crying fits that still come on at random times, the amazing support that friends, colleagues, neighbors or perfect strangers have shown to us.

The Day AfterAs a family, we have resolved to deal with this by being open, by sharing our feelings with each other and by practicing love and not hate. There is always a lesson in everything that happens, and the real tragedy would be to move on and not acknowledge that collectively, as a society, we need to change. The capture of the suspect last Friday brought some closure, but with it came more heartache, other victims, and the realization that this was not a nightmare, the horror had a face and it was a 19 year old…two years younger than my own son.

As a holistic practitioner, I help my clients deal daily with many different issues, stress being one of them. This past week has brought me to a place I had never been before, having to use all of the tools at my disposal to just get through the day. It has been humbling and an incredible learning experience, one that cannot be learned in a book.

My wish today is that we try to remember to be kind and gentle with ourselves and others, that words do hurt and that the spirit that made strangers reach out and help others is a sign of what we are capable of, even when there is no crisis looming. Hopefully the images will fade to allow sleep to be peaceful once again, but the memory of this day will not. The victims will need support for years to come, long after their story will fade from page one in the newspaper and collectively, we can step up to the plate and help them in a million different ways. We can take care of each other, and we need to take care of them, in a small or a big way, everyone can do something.

We cannot heal until we can have peace in our hearts. From today on, I choose to focus on good, healing, healthy, and peaceful thoughts for myself, my family, my community at large and I hope you can do the same.

Namaste.

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My name is Christine Cronin, and I am the owner and founder of Satya Wellness. In Sanskrit, Satya means the truth and I pledge to always tell my clients the truth.

I was born and reared in a small ski resort in Switzerland with a community that valued natural and healthy foods. I later moved to South East Asia with my husband where I became interested in natural health and the many properties of local herbs and foods.We lived in Bangkok, Macau and Singapore where my daughter was born.

I have been helping people achieve great health through good nutrition and healthy lifestyles for many years. I am certified by the Chopra Center for Well Being in Carlsbad, CA, as an Ayurvedic Instructor in Perfect Health, and I hold a PhD in Natural Health from Kingdom College of Natural Health.

Additionally, I hold an education degree conferred by Ecole Normale de Lausanne, Switzerland,  I am a certified personal trainer, a member of the International Association of Wellness Professionals and of the National Center for Homeopathy.

I live on Boston’s North Shore with my husband and my dog, Sparkie. Our children live nearby:  our daughter Shannon who is a wedding photographer and our son, Ryan who will graduate in May 2013 with a degree in Hotel Management and loves to run!

Double Amputee Marine Visits Boston Bombing Victims – Inspiring Video

As news coverage of the last few days has captured the thrilling, cowboy Western-esque hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, victims of last week’s devastating attack have meanwhile lay recovering in hospitals around the Boston area. Many of those injured lost legs, arms, ankles, even multiple limbs, the effect of which can have a profound and shattering impact on a person’s life.

Now, there has been no shortage of stories about the heroes of the Boston bombing – spectators who sprang into action to help the injured, runners donating blood, people opening their homes. This story is right up there. In this video, we see a double amputee Marine visiting Celeste Corcoran and her 17-year-old daughter in the hospital, both gravely injured by the bombs. Celeste lost both of her legs just below the knee, and both she and her daughter have had three surgeries since April 16.

As their visitor tells them, “This is the new beginning…So many opportunities are going to come your way.” Watch the video and let us know what you think:

How’s that for some human-to-human support and compassion? We are so inspired by the outpouring of love and mutual support that has come out of this terrible tragedy. It speaks volumes for the resilience and empathy of the human spirit.

How to Talk With Your Kids About The Boston Bombings

The round-the-clock media coverage of the events in Boston is understandable. Our anxious minds find something soothing about information — even if the news is scary — because we want desperately to understand what’s happening. We want to know that everything will be okay. We want to know the bad guys have been caught.

At the same time, the media’s relentless analysis can give the impression, particularly to children, that the world is a terrible and frightening place, and we are all just one-step away from harm when we walk out our front door.

For that reason, it’s important for us to highlight the positive aspects of this story as well. Not in a Pollyannaish-way that suggests everything is fine, but in a real way. It’s necessary to talk about the people who have opened their homes to others, sent food to first responders and provided an outpouring of support and kindness to those in need.

A popular post on Facebook this week is a quote from the beloved children’s television host Mr. Rogers: 

When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

My daughter was 3-1/2 when two planes deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. It was a devastating experience that traumatized our country. As a former New Yorker, I was deeply affected by the horrible images I saw of my hometown.

I thought long and hard about how to explain this event to my preschool-age daughter in a way that her young mind could grasp. I worried that the way I described the events would influence her view of the world.

I finally told her, “A few people did a bad thing and hit the buildings with their planes. And now thousands of people are helping to make it better.”

I hoped that explanation would ease her into the realities of life. Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Really bad. But there’s also good in the world. A lot of good.

What to tell your children about these events will differ depending on their age:

  • Young children should be shielded from violent or graphic imagery on television and the Internet. They need to know that they are safe, secure and protected by the adults around them.
  • Older children might have questions about the event and why it happened. Answer their questions and explain the details without getting overly sensational or frightening.

And keep in mind that we adults can be easily overwhelmed by the constant barrage of news, too. For me, as I follow the media’s coverage, I am reminded that terrible things happen in life. I grieve for the families and the community affected. And then I think about the courage, bravery and kindness of the people who helped. I think about the good in this story because it’s always there.

Why Tragedies Like the Boston Marathon Bombing Inspire Greatness

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 12.56.54 PMWhy? That’s the leading question from many when they think about the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week, especially since there still remains much speculation around the reasons for this event. What possible level of anger, madness, or beliefs could justify inflicting such horrible pain and harm on innocent people? Though we await answers to some confusing and difficult questions, one thing we do know is that in the moments after the explosions, our best as human beings showed.

We are programmed with a fight-or-flight response when presented with danger or change; it is there to keep us safe. But on April 15, more people disregarded this impulse and, instead of running away, ran toward the explosion to help the brave first responders. Badly injured victims had strangers holding their hands, talking to them, crying with them. From the darkness of tragedy can come greatness. We find our courage. We stay instead of run.

Americans are tough. Though we may get upset and raise our voices, we quickly forget ourselves and focus on the ones in need when one of our own is hurt, challenged, or needs help. We run to the scene, not from it. We become selfless, responsive, and more aware of others. We show up. We find our grit and resolve. This is who we truly are.

In tragedy we unite. It was that way on 9-11. It was that way when the tornado destroyed much of Joplin, MO. It was that way with the shootings in Tucson, Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary. It was that way with the
Boston Marathon bombings. At our core, we Americans are amazing, selfless and compassionate people.

But why does it take a tragedy for us to step into our greatness? We are obviously capable of this response on a daily basis. We can choose to respect and care for one another, even when their house hasn’t been destroyed, their limbs damaged, or their loved ones lost. We have the ability to be powerful, bold and courageous in dealing with differences and challenges without first needing a tragedy to compel us to a greatness response.

Regardless of our backgrounds, we are connected; we are Americans. And as Chad Finn, Boston.com Columnist wrote, “No, we are not all related. But in times of trouble you’d better believe we are all family.” As a family, we instantly come together to lessen the pain and help in any way possible. Our collective effort, genius and spirit response can be epic. So how can we rally with this same energy, focus and passion in our everyday lives?

Last week, I spoke to 120 teens at a Rotary Youth Leadership Assembly. I shared how these teens could start to find their personal greatness road in life – to show up as a leader of their own lives. Start young to strike out violence and hatred as the automatic or conditioned response. Start young to care more about others, in every moment. We can choose to build a world that solves its issues and challenges through discussion, mutual respect and ideas, not bombings, violence and vitriol. They truly saw this as a possibility.

Boston, my college town and home to many family members and friends, and the determined athletes and enthusiastic spectators are the latest victims in a violent world. A violent world considers violence as a legitimate solution to challenge and conflict. This behavior fills our television shows, movies, video games, and Internet. This is how many see the world because this is much of what we see in our world.

Explosions At 117th Boston MarathonIn response to violence and tragedy, we impose few limits on our support. We find the energy, the strength, the courage, and the commitment to stay, help, inspire, and deliver – we bring our A-game. In many of the daily events of life we show up with our B-game – our petty, small-minded, and selfish responses. We fight with each other. We blame and attack each other. We forget we are family.

In moments of tragedy we see how capable we are for empathy, effort, tenacity, support, love, compassion, and resilience. Without tragedy, I know we are still capable of the same powerful emotions. We can learn ‘daily greatness’ responses from life’s tragic circumstances. We have it in us. We can choose to always bring our A-game, to all events in life. The result can be a more compassionate and responsive world. I want it to be possible. I believe it is possible. I know it is possible.

The horrible events at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15 will never be forgotten. They’ll change the way everyone thinks of this historical day in Boston, and next year, as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, the marathon will “be bigger and better than ever before.” Bostonians banded together. Americans came together. Our greatness showed. We weren’t heroes; we were just family, doing what families are capable of and what they do best. My thoughts and prayers are with the runners, their families, spectators, volunteers, the first responders, and all of us who watched in horror from other parts of the country. May we all heal from this pain, and unite in our commitment to support each other more often as family and commit to creating a more peaceful world.

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Jay Forte is the president and founder of The Greatness Zone, an organization providing practical tools, programs and resources to help us know ourselves, find our fit and transform our world. He writes and speaks on living our personal greatness and is an advocate for raising the collective consciousness about and the responsibility for showing up to our work and life with passion and purpose.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Photo credit: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Rebecca Pacheco on the Boston Marathon Bombing: Now What?

Monkeying around with Heartbreak Bill yesterday morning. We still love 26.2.

If you know me, you know that I love the Boston Marathon. I ran it in 2009. I cheer myself hoarse and crazy as a spectator. I prepare athletes for race day and help them recover afterward with yoga. I’ve scoped many favorite spots to watch over the years: the finish line when it was blistering hot in 2004, Coolidge Corner as a 20-something living in nearby Allston, Kenmore Square where I swelled with pride when my absurdly fast and dedicated roommate at the time ran by (the noise is deafening there, especially when the Red Sox game lets out). When I worked at Boston magazine, I would dart up Mass Ave. from my office, to watch at the intersection of Commonwealth. I loved it there because the crowd wasn’t too thick, and I’d grown to recognize the kindly police officer on duty over the years. Bless him for looking the other way as I scaled a lamp post to cheer for friends with one– jubilant or near delirious– mile to go. Yesterday, this was the precise location where thousands of runners were halted, as reports surfaced of two bombs detonated in quick succession at the finish line, killing at least two people, injuring dozens, and turning the scene of Boston’s high athletic holiday into something resembling a war zone of blood and chaos.

I was at mile 20 of the course, known as Heartbreak Hill, on a day that broke my city’s collective heart.  

One moment I was cheering runners, including the American Red Cross marathon team, along with its coach Dan Fitzgerald. The next, I was too somberly aware of how important its work is.  There was a tragic and twisted irony in cheering Red Cross chief executive, Jarrett Barrios, who was having a long, hard race at mile 20, in one moment, and in the next, frantically calculating that he likely finished during the blasts. He was OK, stopped at mile 25.8, near my favorite lamp post.

The concern from family, friends, and fans of my site Om Gal (many of whom I’ve never met) via calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, and Instagram was immediate and unforgettable. My dad, the emotional first responder called; he never panics. My brother, who factored that I may have jumped into the race for the last 6-miles with a friend, as he did for me in 2009… My mom, who already knew I was OK but was in tears at the thought that it could have been me running, or her spectating, or anyone…

And, that is the saddest, most bottomed out feeling. It may not be me among those who lost their lives or limbs or my loved ones (you realize you love them all, really, on days like this), but it’s someone’s someone. It always is. It’s a hollowed out feeling that on the other side of moments when a B.A.A. volunteer directing runners across the finish is saying, “You’re all winners.” There are times of profound darkness, seconds later, when all of us lose.

Which leads us to the question we’re all asking: what are we to do next? As Bostonians, those all over the world standing in support of us, as yogis, as athletes who live for finish lines and never expect to die on one, and as citizens of the world. We need to do something right now. What is it?

We can pray.  

My god daughter, sent via text, from her mom and my best friend in CA, with the message: We carry you in our hearts.
My god daughter, sent via text, from her mom and my best friend in CA, with the message: We carry you in our hearts.

We may not be doctors, but we can pray for doctors and medical staff in area hospitals. May they have all the resources they need, in body, mind, and spirit, to do their lifesaving work. We may not be therapists, but we can pray for those who witnessed the carnage first-hand. A close friend crossed the finish moments before the blasts; her two small children were in the stands watching. They are unharmed but terrified. They do not want their mom to run another marathon. We can pray for government and law enforcement officials seeking answers and future safeguards. We can pray for each and every person whose life brushed too painfully close to yesterday’s traumatic events. Our collective heart can choose, right now, to eradicate harm and violence of any kind, in thoughts, words, and deeds, and as often as humanly possible choose love over fear and peace over hatred. This is the only way to change anything.

Prayers don’t need to be articulate or dogmatic. Maybe you’re not much for God, but the way I look at prayer: it never hurts. It’s your heart speaking a truth, for good. If the concept of prayer doesn’t speak to you, you can mediate, which is simply the act of sitting in the presence of our own mind with the conscious intention to cultivate peace for yourself and others.

If you can’t wrap your brain around that right now, which is entirely OK, you can do something of service for someone. It doesn’t matter whom or how big. Just pick a someone. Give them light and love. Give a smile, a handwritten card, or a meal because they need one. Give blood. Give time and energy to someone troubled who needs it to feel more whole. When your work is done, the card mailed, the vial full, the sandwich devoured, do it again. Do it bigger. Or, do it more humbly. Because that’s the thing about peace and healing: there’s no finish line. It is our daily work. It’s what we do next and always.

What I did when I got home from the marathon course: prayer and meditation.  Because it never hurts.

What I did when I got home from the marathon course: prayer and meditation. Because it never hurts.

 

Thumbnail photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Bombs Go Off in Boston on Marathon Monday

bh6fwfvcuaa-pwbAccording to reports on social media, several bombs exploded today near the course of the Boston Marathon. Full coverage has not yet emerged on the incident, as reporters are apparently “in lockdown at race headquarters.” According to the New York Times, though, a considerable number of runners and spectators were injured in the blasts, which went off roughly four hours after the men’s race began. The New York Daily News has reported that at least three people were killed in the explosion. By the looks of photographs that have surfaced from the morning’s events, the scene was chaotic, smoky, and even bloody.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, held every year on Patriot’s Day. The event hosts over 20,000 runners each year, with more than half a million spectators gathered to cheer the athletes on. It is sobering that such at attack would occur at an event that celebrate human athleticism, as well as American independence. Though perhaps that it the message intended by whomever is responsible for the bombs.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Boston today, and to everyone affected by the attacks. Our intent is to create a space where people may grieve, discuss, and continue working to build a society free of such hateful violence.

 

Update: The Associated Press are now reporting that two people were killed in today’s explosions.

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