And then I heard it. 5 young people dead at a house party in Brentwood, a neighbourhood not far from where we live. My ears perk up as I am drawn into the sketchy details of a scene that unfolded in the early hours of that very morning.
What now? I am left with a sense of disorientation. It is like there has been some kind of explosion and there are shock waves in my mind. I am just not sure about the size of the waves nor the full impact of my reaction to what has happened so close by.
My wife walks by on her way to work. I share the news. She looks at me with disbelief.
I am at home alone as I am often during the week, working in my home office. Through out the next several hours, I notice that my mind is restless and there is a sense of looking for some peace without knowing how.
Later in the day, I received a text from my wife where she described that there had been a lot of discussion among her peers about this event. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as, like me, I was feeling the effect of this event.
For me, there are no answers…only the noticeable pull to turn to the media every once in a while to see if there are any more details to help calm my restlessness.
How can mindfulness practice help here?
When I practice mindfulness meditation, I am involved in a process of learning to work with “what is” whether I like it or not. One of the secrets of this ancient practice is to learn that we can’t shut down or shut off our reactions to what happens nor do we have a lot of direct control over many of the outer circumstances.
In his book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”, Jon Kabat-Zinn asks one to consider the mind like the surface of a lake or ocean. The mind is moved, as are the waves, by the winds that blow. Yesterday, the winds blew with gale force, as the news of the tragedy spread.
I have been practicing mindfulness for 20 years now and it has become a resource where I have found an application as I grapple with this tragedy. In the classes that I teach, we talk a lot about stress and how there is a lot of stuff that happens where we have little or no control. What we do have control over is how we respond to our reactivity. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to relate differently.
One of the ways this is suggested is to relate to our reactivity with kindness and compassion for ourselves and to consider extending the same to others in both our thoughts and actions. Through these actions and intentions, we give room to the reactivity of our minds, treat it with compassion and understanding, and potentially discover new paths.