“May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” ~ Mother Teresa
With all the saber-rattling and war talk, the horror of gassing women and small children, the multiple shooting deaths that have become as commonplace as dandelions, the news stories of dead rivers and dying towns, the burning of Yosemite, the dolphins washing ashore dead on the east coast, the leaking radiation at Fukushima, and the blue fin tuna that now glow in the dark as a result, it is difficult not to feel despair. The list of mistakes and mishaps resulting from humanity’s gross negligence goes on and on.
Sometimes, I want to hang my head and cry. I wonder about our seemingly endless capacity for creating monstrous problems, problems that seem insurmountable, intractable, and well, impossible to solve. How can we feel hope or grace or kindness or love in the face of such unspeakable horror?
The thing is, we have to. We must maintain hope. We must. We cannot cave into despair and complacency.
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
For the past twenty-eight years, morning and evening, I pray. I pray to take responsibility for my life and to go out into the world and help others. I pray to see myself clearly and to alleviate my own suffering so I can assist others in doing the same thing. I pray to see my life through a lens of possibility and joy, rather than through a gray fog of despair or hopelessness.
When I started my Buddhist practice, I didn’t believe it would actually work to alleviate my agony. A friend at the time challenged me to just, “Try it for a month.”
Why not give it a go?
He promised, “If it doesn’t work, I will never bother you again.” So, off I went. I started my practice, morning and evening. And within a week, everything changed.
Praying for Peace.
These days, I could occupy all of my time focused on the tide of sad, terrifying news that washes into our homes and computers every day. However, there’s no point in turning my prayer toward that nightmare.
Instead, I must pray for the peace I want to see bloom. That is my personal antidote to the war I see being planned.
I must add my voice to the energetic and angelic call for no more war, ever. No more broken men and women returning from the horror of war. No more post traumatic stress disorder. No more wounded warriors. No more homeless veterans. No more lining the pockets of the rich while stealing the very lives of the poor.
What Can I Do?
When my mom and I talked this morning, she told me that she took action to help people in her community to avoid obsessing over the state of things (like Syria) that are beyond her control. “I took a box of food over to the homeless people in Nicklesville (a tent city in Seattle that will be dismantled sometime this weekend by city police). I felt like that was the best thing I could do. Help someone here and now.”
It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of the challenges we have in front of us. It is easy to throw your hands up and fall into numbness and lethargy. But I beg you not to do that. Think about the one thing you can affect. Think about the one person you can call. Think about the person you still need to thank. Think about how you can encourage one person. Today. If you are suffering, help someone else. If an avalanche of despair covers you, find a way, find some way to say, “Thank you universe (higher power, God, Goddess) for even this.” Even this dark moment in human history can open a door. Even this day where everything around you feels like noxious fumes, choking the life out of you, even then, there is something to be grateful for, something to celebrate, something to hold onto.
For These Things I Give Thanks
As long as you breathe, you can change your life. And if you change your life, you will impact those around you. And if those around you see you changing, they will realize they, too, can change. And the people around them will notice a small crack of light shining into their lives. And the people those people know will notice that soft light. And pretty soon, there is something numinous, something aglow, something shifting everywhere along the route that your light travels.
We are each light-workers and healers and teachers and scribes. Our sense of gratitude for each breath, for each meal, for each moment we have, is our prayer.
If we can simply remember that, everything can change. Everything.
© 2013 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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