…Raise Your Hand”
I don’t know how to feel this. I stand alone, miles away from the epicenter of my heart. Fleeting wisps of sadness break over me and recede quickly, back into the folds of my belly. I am exhausted by my numbness and find it overwhelming, unmovable, and dense.
I am hungry. What a surprise.
I have a profound urge to sit with my sisters and my brothers. My sisters and my brothers? Yet that desire sweeps over me with even more confusion. Who exactly is my community, at this moment in my world? My LGBTQ family as they danced their freedom into death? My Kripalu family, which feels more and more morphed into vagueness? No, all of us. My community is all of us. It is for all of us that I long. Our inclusion, our collective heartbreak, our collective hope, for that, I am aching. This becomes possible.
I stand in Park Square, a park in the middle of Pittsfield, our neighboring town. Several hundred people stand around me, some with signs, some with children. Several dogs with impeccable and others with less than impeccable behavior dot the gathering. We are young and we are old; we are black and we are white, we are gay and we are not. The late afternoon sun shines directly in our eyes as we face the podium. We shield our eyes from its brightness. The speakers take their turn, with outrage, with grief, with song. I stand alone yet connected with these people I do not know—these people I know completely. The speakers’ words don’t matter to me. I breathe and relax and feel the crowd, the crowd of Us, actually holding me upright, grounding me on the earth. Simply standing there, I am beyond-grateful.
The week unfolds.
I’ve been imperfectly practicing the Buddhist meditation of tonglen, which cultivates compassion and inclusion. On the inhale, breathe in the suffering of yourself and of others. On the exhale, send compassion and loving kindness to all living beings. If it feels right, I invite you to sit and practice, alone with yourself and with us, all.
When they finally entered Pulse, the first responders in Orlando asked, as they climbed over the bleeding bodies:
“If you are alive, raise your hand.”
And I say to us, all, today, if you are alive, raise your hand. Choose life. Sit with yourself. Gather with others. Breathe in the suffering. Exhale compassion and grace and loving-kindness for all. Do something radically kind for yourself today. Do something radically generous for another. Just for today. Let’s practice—alone and together. The world needs our kindness. We need our kindness.
Take your kind prayers and weave them into action. The Dalai Lama tells us he “is quite skeptical about the effects of prayer.” He added, “The real change comes through action.” So what actions can you take, to move your kindness and prayers into social change? Consider calling your congressperson, in support of H.R. 4269, a bill that would ban semi-assault weapons like the one used in Orlando. Offer time, effort and resources as we rid our nation of weapons of war, that we might live in a world of true inner-connectedness and peace.
Raise your hand.