As a writer, teacher, observer and citizen of the world, I cannot go on blithely writing about gardening, cooking and living without addressing the horrific events in my nearby Boston. And I wonder: what do we do when the world is a study in contrast; bright dewy buds and bulbs emerging, soil to be dug and touched and stuffed with miniature vegetable seeds, cutting flowers to be sown with hope, plantings to be planned and recipes to be sought– all this life when people are killing and dying during venerable sports events in a beautiful historic American city?
The onslaught of yellow has begun: tulips, daffodils and forsythia, and yesterday I planted poppies and nasturtium, promising shots of color from the first flowers sewn in spring. Alongside the current of new life, there is the taking of lives– innocents, bystanders, folks enjoying an enduring and uplifting event, folks with sponsors and family and hope gathering in a global community with their children and loved ones, running, watching, cheering and feeling safe and celebratory. Chris reminded me that the ugly truth around this is that our country has been bombing in the Middle East for a decade and killing scores of mothers, children, seniors and unwitting humans caught in the crossfire so what makes us think our soil is immune to the same? Promise and destruction, beauty and ugliness have always co-existed, but it’s difficult to grasp when so graphic, sudden and unexpected.
We can speculate about who and why all day and twist our face at the cruelty and senselessness of public bombing and at the same time, hold our sadness like a basin of tears, washing in it, wetting our faces and hands, because at the end of the day, all we have left here, all we can say about bombs and the people who design their trajectory is, how heart-breakingly sad. All we can do is pray, talk, and help who and where we can. The immortal words of Mr. Rogers circulating heavily in social media yesterday, remind us: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say ‘Look for the helpers, you will always see people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in this world.”
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is an appropriate meditation for this very event, one translated as giving and taking, Tonglen. Taking in ours or others suffering (and this can be specific or general) on our breath, we connect to the universal experience of such feelings. We lean into the point, breath in the pain we so reflexively and habitually resist, and we breathe out and send out its antidote. In this case, not only do we do so for the victims, we can go so far as to breath in the desperation and rage of the perpetrator, sending out comfort, hope. We remember our drop in the ocean status, our all in the same boat status; that what happens to one happens to the collective and we seek to promote healing with this profound meditation practice. In my classes, I often encourage a simple version of this in posture practice: breathing in tightness, restriction and pain in the body and connecting with others experiencing the same, breathing out freedom of movement, ease, flexibility and grace for ourselves and all sentient beings. Yesterday we dedicated our practice to peace. We can do this anytime, anywhere, living in this deliberate way. We can choose seeds we want to nurture into existence, sowing in consciousness, sowing in awareness of cycles and dualities, giving and taking, rooting and reaching.