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"I was in the same moment confronted by an unbearable loss and also by the realization that there were people and community that were there to help me bear it." ~Kate Braestrup

Front Page of Hartford CourantMy oldest child is a first-grade student, seven years old. My youngest five. The news out of Connecticut hits much too close to home.

The imagination reaches into the darkest caverns where a parent's mind dare not go. I have no idea what I might say to my boys, but, like many, I have gazed upon them with awakened eyes as they lie asleep tonight.

Our heartfelt condolences to all the families and the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

In times like these, let us turn to some of our wisest elders for light, hope, and a way forward. Our colleague Kate Moos (@katemoos) found solace in listening to a dharma talk titled "Mindfulness of Anger: Embracing the Child Within":

Thich Nhat Hanh is the voice for me today. @Beingtweets' recording of the Zen monk on mindful anger.

HKG2005011836125This passage from the Buddhist master is particularly poignant:

"…there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They're all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.

"Whatever age you are you have a soul, you have a spirit, you have a heart, you have a mind; use them." ~Arnold Eisen from http://bit.ly/VcFRTC photo by Pilar Castro What we see, what we hear, what we eat, always water the seed of violence, the seed of despair, the seed of hate in us and in our children. That is why it's very urgent to do something collectively in order to change the situation. Not only educators, but parents, legislators, artists, have to come together in order to discuss the strategy that can help bring the kind of safe environment to us and to our children where we shall be protected from the negative watering of the seeds in us. The practice of transformation and healing could not be effective without this practice of seeking or creating a sane environment. When someone is sick, you have to bring him to a place where he or she can be treated and to heal.

"Our sense of beauty and our understanding of the nature of the good life are intertwined." ~Alain de Botton http://bit.ly/So0cIk photo by Indy KethdyIf the human person is affected by the poison of violence and anger and despair, if you want to help heal him or her, you have to bring him or her out of the situation where she continues to ingest the poisons of violence. This is very simple. This is very clear and this is not only the job of educators. Everyone has to participate to the work of creating safe environments for us and for our children."

You can listen to the entire talk here. Write tgilliss@onbeing.org or @trentgilliss and tell me what you find relevant in Brother Thay's words or where you are finding solace.

At this time, I also recall a moving story by Vincent Harding, a theologian and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., who recounted a grave moment when civil rights leader Bob Moses learned three protestors had been murdered in Mississippi and told a group of mostly white, college-age protestors that they could Vincent Harding on a Kumbaya Momentquit and return to their families:

"In group after group, people were singing:

Kumbaya. 'Come by here my Lord. Somebody's missing Lord. Come by here. We'll all need you Lord. Come by here.'

I could never laugh at kumbaya moments after that. Because I saw that almost no one went home from there. This whole group of people decided that they were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to and a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together, Kumbaya."

"It maybe that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it." ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, photo by Tai Chang HsienOn this final night of Hanukkah, these final two stanzas from a poem by Rachel Barenblat (@velveteenrabbi). She reminds us to rededicate our lives to the hard work of trusting and opening up — and "to the task of bringing light."

At last I light the lamp:
the glint, the glow
regenerating, the homefire
eternally burning.

Learn to trust again
that this oil is enough
to open my eyes
to God, already here.

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16 Comments

Thank you for this mindful piece.

Dirge without Music

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Exquisite. Thank you.

Yes, agreed, thank you for sharing this. I've been sharing it a lot today.

Thank you for sharing this wisdom !

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
they will soar on wings like eagles:
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

Thank you for such a rich posting. The Thich Nhat Hanh piece is especially key.

Kumbaya has come to have a derided connotation in our society. I have a children's book of lullabies in which years ago I found the full words to Kumbaya. It is an incredibly beautiful, moving, and heartening song all the while so simple in its form. I hope it will help others find what they need in this wrenching hour.

This broadcast was at 6:00 AM today and it couldn't have come at a better time. I hurt for all the families in Newtown and was struggling with how to deal with the anger and impotence. Kate Braestrup had such words of common sense and wisdom. We care so much because we love. It is out of the love that we hurt. Thank you for helping all of us who sit at a distance not being able to hug the parents and children. We are responsible, as human beings, for loving and helping every time we can, most especially in our own communities.

This was a timely and beautiful program. Now - to meet Kate Braestrup . . .

I thank you for your wise human spirituality and hope it will help us all heal but never forget:-) we as adults must do so much more to protect our precious children!

"Friday evening, at the beginning of the dress rehearsal for our church
choir's concert tonight...one of our altos read this quote from Leonard Bernstein:

'This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before'.”

Thank you <3 .

Thanks Trent. I have similar aged children, and this tragedy has taken me to new places of pain and sorrow as well as places of humility and insight. My mind also turned to the wisdom shared by Thich Nhat Hahn, someone with credible, deep understanding of suffering and loss.

Thank you so much. ON BEING is a constant comfort and inspiration.

Krista or Trent: With Newtown in mind, I retrieved an old poem of mine that might offer a bit of comfort to anyone who has ever lost a child to death. Would be glad to send it to you or you could check it out for potential usefulness on the internet @ vox poetica (see blogs there) where it was published on !2/17/12. Frank

In addition to the resource above, the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience -- The STAR Training is a resource that victims, caregivers of victims, and community leaders have found very helpful as they move toward healing. STAR integrates trauma healing and resilience, restorative justice, conflict transformation, broadly defined spirituality, and nonviolent peacebuiding. It was developed after 9/11 at the Center for Justice and Peacbuidling in Harrisonburg, VA which was co-founded by John Paul Lederach, who was interviewed by Ms. Tippett some time ago.

The one discussion I am longing to hear, is why this mother felt she needed all of that fire power in her mone? Then I heard that the sales of the type of guns that were used jumped nation wide. What are American agaried of.? I was listening to one of those Sunday morning talk shows and one of the talking heads said "the American people feel the need of guns for protection because they the American people don't believe that the goverment could not or would not proctect them". Where does this fear come from? Who are "the American people" arming themselves to defend against? Is Canada going to attack us? This family lived in a village with a minority count of 2% and a crime rate of below 1% so why was she so afaried? If someone could explain this I believe we as a nation could have a discussion and maybe start to heal.

apples