On the way back home from our recent workshop in Paestum, Italy: Jump into the Abyss: Birthing a New Destiny, our instructor team, Nyei Murez, Jim Morris and Teo Alfero, traveled through the Charles de Gaulle airport, enjoying the civility of a place to plug in one’s computer to work, while they reflected on photos of this beautiful event, where everyone present explored: What is my destiny—my true heart’s path? What leaps do I need to make into the abyss—the unknown, the new—in order to live it?
The next afternoon the terrible news of attacks in Paris came, with a new challenge to jump into a new unknown, to grow in the ways to we need to grow in order to respond.
Many reactions emerged: fear, sadness of course, and also hatred/revenge (who’s responsible.)
We were heartened to hear that friends and colleagues in Paris were safe, yet deeply saddened to imagine the vulnerability of those who were simply going out enjoy music or a meal with friends, suddenly encountering a deadly attack. Our hearts are with those who lost life or were injured, and with their families and friends. And yes, as uncomfortable as it may be, our hearts are also with the apparently bewildered families of those who carried out the attacks, who must be asking: What went wrong? What could we have done differently?
The loss may not be wasted if we can go inside to reflect: Why do such events affect us so deeply only in certain cases? What can we do?
Following are some reflections on the issue that we found helpful.
We begin with Deepak Chopra in his essay, “The Deeper Wound,” written over fourteen years ago, immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks:
As fate would have it, I was leaving New York on a jet flight that took off 45 minutes before the unthinkable happened. By the time we landed in Detroit, chaos had broken out. When I grasped the fact that American security had broken down so tragically, I couldn’t respond at first. My wife and son were also in the air on separate flights, one to Los Angeles, one to San Diego. My body went absolutely rigid with fear. All I could think about was their safety, and it took several hours before I found out that their flights had been diverted and both were safe. Strangely, when the good news came, my body still felt that it had been hit by a truck. Of its own accord it seemed to feel a far greater trauma that reached out to the thousands who would not survive and the tens of thousands who would survive only to live through months and years of hell.
And I asked myself: Why didn’t I feel this way last week? Why didn’t my body go stiff during the bombing of Iraq or Bosnia? Around the world my horror and worry are experienced every day. Mothers weep over horrendous loss, civilians are bombed mercilessly, refugees are ripped from any sense of home or homeland. Why did I not feel their anguish enough to call a halt to it?
Dr. Chopra goes on to ask:
Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity? If there is a deep wound, doesn’t it affect everyone? …If all of us are wounded, will revenge work?…What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer?
It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other…But if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.
Caroline Myss, writing this week about the Paris attacks, says:
This is a time that can make a person feel utterly helpless or realize they must rise to the call to become fully spiritually empowered. Every single person is now impacted by the events unfolding in our world. As much as we would like to think otherwise, as much as we would like to run and hide – to turn off the news and run back to other times when such horrors as the terrorist attacks of Paris never happened – we must face the truth that we are now living in the age of the unimaginable, the unthinkable, and even the unbearable.
But it also means we are capable of unimaginable acts of transformation and further that we have been preparing for such acts of goodness. The inner work of personal transformation is not about personal healing for the sake of personal healing alone but to ultimately become someone prepared to take that healing to others, to become a channel of grace in the world. Together we become the new spiritual communities – a global “inner net” – bonded with collective intention devoted to uniting acts of light, generosity and humanity. This is the nature of what it means to be “called to spiritual service” in the world today.
We can be informed in this by the following exchange with well-known Indian sage Ramana Maharshi:
Questioner: How are we to treat others?
Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.
We are all citizens of the world. We are all capable of love—and of violence.
So the question we each want to ask, and to answer is: How can we leap across ignorance, judgment and resentment to contribute to the healing of the human experience of the world?
What is the leap we need to make in this moment to cherish our world? How can we go inside to our breath and heart, to go outside to love the world?