The Boston Marathon Tragedy – How the Human Spirit Prevails
Danny and I have been talking a great deal (whenever we see each other which is not very often due to his travels) about how the Boston Marathon tragedy is affecting our psyche, our energy, and our day-to-day lives. We talk all the time about how we as citizens of this country, and of the world, can cope and process so much devastation; the Newtown school tragedy, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the wars and earthquakes – and the most recent earthquake claiming many lives in China - are constantly reminding us of our vulnerability and our mortality.
The Boston Marathon tragedy strikes so close to our hearts, as we love the running community and people who are brave enough to take on the Boston Marathon. Running the Boston Marathon is what we consider one of the great things a human being can aspire to. To have such a positive and wonderful event turn to such tragedy is overwhelming. To see an 8-year old boy, who was rallying for peace, lose his life at this event is beyond devastating.
Danny and I have not lived lives without pain and difficulty. We’ve separately, and together, had our share. But, neither of us has ever been personally involved with what over 200 wounded people are facing after Boston. We did not lose any loved ones in this tragedy or some other tragedy. Despite our personal trials and tribulations, we are also blessed.
We do have a personal and internal process that we both find very helpful at times like this. It may seem simplistic and again, for anyone who has been personally affected, we are not presuming it is an answer. We just wanted to share what we do.
When tragedy strikes, we do what the sages and philosophers have suggested for ages: go within and learn from the experiences of the human condition. We are all human beings and have very similar internal experiences: from fear, anger, jealousy, and a desire to cause pain to the more exalted virtues of love, compassion, courage and a deep desire to be of help and service. We, as human beings, have a vast capacity to experience life from many different perspectives. It is our job to become consciously aware of what our most immediate experience is and to be with it as fully and with as much honesty and truth as we can.
And so, what Danny and I practice is to go within and listen as deeply as we can, to our own internal response to whatever is before us. In watching, we can see that sometimes we respond as victims, sometimes as perpetrators of cruel acts, sometimes full of fear and anxiety, and sometimes as loving and compassionate people who want nothing more than to help. Danny has taken on the mantle of the hero a few times in his life, risking his life to save a friend who was in a very dangerous climbing situation, and once saving the life of a man in a terrible car accident. He also knows that he can shut down emotionally when overwhelmed. I, on the other hand, can lose my boundaries and get very lost in my emotional response.
Being as self-aware as we know how to be is a practice that we are committed to in our daily lives, through times of quiet contemplation or meditation and also by bringing that self awareness to the moment as much as possible. We also practice together; Danny will listen to me, with as much focus and neutrality as possible, while I share my internal experience as honestly as I can. Then, I’ll do that for him. You can also do it for yourself, acting as witness to the full gamut of your own inner experiences and feelings. I have witnessed within myself anger that I am very glad has never been unleashed in the world, but which dissipated by being witnessed by my own observer.
It is a practice Danny and I both use in coaching people, whether runners or in personal coaching to help people find their way in life.
As Christ, Buddha, Gandhi and many spiritual leaders have alluded to: we are all “sinners”, we all experience the dark, as well as the more exalted, aspects of the human condition. But, do we acknowledge it in ourselves? That is the question. Do we accept our role and complicity in our daily lives? Do we take credit and responsibility for how we act out our parts?
Danny and I, in our own small way, are trying to take responsibility for how we contribute to the violence in society and the madness that drives other people to the brink. How do we educate our daughter to treat other people? Is she taught to exclude and bully by watching our actions, or is she learning to be inclusive and compassionate?
In ChiRunning® we ask you to go a bit deeper with your running experience – to pay attention to the voice of your body; to pay attention to the voices in your head; to pay attention to the energy moving in and out with your breath; to listen more deeply to yourself. In ChiLiving® we ask that you do the same thing in your daily lives. Listen, without judgement, to your vast capacity to feel and experience life, and from that vantage point, make the wisest choice you can.
There is a helpless feeling when tragedy strikes. How can I help? How can I contribute in a positive way? Danny and I think that it is in our small daily actions that we can all contribute to creating a better world.
Finally, in Boston and around the world, it is the human spirit that wants what is good and beautiful to prevail, and it does. It is the acts of courage, the acts of heroism, the coming together of community – that seem to be the silver lining of the very dark cloud that was upon the Boston Marathon this year.