This time of year we’re urged to be of good cheer, enjoy glad tidings, rejoice and embrace the holiday spirit. It’s a good thing generally, but for many it highlights their loneliness, isolation or what’s missing in their life.
“Blue Christmas'' services are held in early December for those who have lost a loved one in the past year. So many have died through sickness, violence, or desperation recently. The Covid era accelerated all those issues, taking a big toll on our mental health.
Loneliness and isolation make a loss or troubling circumstance worse. It seems that one thing that mass shooters have in common is a sense of isolation, and/or being misunderstood. Acquaintances might be aware that an individual is troubled, but rarely does it get reported - and it actually does little to stop a future carnage.
Another troubling and related issue is the secondary trauma we are all experiencing lately, with a new mass shooting every week. What are the impacts of that on the psyche? I find myself shutting down, going numb. I don’t want to hear about the individuals involved; when I do, some of the details haunt me. Before long we will all personally know someone who has died in one of these horrific events.
I always want to offer a positive practice when I write about a difficult issue. At first I tried something I do when I see a dead animal - I acknowledge their life, and their death. That was too much for me to do for every slain individual. Next I tried working with each group that was killed (often they “cross over” together) to make sure they had moved on; but I was told they didn’t need me, that I should help those left behind.
Tonglen certainly did help for the people suffering around these senseless murders (see link below for this Buddhist practice.) And yet - back to my original thought - how can we be helpful in preventing these tragedies in the first place?
One of the simplest practices can benefit us - and maybe even those who are contemplating a horrific act, or are heading in that direction. I believe a moment of kindness can make a difference, I thought a recent ad campaign (billboards!) proclaiming “One kind act a day” was ridiculous. Is that what we’re come to?
Yes, sadly it is. Bustling around in our (isolated ) bubble of concern as we go about our day, it’s important to stop and take a moment to be present for someone - even, and especially, for a stranger. So, slow down. Smile. Say a kind word. This is a mindfulness practice, and it makes us feel better too. More connected. More relaxed. And just maybe, a ray of human compassion can help someone through this often dark season.
Peace, love and healing -