Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

How to Take Care of Your Heart in Brutal Times

Take Care of Your Heart in Brutal Times

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. – Thomas Payne

It’s been some time since the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad, but trauma doesn’t simply fade away for many people. Trauma can etch itself into your brain, your cells, and your being.  Its impact can leave you feeling jittery, unsafe and triggered into alarm by unexpected noise or movements.

The attacks that took place in Paris, in particular, bring home a different reality to comfortable Westerners, a glimpse into the daily experience of thousands of people who live in worn-torn countries or areas besieged by terrorists.  Instead of bursting into anger or blame, this can be an invitation to walk in the shoes of the war-weary and let it break open your heart.

For your own sanity, it can help to establish a way of responding to these deeply unsettling events, which seem to be occurring with greater frequency.  And, in fact, terrorism, murder, death from hunger, rape, and abuse happen everyday whether they’re visible to us or not.

You may still be shocked by the brutality of a sudden devastating event, but you can have a positive practice in place to care for your own heart and to extend love and kindness to others who feel the pain, sadness, grief, or anger of tragedy. An established practice will help you avoid falling into fear, hopelessness, sorrow, blame, or anger for long periods of time as well.

You don’t need to wait for the next report of violence from the media. Begin a daily practice now to strengthen yourself for whatever might occur in the future.

This Is What I Do

I pray. I pray for all who are suffering, the victims and the perpetrators. I pray that everyone realizes the uselessness of violence. Violence only perpetuates more violence, and the cycle continues from day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, lifetime-to-lifetime.

Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. – Gandhi

I drop into my heart and send love to those who are suffering, misguided, or dead.  Love is a potent antidote to anger along with patience.  By strengthening your own love, you’re more likely to respond to others with love, understanding, and care.  I also believe we can help people find peace after death by directing positive thoughts and emotions toward them.

I remember all the goodness in this world.  This helps me stay out of discouragement.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ – Fred Rogers

I practice accepting impermanence.  Everyone and everything in this world is subject to decay, decline, and death. Nothing will survive in the long run. We just don’t know when it will dissolve.

This might sound like a dismal proposition, but accepting impermanence will help you appreciate what’s here right now, live more comfortably with uncertainty, and let go of the expectation that everything should remain the same.

I try to cut the root of violence in myself.  Prayer alone is not enough.  We must actively work toward creating peace in our families, our community, our country, and our world.  

Violence comes from confused or painful thoughts and emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger. Are any of us entirely free of these negative emotions?  We need to begin by transforming our own mind.

So I practice mastering my own thoughts and emotions, and I help others learn to do the same. In brief, this means to refrain from harm, practice goodness, and to transform my negative thoughts and emotions into positive ones.

It’s not always easy, of course.  A storm of negative emotions can easily sweep you away.  But once you start practicing, these pesky mind-states will gradually erode away.

I’ve helped in active ways as well.  I’ve rescued battered women and helping raped women recover from their terror. There are countless ways to help from assisting a single person in need to making donations of food, money, or clothing to becoming an aid worker.

I love this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert, which reminds us there’s always someone in need of our help,

But when the world starts to feel overwhelming in its sorrows, I always ask myself to look around me — to narrow down my focus — and to notice somebody who is nearby me, who is suffering. I can’t help the millions, but maybe I can help one. You never have to look very far to find a suffering soul.

Another way is to simplify your life, aim to be more sustainable, and say no to the temptations pushed upon us by the media and large corporations.

Every choice you take, makes a difference in this world for better or for worse. We may not be shooting guns or throwing bombs, but when we buy more than we need, for example, we’re contributing to melting ice, rising tides, warming temperatures, and dangerously wild weather events. All this leads to death too.

Is anyone innocent? Live simply so others can simply live. Say no to corporate greed.

Choose Peace

Remaining steadfast in the midst of chaos is not meant to make light of the travesties that have occurred nor does it make you unfeeling.  Naturally, pain and distress will arise.  But you will have a way to allow them and then let them go so they don’t become a heavy burden in your life.

I don’t have a special affinity for Paris, like some of my friends, though I’ve visited the city many times. I’m not praying for Paris, the city. I’m praying for her people who have been killed, wounded, or traumatized. I know what trauma feels like since I’ve been a victim of violence myself. At the same time, I’m praying for everyone, everywhere who has been killed, wounded, traumatized, or  suffers in another way.

I am praying for peace.

I know some people will say it’s easy for me to write these rose-colored words since I live in relative comfort and ease.  That’s true, but I’m doing what I can and hope you will too.

As much as I wish for peace on earth, I’m don’t know what the future holds.  I do know it doesn’t help to speculate or project into the future.  I also know we can create peace in our own mind and heart right now.  This simple way of being will ripple out and positively effect others as well.  Choosing peace, even when it feels like everything is falling down around you, always remains a possibility.

How do you manage when tragedies occur?  Let’s share our wisdom so we can gain strength together.

Thank you for reading!  I appreciate your presence.  If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free blog posts by email. May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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18 Comments

  1. This is such a beautifully compassionate and also practical post that I cannot add anything to it, really, except to say that it all comes down to choice—-what do I choose to feel, to think to say, to focus on, to pray about. It is so important for us who have not been directly impacted by a tragedy to decide to not give in to hopelessness and helplessness so that we really CAN help those who need our help. I really do think you covered everything so well, Sandra, that all I need to do is stay mindful of this post 🙂 Thank you <3

    • Thank you, Jean! It loved how you synthesized all this into the idea of choice. Just as you see, we need to feel empowered to be able to survive, thrive, and be of help. Love how you have brought this all together.

  2. Sandra,

    Thank you for helping us find calm amidst the storm. Love and light.

    Debbie

    • You’re welcome, Debbie. It’s likely we’ll see more storms in the coming years. I hope we can support one another and stay centered whatever occurs. Much love to you.

  3. Heike Blaumeiser-Wollenhaupt

    Well done Sandra!

  4. Thank you for this very thoughtful post. These are difficult times, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the problems around us. I really like Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote as a way of counteracting the overwhelm – acting on a small scale, focusing on what we can. Doing so really makes a difference, and feeds our hope, which gives us more strength to be positive both in thought and action. Personally, I also look to nature for comfort. Take care. xo

    • These are really difficult times, Corina. I appreciate how easy it is to get overwhelmed. It’s good to hear form Betsy (below) that the city of Paris is getting back to normal this week. Whatever we can find to help us navigate these times, like working on a small scale, makes a difference for ourselves and others. I also love nature and find it to be a tremendous comfort. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Beautiful Sandra – I particularly noted and loved the part about dropping into your heart and praying from there, which is probably obvious but feels so different from praying from the head, so to speak. Much more powerful because it suggests that the heart would only send love, and none of the worry or fear that might get inadvertently sent along with thoughts!

    I admire the people whose thoughtful words I’ve read about recent world events because like you I feel somehow that it’s ‘easy’ to say these things when it’s not happening directly to you and I don’t feel qualified, in a sense. {I know, there isn’t an actual qualification! 🙂 } But I think words like this are so important. I don’t want to read people’s fear and anger and frustration; not because I don’t feel it but because it fuels the fire and if the only way I can help is energetically then I want to do that from a place of love as best I can.

    So anyway, thank you for writing this post – I always find your writing thoughtful and heartfelt. 🙂

    • Thank you, Tara. That’s such an important differentiation between praying from the head and praying from the heart. It does feel very different, doesn’t it.

      I’m sure you would have insightful words to share too. I agree, it doesn’t help to file fear, anger, and frustration. It doesn’t help to suppress them either. It takes practice to learn to let them rise without acting upon them or getting struck in them for long periods of time.

      I think helping energetically makes a difference within ourselves and for others. Love to you!

  6. Thank you for these great ideas Sandra. We are living in Paris this fall and were shaken out of our own little world into the world of politics and terror. A shock. But the people of Paris are getting back to normal now after a week. Very interesting, too, to talk the Parisians who basically all agree that they will not live a life in fear but keep going to their cafes and keep their way of life.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s so good to hear your perspective right from the city of Paris and to know that things are getting back to normal in a certain sense. I’m glad the Parisians refuse to succumb to fear. Thanks for sharing this glimpse from afar.

  7. Sandra love you post. I too pray, practice more gratitude and have upped my ho’oponopono practice in this past week. Love you dropping into your heart. I love you. I am sorry, please forgive me thank you xxoo

    • Suzie, Thanks for mentioning Ho’ponopono. It’s such an easy practice to do but so powerful. It helps so much to get over the inevitable bumps that come up in a relationship. Lots of love to you!

  8. Thank you for taking on such a tough topic on your blog. Violence is so sickening, and it’s easier to pretend it doesn’t exist – and that when something like what happened in France happens, that it’s new. But while it’s shocking and horrific, it happens far too often. We need to take care of ourselves and each other. Thank you for leading the way! xoxox

    • Thanks for your appreciative words, Jessica. I completely understand the temptation to push the experience in the background. I agree with you, it makes sense to be with what is and learn to take care of ourselves and others. Much love to you!

  9. So beautiful Sandra. It’s always so challenging to find words to share when brutality is so often the order of the day.

    I’m reminded of Mother Teresa who said she would never march against war, but would march for peace. I feel being for something that comes from love is a wonderful gift to give our world and I’m grateful for the love you’ve brought to our world with your article. 🙂

    • What a beautiful way to focus our energies, Elle. Thank you SO much for sharing this example from Mother Theresa. I’m grateful for all the goodness you bring to the world too, Elle. We’ll keep spreading goodness as best we can!

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