In response to the Manchester tragedy, I decided to repost this piece that I wrote a few years ago. My heart goes out to everyone affected.
With the latest string of terrorist attacks, and seeing American Sniper this week, my mind and heart have been very busy. My mind, as usual, has been busy trying to make sense of all of this, to try and process the pain and loss and hate and choices that people can make, and to try and figure out how to make it better… and my heart has been busy trying to stay open despite the fear and anger that inevitably pop up with events like this.
When it comes to our brains, I don’t think that we can actually make sense of terrorism (like the Paris attacks or the events depicted in Iraq in American Sniper) unless we, too, are filled with hate. No loving person can understand taking the lives of innocent people, regardless of whatever injustices one can try and come up with in the past… it just doesn’t process. Brain Fail.
Whenever our brain fails in making sense of a situation, there is tremendous discomfort, regardless of the circumstances. Adding in the life or death situation associated with terrorism, we get stuck in that fear + discomfort cycle. We may say “terrorism wins if we are afraid” – but I don’t see how any human being could avoid experiencing fear when it comes to situations like this.
The question is, what do we do with our fear or rather, what do we allow our fear to do to us?
As I wrote last week, when we feel fear we have an energetic movement that involves an automatic closing of our heart in an effort to protect ourselves. When our heart closes, we cut off our main spiritual energy flow and cut off from love. This can be temporary if we are successful in “getting ourselves comfortable” again (in other words, our brain goes to work processing what has happened and how we want to respond to it), but that is just burying something that remains inside of us.
Everyone has a different response to terrorism and I don’t want to be judgmental and pretend that I can empathize with what everyone feels and that I *know* how every individual handles things like this. I am going to give some general examples, however, in case they resonate and can help bring clarity to what I am trying to explain about our hearts.
Example: Terrorism attack occurs, we are shocked, horrified, heartbroken, outraged. We get angry (some people very, very quickly) and say we are not going to let terrorism win – we are going to keep right on doing the very thing that the terrorists were trying to stop, whatever freedom it is. Great. (sincerely) Ok, so we aren’t going to let fear affect our activities.
But what has that has fear done to our hearts?
IF OUR FEAR TURNS TO ANGER AND THAT ANGER TURNS TO HATE, THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON.
Hate is the hardening close of our hearts toward something or someone. Hate is darkness, the opposite of love. Hate inherently creates more suffering and threatens to increase the amount of hate/darkness in the world. It is a black hole of sorts, pulling in more darkness. Darkness is the opposite of what we all seek – to feel safe, to feel loved and *worthy of love*.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So how is your heart after the latest terrorist attacks? Is it open? Is it loving? Do you know how to tell? And why does it really matter in the scheme of these macro issues?
Imagine some scenarios and see how you feel (and pay attention to differentiate between what goes on in your brain and what you feel in your heart)… let the scenarios be as racially or politically charged as possible to really root out your biases (we all have them) and see how your heart feels in those situations. Be aware of how fear pops up thanks to our brains’ “analysis” of the situation (our brains are trying to anticipate things based on everything that we have experienced in our lives, but in reality we have very little real info about the present situation) and see how much work it takes to stay open hearted and loving in those moments. Imagine someone asking you for legitimate help – can you find the compassion to try and help (I’m not saying doing something stupid, but would you go out of your way to help as long as you are safe)? Can you care about how they are feeling? If not, you aren’t remaining open hearted. You are unable to be compassionate.
If you aren’t able to stay open hearted, shine a light on it. Be brutally honest. What is going on inside of you?
Do you close your heart with fear/hate in any situation you can envision? Most humans do.
Why does this matter? Aren’t we supposed to be protecting ourselves? (of course, but I contend that keeping an open heart will always serve us: we will keep a clear head and INTUITIVELY KNOW when there is actually a threat that we need to act on.)
The deal is that it starts with each of us. If we are able to stay loving no matter what atrocities or fears we are faced with, we can heal. If we go dark, there is no healing, only more suffering. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
I deeply believe that we are here on this planet spinning around a small star in a vast expanse of open space to shine our light as bright as we can in each moment (and shine = work really, really hard on whatever is in front of us to make the world a better place, with boundless love in our hearts). If there are certain situations or scenarios that bring up hate, we need to root it out if we want our world to be a better place. Hate is contagious, but fortunately so is love. And love *can* melt a heart hardened with hate.
It takes great strength and faith to remain loving, shining, in dark times. But that is the only way we are going to heal this darkness and move into a better time of humanity.
We are each responsible for our own light – don’t ever give up that power. Don’t ever blame losing your shine on someone or something outside of yourself. Work to find a way to shine love as bright as you can NO MATTER WHAT LIFE THROWS AT YOU. If we stop shining, then terrorism really wins.
LOVE is what beats terrorism. LOVE. Not just “going about business as usual” and definitely not hate. Hate truly means that the terrorists won.