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Jun 05
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Enduring Tragedy

Suffering-Tragedy-Doubtby Jake Lorfing
Director of Societal Health and Wellbeing
Austin Shambhala Center

Following the recent disasters and attacks in Massachusetts, Texas, and Oklahoma, I suspect that many of us have sat glued to our TVs and computer screens, watching images of trauma and violence over and over again. A word of warning: DON’T!

It is easy to become traumatized by these events, even from a great distance, and I want to encourage each of you to take good care of yourselves, your families and friends.

Here are some simple things you can do:

– Turn off the TV and stay away from online news feeds. You will get the news you need, but constant watching reinforces the trauma with repeated stories and images.

– Do something enjoyable: get outside for a walk or some exercise, play with the kids.

– Eat healthily, and avoid intoxicants.

– Rest.

– Talk to a good friend.

– And finally, practice: meditate, do healing practices and tonglen, rest in peaceful abiding. Whatever peace we can bring to our own situations lessens aggression everywhere.

People rush to higher ground as a new tsIn the past, I worked extensively overseeing mental health interventions following disasters, violence and suicides. I listened to a lot of stories, and eventually found myself a bit traumatized. Many of us, I suspect, experience a quickening of pulse and a tightening of stomach when the 9/11 footage of airplanes hitting the World Trade Towers replays on television. That reaction is wired into us now, and our habitual minds and bodies seem always eager to replay our reactions.

Luckily, our practice allows us to notice, sooner rather than later, that we’re becoming overstimulated, and to dial down the intensity of our response. But let’s not think that we are immune to secondary trauma, just because we practice. As communities, let’s begin to gather and care for ourselves, and explore how to take that caring into the world.

Finally, there’s a wealth of information online for those with children and those with special circumstances. Rather than watching an ongoing news feed, switch over to Google, and enter “What can I do?”.

For more articles from the Office of Societal Health & Wellbeing, please click here.

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2 responses to “ Enduring Tragedy ”
  1. Binging on insanity, aggression, and tragedy in the media doesn’t make us useful to anyone. But on the other hand, how are we going to fare in the bardo if we create a cocoon for ourselves now? Wouldn’t it be better to open our hearts with compassion while at the same time recognizing the illusory and dreamlike nature of these events? We can take action without getting hooked or traumatized, even if it’s just dedicating the merit.

  2. Christine Sloan
    Jun 10, 2013

    Dear Jake,

    Thank you for this reminder. I do not have TV and I have stopped much of my online news gathering. I prefer the gentler voice of public radio. Although it is important that we allow ourselves to feel deeply the suffering of others, it needs to be within the space of our own basic goodness. Otherwise, I do believe we too become traumatized. I would add to your suggestions gathering with friends and sangha to practice and recite the Heart Sutra as was suggested by the Sakyong after the 911 tragedy.

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