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In the midst of tragedies, suffering and grief how do we find peace?

Late last night (or really, early this morning), I found myself still scanning through news stories and pictures of the tragedy in Newton, CT yesterday. I felt helpless in the face of so much pain, and could feel myself slipping into what my friend Rachel describes as the “numbing distraction” of online surfing. I knew practice offered other options to me, but at 2am a numbed engagement was the best I could muster before forcing myself to go to bed.

Our friend Gary Stone of the Washington (DC) Buddhist Peace Fellowship sent this note to WBPF chapter members this morning. I asked Gary and Peter if I could repost it here, as it offers some concrete practices you and I might find useful – from breathing through tragedy to contributing direct material support to this community to remembering that even in tragedy, life presents simple joys like the sweetness of a cookie.


To Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship:

Opportunities for Mindful Action for Peace and Social Justice

In the midst of tragedies, suffering and grief how do we find peace?

Today, as we each look to our Mindfulness practice to help us take-in and respond to the abhorrent killing of so many innocent lives yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in what could well have been our own home town, among our own neighbors, and our own children … i would like to share with you two different kinds of opportunities for mindful action.

One (below), a beautiful message from Peter in our Still Water Mindfulness Practice community about how we can find peace in the midst of such tragedy, and help others, too.

And here: How you can help directly: in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Shore Line Times, Newton, Connecticut, December 15, 2012

Your own thoughts are welcome in Reply to All on this email list … (edit: And in the comments below!)

May all awaken and be free and without suffering.


This morning many, if not all, of us awaken with heavy hearts. Twenty four hours ago, as I write this, 20 children and there families were awakening to a new day and life. Soon they would be no more in this life. Countless others are suffering too as the result of one person’s actions. In the midst of this, and other tragedies, suffering and grief how do we find peace?

About 15 years ago Mitchell was on a retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn at Plum Village in France. Also attending was a well known Zen master. One day Mitchell was out chopping wood with the Zen master and asked him: “Why are you here? You have a nice center with comfortable quarters and many students, yet you are here in this rustic place washing dishes and chopping wood with us. Why?

The Zen master replied: “I wanted to be in the presence of one who can take in the suffering of the world and still enjoy a cookie.”

Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese monk who was exiled from his own country because he helped those suffering regardless of whether they were from the North or the South during that long war is one such person.

How do we learn to take in the suffering of the world and still enjoy a cookie?

On this morning after the killings in Connecticut sadness, grief, fear, anger may very well be our predominate emotions.
We can open our hearts to those who are left – those who were there and heard and saw. The families and friends. All of us in our deep interconnectedness.

We are all woven into this web of life and death together. Take care of those closest to you. Tell them you love them. Hold them close. Especially our children. And radiate love, kindness, caring out to all who are suffering, over the entire world.

Mary Oliver said:

To live in this world you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

Breathe in peace. Breathe out love.
Breathe in love. Breathe out caring.
Breathe in caring. Breathe out peace.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

I would like to share this with you also. For more on breathing and working with personal, communal, national and world tragedies go to:

May you find peace and love in your hearts, today and always.

In gladness and in safety
May we all be at ease

Peter Mosher

Photo: Deep Breath – Melanie Weidner

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