Last Wednesday was a very tough day in Seattle, and I spent most of the day completely oblivious to it. As many of you know, several people were killed in a local coffee shop that morning by a mentally ill gunman. There’s no discounting the tragedy for the victims, the families and friends – even the shooter himself.
But I spent the day working in a different realm: finishing the fourth draft of my novel, which is, ironically, a yoga murder mystery. I sent the manuscript to my editor just 30 minutes before arriving at the studio to teach. To say I was in a good mood would have been an understatement. I sang, danced, and “high fived” myself all the way down Greenwood Ave, ecstatic at having reached this personally huge milestone.
Then I walked into the studio.
The first person I encountered told me about the shootings and the frantic calls she’d received from family and friends. I responded with something eloquent like “Huh? Did something happen today?” Soon after, another student told me that her son’s school had spent the day in lock down. Later, another friend told me how the manhunt had almost expanded to Greenwood – all while I’d been blissfully unaware, creating my own version of mayhem in a wonderfully fictional world.
I have to admit to feeling a little separated from this, even though I myself was the victim of random violence many years ago. I suspect that’s because I heard about it so much later than everyone else. Part of me felt guilty for not being as upset as those around me – and part of me didn’t. You see, the yoga teachings never promised us an easy life. They never promised freedom from suffering. In fact, they literally say that suffering is inevitable.
What they do promise, however, is a path to peace in spite of it. They offer us a port in the storm. No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what happens in this great lottery we call life. But we can hopefully learn how to be more balanced and peaceful in spite of it.
If you’ve met me, you know that I’m far from perfect. I stress and angst and worry with the best of them. But yoga and meditation help. All we have to do is practice.
I taught the meditation below in my class that night. May it help you find your own safe harbor in the storms of life.
A Simple Meditation for Inner Peace:
- Sit or lie comfortably, with your spine in a neutral position.
- Allow your eyes to close and notice your breath – without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
- When you are ready, think of a word that represents inner peace or equanimity to you. It could be balance, peace, calm, silence, or any other word that has meaning to you.
- Each time you exhale, mentally recite that word, and feel inner peace pour through your body, as if it were washing through every cell. When your attention wanders, just notice it, and invite your attention back to the breath at the tip of your nose. Then return to reciting your word or phrase with every exhale.
- Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.
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