As I contemplate the latest news about the Israel-Hamas war, is meditating for an hour in the morning even relevant?
As I write this, the world seems even more precarious than last week. It’s difficult for me to write today. It’s as if the sorrow fell overnight like a snowstorm, blocking the doors, making it hard to get in the open air and breathe.
Is meditation relevant?
It’s fine for us to have our private little nirvanas along with our macchiatos, but so what? As I contemplate the latest news about the Israel-Hamas war, is meditating for an hour in the morning even relevant?
I received a newsletter yesterday from Stephen Fulder, who is an Israeli teacher of Buddhist meditation based in Jerusalem. He writes:
We are in the midst of unprecedented pain and the suffering of unimaginable violence. There is a climate of fear and anger, and loss, which for some is overwhelming.
He goes on to say he cannot for a second condone the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians of Gaza, in response to the October 7th attack. He writes:
... as if that will be an answer. It will not be. ‘An eye for an eye will leave the entire world blind’. The evidence is clear.
What can we do with our private nirvanas?
Thankfully, when we sit down and settle our attention on the breath, our meditation offers our mind a break from the news cycle.
And this break gives us the breathing room to connect with the compassion that is just waiting for us to recognize.
The needless destruction of Gaza and the untold suffering there is staggering; my mind shuts down. Infants and the elderly dying from dehydration from the Israeli blockade, while bombs fall.
I just want to turn it all off and escape into some hobby I don’t have.
The Diaries of Etty Hillesum
Perhaps the best advice I had read all week on how to deal with all this sorrow comes from Etty Hileshum. She was born on January 15, 1914, in the Netherlands.
All we know of her is from a diary she kept from 1941 until they murdered her at Auschwitz in December 1943.
She writes in her diary:
“Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that it needs, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge – from which new sorrows will be born for others – then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply. And if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich.”
So what do we do with our private nirvanas?
Stephen Fulder answers:
Radiate compassion for all sides and for ourselves. And let it direct and energize us to act skilfully in the world, helping to create the conditions for a peaceful and fulfilling life for all.
May all beings be safe.
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