I know I am not the only person in Portland who is heartbroken this week after the tragic and senseless loss of two local heroes: Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche. I have found myself experiencing grief, fear, anger and blame in the days following the hateful act that took their lives. I have found myself succumbing to the familiar sympathetic nervous system response: Fight or Flight. I have had thoughts of rage and thoughts of moving to Canada. Through all of this, there is that ever present part of myself that observes, and calmly reminds me that I can pause, experience these feelings and simply hold space for them before I react or let the feelings turn to a toxic emotional sludge inside of me. There is always something underneath blame, shame and anger. It is a simple kind of pain that is so uncomfortable that we rush to turn it into something we can throw back out. I return to a simple practice that I learned from my Tibetan Buddhist teachers called Tonglen, which I find profoundly useful in times like this. There are different variations on this practice, but this is the one I find most useful. If you’d like to try it, take a moment here:
Tonglen Practice for staying present with pain:
-Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Think of a feeling or experience that has happened in recent days that is very difficult for you to stay present and non-reactive with.
-On the inhale breath: Feel what is there, and allow yourself to go fully into this feeling.
-On the exhale breath: Offer this feeling up to be held by the heart of the world, and all of the others who also feel as you do.
-Do this several times, and notice if the feeling transforms. How does it change? What is different? Take a few minutes to write down what you experienced in a journal.
I am aware that what I am feeling as a person who experiences many levels of privilege is nothing compared to the stress of living every day as a member of a marginalized or targeted community. I am aware that those of us who have always believed we would stand up to hate if and when we saw it in front of us are now feeling the real stakes of this. I am aware of the courage, strength and resilience that is asked of us in these times, to continue to hold space for love over fear.
In honor of the sacrifice of our local heroes and their families, I am offering a free restorative yoga and self-care workshop on Saturday, June 17th from 2:30-4pm. Donations will be accepted but are not required, and will go to the fundraising campaign for the victims of the Trimet stabbings. This event is open to all who seek peace.
I hope to see some of you at our community events this month.
In Love and Service,
Kate Holly, ERYT-500, MFA
Director of Yoga Refuge