I wrote the first version of this piece after the November 2015 Paris attacks, then updated it in November 2018 after the tragedy just down the road in Thousand Oaks. Today, yet again, as all too often of late, we’re trying to process our feelings of shock, grief, and horror after the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings.
Horror can sap our strength
When we’re confronted with dark events, dark forces, even horrific experiences and images, it’s natural to be blindsided. We don’t ever quite grow numb to it. And it’s easy to fixate. To lose focus. To lose energy and heart.
We can lose the vision of our way forward. We can lose the energy for anything. Our peace of mind, even our beliefs, shattered. Again.
Challenge and the way forward
In times of terrible trial, consider that your shattered focus is help that you don’t have to wait for. This challenge to your battered heart is the way forward. As one world leader said during a dark time in the 20th Century:
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
—Sir Winston Churchill
This guidance is right on in the fires of fear, pain, and the loss of simple human happiness. Loss of confidence in the next day or week or season for ourselves and our fellow humans.
In fact, to counteract darkness, double down on what matters most to you. Despite everything. Stay focused. Or re-focus. Or begin to focus, on your highest priorities. Live your values. What you find most meaningful and beautiful.
Walk. Your. Path.
It’s a discipline. Maybe the ultimate discipline. Maybe challenging enough that you can’t fixate on what would further sap your body, mind, and spirit.
Another great wisdom-keeper said it this way:
Do not let the behavior of another destroy your inner peace.
—the Dalai Lama
Be as informed and present as you feel is sustainable for you. Be active in creating change in ways that speak to you. Send your empathy and care telepathically to victims and their families. To anyone struggling for life.
Donate money and other resources. Express yourself in whatever ways feel right. And try to generate peace rather than yet more conflict. Practice compassion, including self-compassion, and real self-care.
In other words, put on your own oxygen mask now, right now, as one way of counteracting understandable emotional paralysis in the face of horror. And keep moving forward on your goals in the ways that matter to you today, one foot in front of the other. And pace yourself in the process. There’s time for all things.
In fact, take time to meditate, rest, and consciously take part in whatever helps to calm your spirit. Then you’re helping to generate the light that humanity needs at such dark moments. Plus you’re modeling that good work.
Do your work. Walk your path. And reach out for the support you need. In short, proceed, dear ones. Proceed.