Gifts of Prayer in the Wake of Tragedy

An email exchange among friends about the Newtown shooting brought the two prayers below to my in-box, spiritual gifts from the “cloud” that I share in tremendous gratitude.

God, Let Me Cry on Your Shoulder
A prayer after today’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat 

God, let me cry on Your shoulder.

Rock me like a colicky baby.
Promise me You won’t forget

each of Your perfect reflections
killed today. Promise me
You won’t let me forget, either.

I’m hollow, stricken like a bell.
Make of my emptiness a channel
for Your boundless compassion.

Soothe the children who witnessed
things no child should see,
the teachers who tried to protect them

but couldn’t, the parents
who are torn apart with grief,
who will never kiss their beloveds again.

Strengthen the hands and hearts
of Your servants tasked with caring
for those wounded in body and spirit.

Help us to find meaning
in the tiny lights we kindle tonight.
Help us to trust

that our reserves of hope
and healing are enough
to carry us through.

We are Your hands: put us to work.
Ignite in us the unquenchable yearning
to reshape our world

so that violence against children
never happens again, anywhere.
We are Your grieving heart.
**************************************
Connecticut
By Susan Piver, a Buddhist teacher and writer

It is almost impossible, no, it is impossible, to have any idea about how to react
to a tragedy as profound and senseless as the one that occurred today at an
elementary school in Connecticut. It is impossible to grasp.

I’m sure that, like me, many of you have been crying all day.

An event this horrific causes us to see that all of our normal coping mechanisms
are inadequate. We turn to each one—blame, hiding, medicating—and each one
fails.

Nothing can make this okay. There is no explanation that helps. Blaming lack of gun
control, insufficient guns, or inadequate mental health care may be entirely
reasonable and valid, but it doesn’t matter. No matter how right you are (or
aren’t), it doesn’t change the grief, rage, or numbness.

Using ideas to treat or metabolize feelings is ineffective.

Then what? I’m afraid that there are only a very few things we can do other than to
be absolutely, irredeemably heartbroken. Weep, sob, rage. Weep, sob, rage. Every
time your mind tries to tell you, “this is because of poor gun control,” or
“this world is rotten, terrible and I have to ignore it in order to survive,”
and/or “if mental healthcare was better, we could help people before they
explode into violence,” please ask it to wait. I’m not saying we shouldn’t act.
WE SHOULD. But before we act, we should feel. Let your heart break.
Let down your guard. There is a strange redemption in heartbreak.

In your own way, you could open your heart to the suffering of all who have been
directly involved.

Relax your mind and then think:

For all of you children who lost
your lives and may now be wandering bereft and confused, I share your suffering
with you. In return I offer you my peace.

Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your peace.

For all of you parents who lost
your children, I share your unspeakable suffering with you. May I take even the
tiniest bit of your sorrow and rage into my own heart to relieve you of it. In
return, I send you my strength.

Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your strength.

For all of of you children who
lived through this horrific day, I share your suffering with you. May I take in
your fear and your nightmares. I send you my bravery.

Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your bravery.

For the officials of the state
of Connecticut and of this country who now must bear witness and act, I share
your suffering with you. May I take in your doubt and confusion about what to do
and how to feel. I send you my confidence and compassion.

Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your confidence and compassion.

Then, as best you can, relax your mind and sit quietly for a few minutes or a few
lifetimes.

We can’t leave out that someone committed this crime. We might hate the horrible
monster who did so. We might condemn and excoriate him. I’m not saying don’t do
that. It’s not useful (especially to you), but it is human. The only thing we
cannot do under any circumstance is think that we are any different than he
is.

It would take a very big person to offer compassion to the perpetrator and I for
one am not capable of it today. But while I cannot feel kindhearted, nor will I
permit myself to imagine that if I lived his life, I would not be just like
him.

In the meantime, tonight I will wrap my arms around those I love and, recognizing
the extraordinary fragility of our lives, give thanks for the preciousness of
our time together. Truly the only solace is in the dharmas of love,
compassion, and fierce warriorship.

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3 Responses to Gifts of Prayer in the Wake of Tragedy

  1. Peg, thanks for sharing these two eloquent responses at a time that finds most of us speechless with horror and grief. We must unite in love: it’s all that lasts.

  2. Pingback: What Comes Next | Embodying the Sacred

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