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San Bruno fire, Lovingkindness, and Tonglen

Near the San Francisco airport, around 6 p.m. last night, in San Bruno, fire engulfed a neighborhood of homes. Apparently, a Pacific Gas and Electric line ruptured, shooting fireballs into the air, actually melting cars, destroying dozens of homes, and killing at least 6 people. This photo, and more, are on The Huffington Post.

Disasters always make the news. My first thought on seeing and hearing the news this morning was "Oh no, more bad news." And then, of course, "Those poor people!" MSNBC.com had a vivid summary that pretty much told me what I wanted to know.

What's a person to do?

What's the reaction I had, and how can I actually help? Including the victims in a lovingkindness meditation this morning, practicing some tonglen, and actually sending some money to the American Red Cross or other local charities is my plan. I can't really imagine what it must be like to come home around 6 p.m. to find giant fireballs racing thru your streets as everything you own is incinerated. Or what it must be like to wonder if your husband or wife or parents or kids were in the house as you watch it blow up. Unimaginable.

When I sat down to meditate, to practice a metta, or lovingkindness meditation (IDP lineage mentor Sharon Salzburg is the dean of teaching that - ck her name link for a powerful discussion of the practice), first I checked in. What was the emotional temperature? Truly and honestly, what was going on? First off, fear. Fear that it might happen to me, or that I know someone it happened to. Honestly, that's what it was. And so I sat with it. That's all I really know how to do. After about 5 years of practice, I still haven't found some secret, better transcendently self-improving way to deal with pain and fear than honesty and fearlessness in the face of what is often a rocky and rather forbidding emotional landscape. Nope. No way to not feel it. No way around it.

Then I felt pain. No one wants pain; everyone wants to blame someone else. Everyone wants it to go away. Yup.

I spent a week listening to Pema Chodron talk about working with fear, fearlessness, pain, and compassion. I cannot put it better myself and won't try. Here's a brief clip of Pema talking about transforming pain into compassion, and doing tonglen.

If you'd like to try it, for the victims of the San Bruno explosion, give it a shot. If you'd like to try it on something else, give that a shot, too. And send some physical or monetary help if you can. With all the compassionate thoughts, shirts and pants and cars and everything else for the victims are definitely going to be in order.

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Comments

tonglen

Yes, yr right about that video. There is a Part II as well that I didn't post. Her books have clear explanations.
Whether or not the actual practice has an effect on the person contemplated, I do think that if the practitioner can open up to him or herself and open up to their compassionate nature, then they can act from it. Any situation the practitioner is directly involved in will shift. His or her actions can change and have a real effect on the world.

bur

she doesn't explain how to do tonglen, she just talks about it. so if you don't already know how, you can't do it.
but that begs the question ... even if you know how and you do it, it doesn't DO anything for anyone but you. or am I missing something? srsly, I've done it, I get that it can be profound, but it doesn't help anyone except the person doing it, from what I can see.

(No subject)

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