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Good Grief: why I'll march to #INDICTAMERICA tonight

Grief is an appropriate response.  I feel it running down my spine, pooling in my legs, and pouring into the earth I pray can hold all this. 

Last night, the grand jury in Ferguson Missouri released their decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teenager Mike Brown.  

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, grand juries only declined to return an indictment on 11 out of the 162,000 federal cases U.S. attorneys tried in 2010.  In other words -- the decision the jury delivered last night is damn near unheard of.  And delivery of that decision at 8pm is hard to see as anything other than a set-up for a grieving, tired community to lose its long held composure.

This morning, like every Tuesday morning, I taught a yoga and meditation class to black and brown teenagers in a public high school in Brooklyn, NY.  Not knowing how much they already knew about last night's grand jury decision, or how much they wanted to know, I led them through a familiar series of poses and a guided meditation.  In our closing discussion circle, I simply asked how they were feeling today, letting them guide the conversation.  There was a long silence.  A colleague brought in a gallon of hot chocolate and mini donuts.  We were grateful for the comfort food, and for something to occupy our mouths and hands when we didn't know what to say or do.  Gradually, students began to open up.  Most admitted they were unsurprised by the verdict.  Many were angry, some were tearful. One young woman exclaimed that she didn't care, couldn't care any more, that police kill black people every other day and she can't just stop and cry every time it happens or her eyes would never be dry. 

All I could think to say was, "If I could take this away, I would.  I would do anything to make this better.”

In the Buddhist texts, compassion is defined as quivering of the heart in response to suffering – AND the capacity to respond skillfully.  Compassion without equanimity slips into pity, or overwhelm.  If I'm gonna keep my heart open, open enough to care and to be effective, I need to be reminded daily that I'm not alone.  Especially today.  And I want the people of Ferguson to know they’re not alone either.

As soon as I post this, I’ll leave to join the thousands of people who are already gathering in Union Square in New York City, and in hundreds of cities around the country.  We lost our innocence again last night with the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, and it was a staggering loss.  We’ll grieve that loss together, grieve all of the lives lost due to racist violence in a country that still swears racism is a thing of the past.

Grief has a way of stopping time.  Mouths drop open.  We look each other in the eyes.  The moment seems endless.  When time stops like this, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be one in a crowd of many who care, making ourselves visible to ourselves, and to each other. 


 

Black lives matter.

 

 

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