This is why we practice

This week our province (and indeed, our entire country) has been in the darkness of terrrible tragedy.   A bus crash on a rural highway involving a semi and the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus took the lives of 15 people, leaving another 14 wounded, many critically.  As I sit down to write this post, it’s 10:30 on a Tuesday night and I’ve just driven home 45 minutes from the city listening to the Current on CBC featuring several conversations about the accident.   For many of us living in Saskatchewan, travelling the higways is a big part of our day to day lives and I don’t think there is a single person here who hasn’t taken pause to feel the profound impact this accident has had on this province. 

As I listen to the stories of the team photographer snap chatting with a player moments before the accident, the first Bronco parents on the scene,  Logan’s organ donation, the millions of hockey sticks being placed on front porches “for our boys in heaven” ~ my heart swells, and my eyes tear up, and I breathe in the pain and I exhale love.  

There’s been a phrase that has continually passed through my mind since learning about the bus crash on Friday evening.  It’s from Danielle Laporte’s book, White Hot Truth.   

“This is why we practice.”

For anyone who is feeling the weight of this tragic event, I wanted to share some of my thoughts in the hope that they may bring comfort to you.. 

I was reading Pema Chodron’s book, “When things Fall Apart” earlier this evening and something she said really stood out to me.  She wrote about how practicing Tonglen meditation is a path towards an awakened heart. 

Tonglen meditation is a practice of inviting in the experiences of others and utilizing our breath as a tool to offer healing, or joy.   

One way to practice Tonglen is when we notice someone in pain. We can inhale their pain and exhale to offer them relief or spaciosness.  We can also practice when we are experiencing joy by inhaling into our joy and exhaling it as an offering to others.   Tonglen is a way to offer up our breath as a path toward healing and connection with others.   

Pema explains that as we allow ourselves to breathe in the pain of others in the hope of offering them relief, we are softening our own hearts.  The amount of support and overwhelming offerings of love for the Broncos and the town of Humboldt over the past few days has really shown this to be true.   As we hear about the pain of those who have been directly impacted by the crash, we can’t help but want to hold that pain and take it away for them.  The very act of doing this, according to Pema, is an act of awakening.

I know that we would all emphatically choose to stay asleep if awakening has to come at such a painful cost.   If we could choose, we’d have those 15 people at home right now with their loved ones instead of what has happened.   And, of course, we can’t make that choice.   We’ve all had our hearts broken and now in our tenderness we are opening to create community in support of the Broncos.   

And so I ask of you today, let it not be in vain. 

As the news story fades into the background, the healing journey will continue in Humboldt and in the young men & the families of those involved in the accident.   I am asking that you don’t close your heart again, but that you see that pain you feel right now is your heart calling you into love. I want you to feel how much love you have inside of you right now.   How much love this tragedy has unlocked inside your body.    And, as painful as it feels right now and as tempting as it may be to close back up again, I want you to stay open.  I want to stay open. 

“this ache in your heart is holy” ~ The Radiance Sutras, Lorin Roche

Continue to breathe in the pain, continue to breathe out love.   And, when you feel joy remember to share it with others.   Breathe it out as an offering to the world. 

“What will you do with one breath? Each breath that you have left, what are you going to do with it?”  ~ Broncos team Pastor, Sean Brandow

Today I am inviting you to spend five minutes practicing Tonglen meditation.   Begin by focusing on your breath and feeling the love that is inside of you.  As you inhale, invite in the pain of those who have been impacted by this tragedy and as you exhale offer love, spaciousness and healing.  After you’ve finished, take some time to fill yourself up again with gentle caressing, shaking, or rest.   Breathe deeply and offer yourself any love and compassion you need. 

This is why we practice.   #humboldtstrong #prayersforhumboldt