4 Meditations to Apply within the Wake of a Tragedy

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Diana Winston teaches a step-by-step meditation to practice in tragic times.

Photo by Matthew Henry.

After a tragedy on the news, I often focus my meditation on the suffering associated with it. I have several practices that address my terror and sadness. Here is an overview of my typical session, which can be any length of time:

1. Loving kindness

I start with loving kindness and compassion – and direct them to tragedy and everything else that moves me. After the Fukushima disaster, I felt my sympathy for the fish in the ocean near the reactor or the families of the victims of the tsunami. I trust my creativity and follow what attracts my heart. I use horrific images from the news to cultivate compassion. I remember an image and feel it affect me and then offer compassion as I exhale: may you be free from suffering, may you be safe and protected. May you be healthy.

2. Gratitude

Sometimes this practice leads to gratitude. The first aiders often show spontaneous gratitude. They are truly heroic individuals. I could silently direct the gratitude in their direction.

3. Check in

Then, while doing these two exercises, I check my body and my emotions if other feelings often arise – fear, concern for my family, sadness. When these emotions come, I try to keep them in a space of mindfulness and compassion. I breathe. I notice how they feel in my body. I let her be. Sometimes I turn compassion on myself.

4. Intention directing

Then I do a simple line of intent. Some may call it prayer. In the case of Fukushima, I would use my imagination (visual, tactile or sensory) to visualize the contained plant radiation and the shutdown of the plant. I would get a feeling that the nearly 500 nuclear power plants on the planet have been decommissioned – replaced by wind and solar power and other alternatives. Sometimes I imagine millions of people marching on the street shouting an end to atomic madness. I would see my daughter grow up healthy and whole without fear.

Can these practices make a difference? Who knows? Research on the effects of prayer is patchy. What I do know is that it certainly affects my own opinion. And I would also like to believe that if millions of us direct our minds towards healing through inner work combined with action in the world, then maybe we have a chance.

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