Is it possible to remain peaceful when you are faced with extremely frightening events? Can you feel fear and peace simultaneously? And hold love in your heart through it all? More and more, we are living the answers to questions like these. In Massachusetts, where I live, during the 2013 Boston Marathon, residents found themselves in the midst of a terrorist drama that dragged on for five days. As fate would have it, I was away from home, on retreat with Panache Desai in Florida, during that exact time period. Within the group of 46 people from all over the world, there were several of us from Massachusetts.
We first heard the news about the explosions at the Boston Marathon when the daughter of one couple phoned her parents in tears. Remembering with a terrible sinking feeling that my partner was at the marathon, I left the session to phone her. Finally, I got through and cried with relief upon hearing her voice. In the days that followed, those of us from Massachusetts kept in touch with loved ones back home, supported by the deep caring of others in the group, many of whom knew firsthand about living with political unrest and violence in their own countries. Panache himself grew up in London, where bombings were an ongoing part of life.
During the course of the week, together we held a space of peace, love, and compassion for those in Boston as well as for those elsewhere in the world who face terrorism, violence, and gut-wrenching fear. True, we were one step removed from the events in Boston, but because many of us had family and friends there, the fear was very real for all of us. Each day brought some new painful piece to assimilate. On Friday, when I learned that pursuit of the two suspected bombers was taking place less than a mile from my home, I once again felt adrenaline course through my system. On the phone, my partner told me that the entire city was under lockdown, and she could hear helicopters flying low over the house, searching the area. It was surreal—and frightening. Yet, even in the midst of it, she and I found we were able to remain relatively calm and centered. “Breathe,” she said to me. “I’m here. I’m okay in this moment.”
And that’s how we got through the week, one breath, one moment, at a time. Feeling everything and letting it flow through our bodies. All of us in Panache’s group were experiencing our various individual fears and pain within the larger spaciousness we had opened ourselves to—allowing instead of resisting what had occurred in the past and what was unfolding in the present. I’ve found such a deep wisdom in that process. For me, it means being open to every part of life—embracing it all, every exquisite or excruciating minute. Within that embrace is a peace that helps me to live my life with less suffering and tension, even in the middle of frightening or upsetting circumstances.
Back home in Boston, I was especially moved by the stories of those who stepped forward to help others during the explosions and by the community spirit that flowed within and toward Boston from individuals and groups across the country and around the world. A One Fund was established to help those most affected by what occurred. One, oneness—it was empathy and heart-felt love that people were feeling. May that love continue to expand, and may we peacefully heal the separation that gives rise to violence.
“The greatest gift that you can offer our planet is the gift of your peace.”—Panache Desai