This article was originally published on November 18 2015. It has been updated and reposted as I feel this contemplation is relevant today.
It is hard to make sense of our world sometimes.
There have been far too many sad, shocking and horrific events happening around the world lately. When I first wrote this article my newborn daughter was asleep on my lap, sprawled out in total abandon, coo-ing gently. I remember wanting nothing more than to turn away from the news and let myself be absorbed by her innocence, to be caught up in her sleepy web.
It is hard to believe in a few months she will be two, and be a big sister.
She has been such a light in my life. To watch her consciousness come alive and see her comprehension grow day after day is a miracle.
At the same time as she becomes aware of the world outside herself I know she will one day know the pain of loss and confusion. She too will feel broken by people who do horrible things, divisive things to one another.
And I have no answers for her.
I have no idea how I will explain why bad things happen once she is old enough to ask, because I don't understand it myself. All I can do is try to teach her to never turn away from her humanity and do everything in my power as a parent to protect her body, mind, heart and soul from hatred.
Pray For Peace?
This week, I have seen a lot of my spiritually minded friends posting on social media that what we need to do right now is pray for peace.
I get the sentiment and know it comes from a good place.
As humans we use rituals and symbolism to help us bring order and understanding in the face of things that don’t make sense or events we can’t control. We set intentions, talk to a God, a Goddess or the Universe. We rationalize, theorize, philosophize and search endlessly to find small comforts in the discomfort of the present situation.
We pray and it feels like we are doing something, adding light where there seems to be nothing but darkness.
It bolsters us as humans and can be an important first step in dealing with the enormity of the problems before us.
But while praying for peace may help us feel connected to the suffering we witness, prayers are not enough.
The Dalai Lama spoke in an interview a few years ago to this point and I think it still rings true;
“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.
We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody's interest. So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.”
We have major problems to solve both at home and globally and I don’t have a solution.
They seem so complex and far reaching that it is tempting to throw up my hands in the face of this mess and hope someone else will clean it up.
Maybe you feel that way too.
Does Spiritual Practice Matter Anymore?
But we can't afford to wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting.
I can't sit back and hope that someone else makes the world a better place for the next generation. I don't think I could look my own children in the eye and tell them my only contribution towards a more harmonious culture was that I prayed for it.
But I do think that spiritual practice has a place somewhere along the path to a better future.
My own practice includes yoga and meditation.
And while I would never claim that these practices will heal the minds and hearts who have been broken by violence and tragedy, they do give me more room to see the bigger picture without turning away.
Yoga has always been (for me at least) training for living with discomfort. Asana has taught me that just because something is difficult or even scary it doesn’t mean I should refuse it or shy away.
Meditation is a tool that helps me face the world by providing space from things that are too overwhelming to take in all at once. It is a reminder to look at the each situation from a wider lens and act in ways that support the world I want my children and all children to grow up in.
There is beauty, deep purpose and love in this world and I hope to inspire my kids to live as embodiments of those things.
So even though I know that yoga and meditation can’t solve the complex political, religious and cultural divides that we face globally right now, I do know that having a daily practice can help build the inner strength it will take to face what is difficult and embrace our responsibilities towards a better future and a more unified world.
I hope whatever your practice is, it is a tool to navigate the way forward. The worlds needs more people to be awake, part of the conversation, and an active part of the solution.
If your spiritual practice helps you to do that, then it still matters.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.