You can come home now

Another shooting occurred. This time several days ago on February 14, 2018 at a Douglas High School in Florida.

The conversations at the military gym today ranged from “wtf, I’m turning in my automatic gun”… to fear that the government will enforce laws that will take away rights.

There is no reasoning or “making sense” with this type of trauma for all involved. Making sense of it is a way to cope, but all of it is a horror, for the families and all those involved in an ever widening circle to encompass society and the world.

Conversation was happening on all sides at the gym, from gun control to against, but in all ways, there was a dialogue. No one seemed to be cutting anyone off or standing defensive and angry.

Everyone agreed on the cost it took to have the conversation. It didn’t matter the stance.

As some there would attest, desensitization is part of the training to go to war. As I listened, I reflected on the desensitization that was occurring everywhere. Deaths, shootings, refugee crises, are we becoming even more numb, reflectively shutting out others from our borders to cope with a societal Post Traumatic Stress? How can this be? What has happened to us?

This country has many resources, including the resource of the governmental structure and democracy. It has been misused and poorly handled at times, from the annihilation of Native Peoples in the name of “Manifest Destiny” to the scarring and depletion of soil and land.  The land of the plenty and its most basic fundamental value of welcome to the poor and hungry…clearly is only at face value for those with the power of education, money and very often white skin.

Perhaps nothing has happened to us. Perhaps we are instead, changing. Those in power who pushed the policy of Manifest Destiny, the idea of annexing the West to promote the institutions of Old World values, are dying out. And it is fearful for many who grew up with that privilege.

There is an art to living. And the change that can happen, despite the upsurge of violence or perhaps in spite of the violence, is one in which we can start to live with less polarization  and a little more peace: We can start to talk to each other and learn. It doesn’t mean we have to like the other person, but instead of becoming more entrenched in our polarity and further defensiveness, consider that there are many having to let go of life as they know it. It takes courage to keep the heart open when scared. Be the example.

The surgeon, Atul Gawande, published a story recently about having to work on a jail inmate that was verbally racist and threatened violence to a female colleague. Dr. Gawande decided to change his rage and tactic for dealing with the man mid stream when he remembered what a professor once taught, “when people speak, they aren’t just expressing their ideas; they are, even more, expressing their emotions, “. “You seem really angry and like you feel disrespected.” The man stopped his stream of vitriol and started to speak of his experience: of being in solitary confinement for 2 years, of feeling suicidal. And in that moment, the surgeon, who recognized he still did not like the guy, was able to treat him equally, despite the other’s idea of him initially.

For more on this story, please read here:

The art of living in peace is recognizing we are all connected. Somewhere in there we must find that balance.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the body’s response to acute horror and stress, a desensitization to the point past numbness, a disconnect not only at the prefrontal cortex governing rational thinking but a simultaneous disconnect from “a way” back to the heart. The hormonal cascades that erupt are most often from sustained or recurring trauma or predisposition. Meditation and sitting is difficult if your mind is racing caught in a trauma loop. This is what brought me originally to movement, until I learned I was safe enough to not keep running. And then through physical therapy and yoga where movements became refined into smaller movements and standing still, I could sit a bit more. In working with veterans and adult survivors of abuse this pattern also proved to be the case. What became important then and even more so now, was to provide a safe space, a“safety house” between me and the other person, to let the person know that they were cared for through basic fundamental things everyone knows, like looking at trees, breathing, and movement, and eventually hands on care if that was our contract.

With everything going on with the upsurge in shootings, to prevent desensitization, we must find nourishing means to continue to come back to the heart…which is different for different people. But letting people know, reminding each other that we can come back “home” is important. We must help each other to find a safe house inside and between each other, a fundamental key to preventing numbness and disconnect. For me I do this by listening with my heart, moving with awareness, and trying to touch at least one person a day outside of my immediate family with kindness.

This is my prayer. This is my action. It is 1 step, but 1 step with the intention of a life filled with care and love.

🙏🏽 -Rita Naomi