Several months ago, my daughter was attacked by a stranger. In all her fierceness, she fought back and is well. But it rocked us in ways I am still trying to grasp. And I have been struggling about how to speak about it in a way that is respectful to her and allows me to put voice to my experience.
Wayne Dyer—whose books decorate our home—says, “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is your karma.” And this has been a guide for me as I have digested this assault. Where do you take something that comes to you in darkness and uninvited? I have been trying to fill my world with gratitude.
Not surprisingly, I have been very aware of how grateful I am for my family and friends: How important it is to be present with them and share myself. And I have felt comfort in leaving nothing unsaid. As a ballast to the attacker, I have been noticing as much of the good around me as I can and I am finding that I am saying what good things are on my mind—if I like the cashiers smile...I let her know. When I look at the elderly lady passing on the street, I make eye contact and smile. While some of this is not new, I am trying to be in the moment and be uncensored. I am consciously engaging in my life. It is not forced-- it is simply choosing to fill the world with what beauty I can bring to it and to notice what beauty others offer as well.
That said, the execution of this has not been so simple. When I looked at the attacker in court the other day, I didn’t see evil, per se—I don’t have a clue who he is and am not sure I want to know. I just knew that he tried to take beauty from the world and I want to be sure he doesn’t have that chance to take it from anyone. I didn’t feel hate, I felt emboldened that he wouldn’t stop me from feeling beauty today or any other day. I refuse to be lost in the shadow he carries.
Dalai Lama talks about how our enemies can be our greatest teachers. That person who steals your parking space can teach you patience. Or the person who bullies you teaches you compassion. The person who breaks your heart, teaches you about who you are and who you want to share your world with. Whether the pain is a minor annoyance or a deep ache. However it presents, it offers a pathway to growth. A chance to be a stronger, better, more mindful human.
In all of it, there is a choice. Do I stay in the pain? Do I move through it? Do I choose to see what the world is offering or am I stuck? How long do I grieve? Buddha offers this powerful image: “Holding on to anger is like grasping onto a hot coal with the intent of throwing it—you are the one who gets burned.”
A few days after the attack, I went to yoga and I greatly anticipated doing camel pose. I couldn’t wait. Camel pose opens your heart chakra and lets feelings and emotions come to the surface. It offered me sanctuary as I began to make sense of all that happened. It was symbolic of my commitment to look at life with an open heart. Living life with an open heart: I felt it at Thanksgiving…I feel it as December is upon us and the spiritualty of the season surrounds me. I am slowing down to feel each moment and each person I am with .
So here I am. Ready to go to yoga today and poised to create artwork centered around my gratitude: to let the world unfold and to learn from it as it does.
For those that are struggling with setbacks—whatever they may be-- may you find your karma: who you wish to be in the world as these struggles unfold for you. May you find your gratitude and opportunities to learn and grow and see the light in your own heart—even if there might be a shadow on the fringes.
Rumi has words that I think of when things seem overwhelming and painful : “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
May your day be filled with light and gratitude. Namaste’