For such a small island, Japan has had a lot of problems.
Usually I'm an eager consumer of news. But the earthquake, tsunami and threat of nuclear meltdown make me want to turn off the radio and skip the newspaper coverage. It's what I did during 9/11. Though I missed the video of human beings throwing themselves out of burning buildings, I watched the towers of the World Trade Centers crumple, almost as if it had been planned, over and over again. Too many times. For more than a year afterward, I simply went on overload and shut off all news.
This time I'm doing it differently. I'm not turning away, because the human beings in Japan who are living a nightmare that hasn't ended yet need those of us who are are luxuriating in uninterrupted daily routines to hang in there with them. To know some of what's happening without experiencing it firsthand, and hold them in prayer. And to give generously to their relief effort.
During lovingkindness meditation, you begin by repeating the phrases, "May I be safe, May I be healthy, May I be happy, May I live in ease." Then you extend it to a neutral person, like the mail delivery person or the handsome man who lives a few blocks away and walks his golden retriever past your house every morning (although it's possible I'm not so very neutral about him after all). Next you extend lovingkindness to someone you admire, like a beloved yoga teacher, or your spouse, or a co-worker whose health has taken a ruinous turn. This last one I have the hardest time with--you say these words for someone you don't admire. Sarah Palin leaps to mind every time. But I'm doing it.
Since the earthquake, I've been especially struck by the completely lack of safety and ease the people affected by these catastrophes are experiencing. I feel these phrases are futile, and maybe even Marie Antoinette-ish, given their circumstances. The best I can say is that I'm more grateful than ever for the safety and ease in my life.
Some of the news focuses on the whammy Japan's economy, and possibly the world's, is facing. Others report on how nuclear meltdown will affect Japan's fisheries, and of course, how nuclear fallout does not honor borders. In case we didn't get it, we're all interconnected, folks.
We all live on a small island. Let's be precious to each other.