The Murderer and Me

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
~ Buddha

A little over a year ago, my sister and I witnessed a murder.

We didn't see the shooter's or the victim's face closely, but we saw the shots fired (at close range) and the victim gasping for breath and then falling to the ground. It was such an unbelievable scenario that we actually didn't believe what we had seen. It couldn't have been real. My sister was convinced it was just some kids playing with a BB Gun. I wanted to believe her. I mean, that kind of stuff only happens on Law & Order, right?


We called the cops, went into the precinct the next day, and even looked at pages and pages of mugshots before conceding defeat. We hadn't seen much.

But we had seen enough.

When we found out it was a real shooting, at first, I felt shocked: I can't believe that happened. I can't believe I saw it happen. I hope the person is ok.
Then, I felt angry: Why aren't guns illegal. What kind of world do we live in. How can someone actually do something like that. 
Then, I felt disconnected: I'm fine with it. 

I completely disassociated myself from the event. I became apathetic and began feeling rather indifferent towards the situation since I couldn't logically or intellectually process it. But it happened. And ignoring it certainly wasn't going to get me anywhere.

So one day I sat down to write out some thoughts about it. I needed to address the issue in a way that would allow me to comprehend and process it. As someone who believes everything happens for a reason, I needed to understand why I was there at that exact moment to witness such a horrible crime.

After sitting with it for some time, I came to the conclusion that I witnessed this event so that I would take the opportunity to visit my anger center. To understand what separates the shooter from myself. Yes, he took a life and I would never do that, but what was the root of his actions? An imbalance? A disconnect? Whether he did it for money, revenge, or just for kicks, he was disconnected from the good place inside of him. I know it sounds crazy - I mean, how can someone who did something so horrible have a good place inside of them? Well, the truth is we all do.

Murderers aren't born, they're made.

At moments in my own life, when I let anger control me, I was disconnected, too. And just because I didn't pull an actual trigger, that doesn't mean I didn't pull a metaphoric one. Haven't I ever said something mean to someone in my life, lost my temper, acted in a way I later wished I hadn't? Hadn't those words or actions acted like a weapon and injured the other person?

What I realized was that the murderer and I are the same.

After all, what differentiates his anger from mine? He just has different boundaries than me. I could never think of killing someone, but that's my boundary. Perhaps he could never imagine writing a blog about his emotions - but that's him. We approach our emotions differently.

From him, I learned that when I feel anger, it is ok for me to feel angry, but it is not ok for me to use my anger as a weapon against others. From this event, I realized that I needed to become more aware of my emotions.

What I also realized is that I hadn't yet allowed myself to feel sadness. Sad for the victim, sad for the shooter, sad for what the world has come to, sad for myself to have witnessed this. I was repressing my emotions and in letting them sit inside of me without addressing them, I was muting all of my emotions. Because my body hadn't been allowed to process sadness, my body also didn't feel allowed to engage fully in happiness or joy either.

This was a serious problem.

They say your body stores your emotions, whether or not your mind processes them. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each organ of your body is associated with a certain emotion. Kidneys with fear, liver with anger, lungs with grief, stomach with worry, heart with joy, and so on. So in not feeling an emotion, your body just stores it and becomes congested. People throw their back when they get stressed; have stomach ulcers when they are anxious; children pee when they get scared. It is all connected.

So in the spirit of growing and learning this year, I have decided to engage in Rasa Sadhana once a month. Rasa Sadhana is a practice of emotional fasting or focusing in which a person puts aside any period of time (day, week, month) to focus individually on each of the nine principal emotions (love, joy, wonder, peace, anger, courage, sadness, fear, disgust) in order to become more attuned to their presence and as a result, master them.

This is not a practice of denying emotions when they arise, of not feeling "bad" emotions or only feeling the emotions we label as "good". We are, after all, human, and all emotions are a natural part of who we are. This is rather about feeling everything fully, observing emotions in an active instead of reactive way, and getting to the root of why we are feeling a certain way. An emotion is a symptom, not a problem. So it is important to understand where our emotions are coming from. If you figure out the problem, the symptom will dissipate. In this way, we can gain mastery over our emotions.

It is important and necessary to address and honour what we feel in order to process it both physically and psychologically, and equally important to enable ourselves to let go. And after bearing witness to someone else's disconnect, I am ready to reconnect and let go.

I am putting down this hot coal. 

I am done getting burned.

What emotions are clogged in your system? 


P.S. If you would like to do Rasa Sadhana with me this year, reach out to me and maybe I can create a little workshop for us to go through together. 

Scribblie Perfection

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
~ Buddha

I've got this little two-year-old in my life.

No, this is not one of those posts about the little two-year-old me who lives inside of me; this little girl is real and in the flesh. Her name is Reya.


When they're this small, they're little sponges soaking up everything you say and do and all the things you didn't realize you said and did (eep)! But although she learns a million things from me, I am always surprised at how much I learn from her.

Take this drawing of hers:

Yes, to the untrained eye it looks like pencil scratches, circles, and general two-year-old scribblies, but after she ran proudly and excitedly to me and said "Look!", I contemplated it for a minute and then asked her what it was. Without a moment's hesitation, she said,


She knew exactly what it was. And when I looked again, I saw it too. Right there, in the middle of the scribbles and the lines and the circles, there He was. The Buddha. Staring straight back at me, wondering how I hadn't seen Him there in the first place.

I guess I wasn't really paying attention.

Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment and transcended this physical existence. So Buddha isn't something specific. He doesn't look a certain way. He is a concept. He is the idea that you can break free from this physical box and see the world differently if you choose to. He is transcendence, stillness, or whatever you make Him out to be.

With her drawing of the Buddha, Reya made me realize that even in the chaos, there is order, there is meaning. In her drawing there was nothing, and yet, there was everything. And she showed me that whatever enlightenment and perfection mean to you - that is what it is, and no one can argue with that. (Anyway, try arguing with a two-year-old!)

So I kept her scribble, and I will post it on my wall to remind me that it's all secretly perfect.

And every time I look at it, I will tilt my head back and laugh at the sky.

Can you find perfection in your chaos? 

The Tears of Last Year

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
~ Henry David Thoreau

A few years ago, I spent New Year's Eve in India with some new friends I had made while volunteering there. At midnight, my friend pulled out glasses of water and handed one to each of us. We were to think of the sadness and negativity of the past year, and then pour the water out. This simple gesture was meant to symbolize throwing out the tears of last year. Emptying one's cup of the accumulated negative energy in order for it to be filled again with whatever we choose to focus on in the coming year. This little ritual stuck with me since then and now, eight years later, I still take pleasure in emptying my cup at the beginning of every new year.

Wherever I am in all the hullaballoo surrounding the new year, I always try to take a moment at midnight to think about the negative energies of the past year that I would like to let go of. This year, I spent midnight with my husband and some friends, and after the customary champagne toast, I offered them all a glass of water, hoping to pay forward this little tradition that had inspired me so many years ago.

We all stepped outside into the crisp winter air for a moment, each with our own glass of water, and took a moment to think of the things we wanted to let go of. As I was thinking of the tears I wanted to leave behind in 2011, I stopped for a moment.

There it was: a permeating silence. The kind of beautiful silence that accompanies a moment of sincere reflection. It was a personal experience for each one of us, and although we were all standing there together, I knew we had each entered into our own universe for a moment. 

It was a beautiful thing.

After we poured our glasses out and went back into the house, a pervading peace surrounded us for a few moments. Everyone thanked me for introducing them to this ritual, and my heart soared a teeny bit. In a fast-paced world full of noise and action, I had managed to engage stillness and reflection in myself and also provide it to others, if just for one brief moment before we resumed the party.

Secretly, I think everyone needed it. In the rush of life, with the constant connectivity of technology, we so rarely take the time to be in silence. And months pass while we hold on to so many things and let them fester inside of us, even if we think we have let them go. But taking a moment to pay homage to our past and then to let it go is such a powerful practice - one that need not only be performed once a year.

What a wonderful way to start off the new year: with silence, surrender, and gratitude.
And an empty cup.

I feel rich beyond measure.

What negative energies do you want to leave behind in 2011?