Broken Bodies, Broken Hearts: How You Can Help in the Wake of the Colorado Shootings

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I have taken time to digest the terrible news out of Colorado, that innocent people in a movie theater could be surprised by such a vicious tornado of violence when they were least expecting it. Like many, I have read accounts of tremendous heroism and the anguish of those who lost loved ones. I know that many in that theater will suffer from the effects of post-traumatic stress in the coming months and years. 

Years ago I went through a period of tremendous loss due to the awful effects of an individual’s sociopathic behavior on people I love. At that time I entered a period of tremendous confusion. I had so many emotions; I hardly knew where to begin. The best advice came from a sensitive soul, a healer, someone who was a stranger to me. He simply said, “Let your heart be broken.”

This terrible event leaves us all feeling more helpless and confused than we were before. Many of us want to offer help. How can we, with an event that is so private and so public at the same time?

I would offer the same words that were offered to me. Let your hearts be broken. 

We have an important choice. We can open ourselves fully to the pain of this event, grieve, feel and become soft with compassion. 

Or we can harden our hearts, look for someone to blame, egoically imagine how it would have gone down if we were there. Or even if we were there with a gun as I have seen many touting on the internet. 

The truth is that this killer is a very shut down human being, someone who made a choice somewhere along the line to harden his heart. The end point of hardness of hearts is always violence on a greater or lesser scale. When we look away, shut down, become vengeful we only add more violence to the collective. This behavior, these thoughts, may be natural. But they cannot help. They cannot heal. They cannot prevent. 

What requires courage, what is truly heroic, is softening into the event. Breathing, empathizing, feeling, releasing our collective feelings are the only true way I’ve ever seen people heal. And it is the only way to prevent future cycles of violence.

Our emotions are layered, interlinked. Health means we flow through them. To get stuck in one, such as anger, creates pathology and damage. If we really breathe into our horror we may find anger. If we really breathe into our anger we may find grief. If we really breathe into our grief we may find helplessness and sadness. If we really contemplate our sadness, helplessness, grief, anger and horror and let ourselves move through these fully, we will eventually and inevitably move out the other side into compassion. 

We will realize that there is really nobody outside of this event. Not the victims, not the perpetrator and not the bystanders. We are all part of the collective human family. And what happens to one of us, at some level, happens to us all.

We can join it or separate ourselves from it. Do we have the courage to feel, to assist in healing? Do we have the strength to keep our hearts soft and open? This is not a task for the faint of heart. Acting in violence is always easier than tolerating intolerable feelings. There are many grown men who would rather hurt, maim or kill than feel their feelings.

So, I invite you again to let your heart be broken, broken wide open. Let yourself be one with those bleeding, grieving, those in confusion, not in a puerile kind of sentimentality, but in the heart of courage that can change the world. Once our hearts are fully open and engaged we will know exactly what we need to do without adding a single drop of violence to this terrible event.

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