This morning while I was driving in to work, the story on the radio was (yet again) about the heartbreaking situation in Cincinnati where the gorilla was shot and killed in an effort to save a little boy who had fallen into the exhibit. I instantly felt a tightness in my stomach and I reached up quickly to push a button and change the station.
But then I noticed something. I felt a huge need to run from the awful feeling that story evoked. What happens if I stay with it and let myself feel what I feel? I wondered. The question was a little scary, but I decided to try it and see.
I turned the radio off and put my hand on my heart as I drove through the waking Indiana countryside. I let the feelings come. What I felt was desperate, deep sadness and grief for an amazing, noble animal, a being who may not have intended harm at all. I felt sadness, stress, and regret for all involved in making such a gut-wrenching decision in a moment of what must have felt like life-or-death uncertainty.
I noticed how, as I let my awareness rest on the sadness, it changed from a highly reactive knot in my stomach to a heavy ache in my chest and inside my shoulders. My breathing felt heavier. I could feel the sadness in my face–in my eyes, my cheeks, my mouth. I breathed into my heart, feeling the expansive and rich tenderness of my sadness. At that moment, I realized that my sadness was really the energy of love, love for the gorilla, love for the child, love for those called to that moment to do their best with a heartbreaking choice, love for the nature of life and goodness and the balance of peace.
As I drove, I took time to be with the quality of my sadness, to appreciate it, to see how vital it was to my humanity and my essence as a compassionate being on this planet. I felt grateful for my sadness, grateful for my connection to all life, grateful that I care about and hurt on behalf of those who also are hurting.
That moment of “being with” taught me something important about the light of love living within me as the essential nature of my own soul.
Maybe the next time my sadness gets triggered I will recognize it as the doorway into my awareness of the kinship of all life. May my impulse be to turn toward rather than turning away.