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Anniversaries: A moment to reflect…

Anniversaries. I hardly celebrate my own. I even just quietly remember the death of my father on the day (November 1st, 2009; 11am) by lighting a candle, kissing his picture and saying “I love you Papa”. Anniversaries are things that we celebrate in public and it is not a part of my nature to outwardly talk about the passed past. Pain of loss is a personal thing to me.

Today is just another day in my doings. But the lessons of the heart that/this day are always with me.

The years for me have taken away the palpable experience of the horror and pain of that day. For the most part, it is a faint sensation. That day was so painful for everyone and painful for me to witness their pain; I remember crying constantly as I watched what was happening. As the days went on, watching as innocent lives get taken because they had no other choice but to surrender to the fate of that day. To hear about those who went down with a fight and the stories from those who survived. Hearing about the sacrifices of those who went in to do their part in rescuing, searching, seeking and cleaning up. The aftermath was excruciating. People searching for their loved ones. The vitriol from those who only wanted to blame and attack back, and the pleads of those to let calmer heads and softer hearts prevail. And then, the pain of those innocent people who took the blame in the wake of the evidence against a select group.

But I don’t express it outwardly. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t my country, so therefore not really my experience. I remember that day. I taught a yoga class – Ashtanga. At the time, I felt it was appropriate to have the class do 108 sun salutations (suryanamaskara) for the class. 108 is a sacred number. Like the number of times you are to chant the Gayatri Mantra or the number of beads on a Mala string, the 108 sun salutes were to be a prayer for peace: the chant heard across the land that we are with you in our hearts and souls. I said a few words about something, I forget. I went around partaking in the practice as a teacher would. Assisting to deepen the students’ experience.

The experience of what was happening, for me, still felt close to home (I spent weeks at a time for a number of years in the city). I had a dear friend living there at the time. He lived on Bleeker St. and was actually taking a run down by the river as it was happening, not realizing what was going on as he jogged passed people running covered in soot the other way. Himself almost getting caught in it. (A lot of people afterward talked about how surreal and unreal it felt at first.) During the days that followed he talked about his feelings of helplessness. That even bringing socks and footwear for the volunteers to the salvation army did not ease the confusion, deep pain and the need to be able to do something. Living there was a constant reminder: the smell in the air of smoke and soot, and the posters of the missing up for months and months. It was not normal. I’ve kept the feelings of this day deep in my heart because although I am not American, I wasn’t there and I have only tenuous personal connections, my friend’s experience, my connection to the city, and witnessing it all on tv made it a part of my deeper experience.

I still mark the day in my heart. I still feel a kind of alertness on this day: A vigilance to treat everyone with kindness and to maintain a softness in my heart even at times when I feel frightened and alone. I still feel the loss and pain of those who experienced it directly, and I am only too aware of how this feeling is experienced by people around the world daily. It reminds me to take the feeling of that day and turn it into compassion in the present.

I was fortunate I feel anyway, to be able to go to Ground Zero on New Year’s Eve 2001, to pay my respects and to pledge to always have them in my heart and yes today I am reminded again to do so. Because, of all the lessons we learn from day to day, the one that keeps coming back to me is, to Pray for Peace in the World and in Our Own Hearts.

Thanks for letting me share.




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