Suffering and Shooting

I was asked recently about my feelings regarding the shooting at Safeway in Bend. I replied, “I am not really affected by this shooting more than any mass shooting in this country, or any war, or any other circumstance.” The questioner was puzzled. “Why are you not concerned, when it was so close to you?” I said I did not consider any act of violence far away. All acts of violence arising from someone’s suffering are as close as my own thoughts.

How do we react to our suffering? Do we get depressed, become defensive, lash out, or (fill in the blank). The reports of the young man who shot the people at Safeway indicated he was in deep emotional pain. He was planning to conduct this act of violence at a High School on the first day of classes, but his anger and pain were too far advanced. He expressed his issues with work, society, rage, loneliness and love, posting, “I’m done waiting, I can’t wait any longer.”

I look into my own thoughts and recognize this pattern. When enough is enough and we have no tools through which we can redirect our negative feelings, we search for something outside to blame. We actually think causing suffering will end our own suffering. It is a revenge mentality of assigning blame as a path to freedom. Our buddha-mind would say, “So, how is that working for you?”

Looking outside ourselves to resolve suffering never works. We need to recognize it is our own mind that suffers and resolve our issues here. Otherwise, we ‘shoot off our mouth’ or actually shoot someone. Gun control will never work unless we are able to provide compassionate support and redirection of those who would use a gun to resolve their suffering. This young man needed help and did not receive it. His mind was tortured and he had no way of addressing it other than online rants and violence-reinforcing social media platforms.

“If we act with an unsettled mind, we will have unsettling experiences,” says the Buddha. Not only will we be unsettled, but we will cause difficulties for others. It is time to teach everyone how to settle the mind, starting with our education system. I do my best when invited to teach at the high schools, but that reaches a very limited few who take a world religions course. Understanding the nature of mind needs to be the foundation of our educational process.

So, my prayers go out to all those who lost their lives and their families and friends. All of us are equally responsible. We need a collective paradigm shift in awareness if we are to prevent such occurrences. That is what I have dedicated my life to creating. What are you doing to help? How settled is your mind?


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