Some of us are overwhelmed by the tsunami. Some of us think “it’s terrible” but has little to do with our lives. Some of us are quick to donate and then think we have done our part. Some of us are not sure what to do.
I offer some suggestions for all of us to consider…
1. Care for Self. We can transform any shock, trauma, feelings of despair to hope, healing, humility (with respect to nature) and compassion…How can you get support to do this? Petrea King’s post offers tips on taking care of ourselves during this challenging period. We can only be of good support to others when we are well ourselves and maintain perspective.
2. Connect. For those of us who feel disconnected from a tragedy “far away”, we can take a moment to empathise with the suffering in Japan… What happens in one part of the world sends out ripple effects to the rest of us. In this case, it literally did, for people as far away as the US. If you or your country were facing a disaster, how would you like people from other countries to respond? How could you offer that to others now?
3. Reach out to Japanese contacts. We can support our Japanese friends and neighbours by gently asking after them, listening to them if they choose to talk to us, giving them a card, dropping them a note on facebook…and asking if and how else we can be of support, always being respectful of their space and their needs. This takes sensitivity and listening.”Tending to Japan’s Psychological Scars” provides a good idea of what could help and what could hurt. The article, “Positive Psychology for Tsunami Survivors” by H’Sien Hayward, a research fellow at Harvard University, provides a quick overview of the role of “hope in the wake of trauma”.
Sometimes we need to dare to care and reach out. People may not take us up on our offer and we need to be gracefully accepting of that…and not let that prevent us from reaching out again to someone else.
We can also send healing intentions and prayers.
4. Be wise about donating. We can look out for voices which call for discernment when donating so that what we give is used where and when it is most needed…and listen to what the Japanese people themselves are asking for…
Check out “Good Intentions” on facebook or twitter for the latest updates in Japan. They have a useful article on “Do’s and Don’ts of Disaster Donations”. (This initiative was started by Saundra Schimmelpfennig, who was sent to Thailand to help the Government coordinate the nonprofits that were thronging there during the last tsunami. During her four years there, she saw “the best and the worst of aid and its impact on the people it was sent to help”.)
Giving money is the most obvious way we think we can help from afar. Sometimes, though, if our help is not tempered with wisdom, it may hinder or not meet the actual needs of the people.
Importantly, sometimes only donating and not making any other changes may not help us grow as a global community at all.
5. Focus on hope, courage, resilience. We can look out for stories of hope, compassion, courage and resilience that come out of this and the other tsunami/tragedies (if you find any, please post on the happiness.sg facebook page) instead of only focusing on the destruction…Here’s a letter from Anne Thomas in Japan now on some unexpected gifts this crisis has brought. (Ode is carrying several inspiring pieces from her under their “People, Passion, Possibilities” category). And here’s an asia! magazine article, “Touched by Amazing Japan”.
We can be symbols of hope so Japan can take stock and rebuild a brighter and renewed future…
6. Live a life of Balance. We can live a life of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance. We can balance giving with taking. We can be compassionate to ourselves and others. We can balance fast with slow. We can balance the material with what feeds our heart and soul. We can balance needs of the old with that of the young, needs of the economically well-off with those who aren’t etc.
We can live a life of balance so that we don’t depend on external shocks (such as illness and tragedies) to give us wake up calls and bring us back to what is important that we have forgotten or never even knew….
7. Be sensitive to silent and daily tsunamis. Upheavals, shocks, tragedies happen in our lives and the lives of others more frequently than physical tsunamis…We can proactively heal these so that we can collectively create peace in the world with the peace we have within.
And we can become sensitive to the silent tsunamis we may catalyse in others’ lives through our decisions and choices….and prevent these with love and wisdom.
8. Be prepared. Although we do not want to call disaster into our lives, we can manage risk and have plans in case of emergency. We can be prepared physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Having a contemplative practice (such as prayer, meditation or other stillness practices such as those listed in the tree below) helps us remain calm and centred during crises so we can make better decisions if it strikes. For me, being spiritually ready means we develop the faith, courage and resilience and other virtues to overcome disasters and transform them into opportunities for deep growth.
9. Make decisions that are earth-friendly and don’t pose large risks to human health. We can become acutely conscious of how we care for the environment and human health….on a daily basis. Let’s not depend on disasters and loss of many lives to bring this message home.
10. Be humbled by Nature’s power. We have become a destructive species to the environment and animals (along with fellow humans). We misuse our power. Let’s take this tragedy to awaken us to our vulnerability and use our power wisely and for the greater good.
11. Deeply appreciate the preciousness of life. Forgive, apologise, appreciate and express “I love you” through actions before it is too late. I call these The Big Four and to me, these have incredible potential to bring healing and joy to our lives.
12. We are One People. We can be gentler, kinder and more forgiving…for we are all connected by the fragility of life and the certainty of death……
Woon Wee Min, a writer to The Straits Times Forum Page (15 March 2011) said that the Japanese PM’s call to his people to “exercise the spirit of fraternity and act fast and to assist one’s family and neighbours” made him ask himself “whether Singaporeans could, like the Japanese, band together as a national tribe, dig in our heels and call upon this spirit of fraternity, to help one another and overcome adversity.”
I believe we can form this spirit of fraternity by realising that despite some differences, we are all similar in many of our deepest needs, fears and desires; in our striving to reduce struggle and pain and have more joy in our lives. We can only be one united people during a disaster if we are one people now.
We can transform from being witnesses who might donate money from a distance to being an engaged global community that knows how to see in a tragedy, opportunities for Compassion, Hope, Resilience and Growth. We can allow what we learn from this tragedy to transform us into wiser, more humane and evolved global citizens.
There is so much that is positive that we CAN do. Let us not write away all these opportunities with a cheque and then forget about it till the next tragedy strikes.
PS: Would you like to help me spread the tsunami lotus?