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  • Writer's pictureRennie Maguire

Where Do I Stand

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

The war in Ukraine has entered my heart and mind in a way that I have not been touched in a long time. Images of destruction, children crying, mothers trying to protect their little ones, grandmothers, evacuated, grief-stricken parents embracing their dead baby, a hospital bombed, brave men leaving their families to defend their beloved country, chanting glory to Ukraine.

Many mornings I participate in an international zoom Shambala session of Tonglen meditation. It is a compassion practice for the people of Ukraine and those who are suffering from Putin’s war. Tonglen, in a most basic sense, is the practice of giving and receiving. I open my heart to compassion and breathe in the darkness, the fear, the oppression of the Ukrainian people. Transformed by my holding, I breathe out love, peace, hope, freedom. Sometimes I do this by holding a heart-breaking picture, like the parents with the dead baby. I breathe in grief, anger, despair, and breathe out comfort, love, peace. I am not sure that this is true Tonglen practice, but it is the way I do it. I am not a Buddhist but I hope it makes a difference. It is a difficult practice but it makes me focus in a very different way on the war in Ukraine.

After meditation, people can ask questions and exchange views. One day, one espoused that Putin should be taken out-as a compassionate act to end the war. This is a sentiment, I’m sure we have all shared at times. This morning, one practitioner made a compelling argument and a passionate plea that any of us who are Americans should contact our congress person and demand we make the Ukraine a no-fly zone. This is something that Zelensky has been begging for from the US and the NATO alliance. This man felt our Tonglen practice made small difference to helping the people of Ukraine, only a trained master could do that. Our practice was essentially for ourselves. We must beg for a no-fly zone.

So, after much debate and meditative silence, I asked myself, what do I believe? I am of the Himalayan Tradition, not Buddhism, but spiritual paths aside, what is true for me?

I have deeply held beliefs though sometimes they feel like great hopes. I trust, as held by quantum physics, that we are all energy, that we, in the very deepest sense, are One. My thoughts, speech and actions do matter. It’s like the butterfly in the Amazon. I can, in my own small way, raise the vibration, even a little. I can breathe peace.

But what of the no-fly zone? My deepest heart would love to see a way to protect the Ukrainian skies. But at what cost? I believe Biden and the NATO alliance fear such action would cause a third world war. I too believe this is true. So, am I living out of fear or love? Both, I think. No answer comes to me as a solution to this horrible situation, no immutable truth.

I can only return to the ethical system, that I embrace, the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga. The first teaching, Ahimsa, is do no harm. Ultimately it is all-encompassing love .The second is Satya, do not lie, to thine own self be true.

I will continue to meditate for Ukraine, and to live, as best I can, remembering that I am here to love, as best I can, to serve however and wherever I can, and remember – to always remember, we are all sparks of the divine, sometimes shining brightly, sometimes very dimly.

I pray the Buddhist prayer for world leaders and decision makers - “that they may be filled with loving kindness, be peaceful and at ease, that they be well, that they be happy.” If they are, we all will be.

Many will say I am hopelessly naive. Perhaps. But today, at least for today, this is where I stand.

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Mar 14, 2022

Beautiful thoughts, feelings, full of loving kindness.

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