In the wake of the Boston bombings, many of us are still struggling with processing the horror of what happened, sharing the collective grief of  a nation whose peace was once again disrupted by an act of terrorism, and trying to make sense of something that is completely senseless. Even people who were thousands of miles away from Boston, and who weren’t worried about family or friends, found themselves filled with sorrow and hopelessness about a world where these tragedies can happen.

How do you find your center in the middle of so much darkness and turmoil? Is it even possible?

On Monday evening, I posted this on The Conscious Cat Facebook page: “Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the senseless attacks in Boston. Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers, and hug your kitties for some comfort!” At times like this, we all hold our family and friends a little tighter, and for most of us, our cats are family. And spending time with cats is certainly one of the best ways I know to help us pull out of sadness and despair – because it’s just not possible to spend time with a cat and not feel better.

But I needed more. I don’t watch the news. I did not watch any of the footage of the bombings, not on the day it happened, and not in the days following. I got my information from trustworthy news sites on the web, and as part of that coverage I saw plenty of still photos that were disturbing enough. I did not want to see 24/7 coverage of bloody streets, distraught victims and bystanders, and manhunts. Some people may say that I’m sticking my head in the sand, but I know myself well enough to know that once these images enter my brain, they will not leave, and I know that’s not good for my mental health.

I cried a lot last week. Like everyone else, I looked for ways to cope. And then I came across two blog posts from deeply spiritual women I admire, and they offered different perspectives. Because they helped me so much, I want to share them with you today.

Mary Muncil is a spiritual counselor who shares her wisdom (and photos of her adorable cats, including tortie Eleanor) on her blog White Feather Farm. Mary had thought about going to Boston on Monday to cheer on a friend who was running in the marathon, but something made her decide not to go. When she turned on the TV later in the day, her mind couldn’t grasp what she was seeing. She finally realized that there is no way to comprehend what happened. Mary wrote:

“You cannot figure out, or make sense of this. You are here now. You are alive, and there is work for you to do in this world.”

So today I am doing what I know to do. I am first of all, appreciating Life. I can be of no help to others if I’m down so low that they need to lift me up.

Sometimes, when a tragedy strikes, we feel that we must be in despair so we can join those despairing, but we are so depleted in that state, that we have little to give. There are those despairing today. I can “join them” in my heart by feeling and seeing a more expanded view of life. This is not saying, “buck up” or “there must be a reason” or any other trite response. For me, the most helpful prayer is when I can go within and Know that we are in bodies (and in these bodies there can be terrible suffering, terrible tragedy) but we are not our bodies,…we are essentially, beyond time and space.”

Read Mary’s full post on White Feather Farm.

I needed to hear those words more than I realized. In a world where everyone is connected to everyone else via the internet and social media, it’s easy to view everything through the lense of what the media shows us in a never ending cycle, and to draw the conclusion that life is a never-ending tragedy. It’s easy to loose sight of everything that is good in our lives.

Susan Chernak McElroy is a teacher, master storyteller, and author of the New York Times Bestseller, Animals as Teachers and Healers: True Stories and Reflections. She took this concept one step further in her post “Of Bombs and Bugling.” Susan wrote:

“I believe we weaken ourselves with grief that is not ours to claim. Those of us who have lost loved ones, it is our task to grieve. For the rest of us, our task is to walk and speak and pray in beauty, so that others may draw from our soil of soundness.

If you are hooked to the horror of the TV today, turn it off, now.
If you are plugged into the news stations on your computer, unplug now.
If you are crying for people you did not know, stop crying now.
If you are sick inside with hopelessness, stop it now.

Go outside. Sit on the grass. Listen to a bird sing. Hum a song of healing for those who need it. Tend your gardens. Walk your dogs and hug them. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself smile and be strong. That strength is medicine that will find its way through the power of mystery to all those suffering in Boston.”

Read Susan’s full post on her Animals as Teachers and Healers blog.

The words from these two wise women made me realize that the best antidote to darkness and evil is to appreciate the good in life. That’s how we can help ourselves, and the world, heal.

I hope that by sharing some of what helped me cope this past week, I can bring some healing your way. And if all else fails, remember to hug your cats!

30 Comments on Sunday Purrs: Appreciate Life in the Face of Darkness

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the wise words on these two blogs. I too didn’t watch much tv footage of the Boston bombing and all the other awful events of this past week including the explosion in West, TX. I listen to a lot of new on the radio and it doesn’t have the immediate gut wrenching trauma tv news does.

    I also viewed some of it online but I couldn’t bear to see pictures of the victims. It indeed was too sad. I have learned not to watch too much tv news when tragic events occur, which is most everyday.

  2. Thank you for sharing these stories. They are words of wisdom that people should listen too. In today’s society with all the killings and destruction that is happening, it is easy to fall into the sadness of it all. I myself had become so sad watching the news that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and would just start crying. Yes, there is sadness in life but there is also happiness and goodness in life too. If we concentrate on the sadness then we are not really living. We need to be thankful for our lives and to spread happiness to. Even if life has you down, smile and let it know it can’t control you. Share a smile to others as you pass them on the street or in the store, wherever you may be. You don’t know how much your smile may mean to someone else. As an added note, my 3 furbies always keep me smiling and seem to come to me when they know I need it most.

    • Thank you for these lovely and heartfelt words, Viki. “Even if life has you down, smile and let it know it can’t control you.” So true.

  3. Ingrid:
    I had already done what you said: disconnect from the media and then we heard the blast from the fertilizer plant that blew up in West, Texas. It seems it has been one tragedy after another here. My sister, who is mentally challenged, watched the news without a break until I made her quit. You are right; there must be balance, and I like so many of you, found it with my cats. I have taken this weekend to rest and revive with my cats. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in dealing with such difficulties.

  4. Thank you for your post. I always appreciate the wisdom in your thoughts and the additional information you provide.

  5. Ingrid, this week was also the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh and the unfortunate ending of the siege at Waco, and I always remember these things out of respect, but was already gearing up for avoiding those stories in the news. It’s sad to think that only another senseless tragedy saved us from being fed non-stop images of those two tragedies.

    We really do have a choice in how we accept what is considered “news”, and I do the same as you in carefully choosing my sources, and even when I check them for updates so that I don’t see them at a vulnerable moment. Not only can I not let the images and words go, but I then clearly see myself, my cats and those I love in those images and stories.

    Thank you for sharing the two excerpts, with their healing message.

    • Bernadette, I like what you said about even choosing the time you check for updates. I’ve long told people who can’t completely disconnect from the news to at least not check first thing in the morning or last thing before going to bed – the images really set the tone for the day or night ahead, and not in a good way!

  6. Thank you for this, Ingrid — and thank you for connecting me with Susan Chernak McElroy’s blog post. Her book “Animals as Teachers and Healers” is one of my favorite animal-wisdom books ever.

    This week was really horrible for me on a personal level, too, being the first anniversary of my sweet Dahlia-cat’s death and a bunch of other stuff, too, and I can’t believe I got through any of it. But here I am, out the other side and ready to continue my work of teaching, healing and compassionately loving as much as my humanly frail nature will allow me.

    • I can’t believe it’s already been a year since Dahlia died, JaneaA – those first anniversaries are so hard, and when they happen in the middle of other challenges, it’s even more difficult. You’re an inspiriation with everything you’re doing for cats and their humans.

      • Thank you so much, Ingrid. Your compliment means a lot to me — particularly because it comes from a person I greatly respect and admire for your own contributions to cat and human welfare. 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing these posts from two very wise women. Like you, I did not immerse myself in 24 hours news about the bombings. I turned on the tv long enough to learn what happened and then turned it off again. I did the same thing each day – turning it on long enough to get an update and then turning it off. I feel the need to know what is happening when something of this magnitude occurs, but I’ve also learned that continuing to bombard myself with news leaves me feeling hopeless and helpless. By walking this middle ground, I am able to keep aware of what is happening, but maintain enough positive energy to send my prayers for help and healing to those who really need them.

  8. That is such a wonderful post Ingrid. I learned this lesson so to speak when I got the cancer. I sure learned to appreciate what I do have and always look to nature and my kitties and dog and donkeys for comfort. I did enjoy reading all this. Thanks.

  9. Very inspiring post. We sometimes forgot to appreciate the good in life until sadly something of this nature happens. Wishing you and the girls a beautiful Sunday.


    • Thanks, Mason. You are so right, sometimes it takes a tragedy like Boston to wake us up to what really matters. You have a wonderful Sunday, too.

  10. I’m completely with you on the idea of not watching news coverage of violent events over and over. I think many times the news cameras go for showing as much violence as they can, because they know it’s so hard for us to look away. But it’s much better for our mental health not to watch too much of that stuff. It stays with us for the rest of our lives sometimes, causing anxiety, depression and phobias. I prefer to keep up with the news in print or even on websites, but avoiding TV and online videos. I will never forget seeing the Challenger rocket take off and explode on TV. I’d never been in a plane at that time and I’ve always been terrified of flying.

    • Sadly, we live in a culture where bad news and graphic images garners ratings, Laurie. I’m glad that you, too, have figured out that avoiding TV and online videos is better for your mental health.

  11. One thing is for sure since last Monday when the bombings took place I have spent a lot of time with our cats just cuddling them along with my guide dog. They have been a huge comfort to me for sure this past week. I was never so happy to see someone get caught for what happened as I was yesterday.

    By the way, I just want to thank you so much for how accessible your whole blog is for those of us who are blind and low vision. It is such a pleasure to be able to come over and read your blog. My husband Tom thanked you in some other post but also wanted to thank you myself.

    Thanks for this post too.

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