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North America response to Japan

by JOANA MACY, The Buddhist Channel, March 15, 2011

Dear Ones,

In this hour of anguish we reach out to our Japanese colleagues and
all beings of that noble and stricken land. As our hearts unite in
prayer for them, we experience our own non-separation from the
immeasurable suffering inflicted by the successive earthquakes and
tsunamis, and by the nuclear catastrophe these have triggered.

Having just begun the last week of my three-month retreat, I break
silence to give voice to my solidarity with you all. By speaking to
you, I remind myself of what we can remember in this time of grief and

It helps me to remember what I learned in Novozybkov with survivors of
Chernobyl: that is that there are two basic responses to massive
collective trauma. One response is to let it destroy our trust in
life and in each other, plummeting us into division, blame and
despair. The other is to let the shared cataclysm strengthen us into
greater solidarity, and deepen our knowledge of our mutual belonging
in the web of life. Your communications are evidence already of that
second response. Indeed the Work That Reconnects has been preparing
us for it.

We remember to breathe. As we have practiced, we breathe through the
reports as we hear and the images of disaster. This helps us simply
take in what is happening, and not be blocked by horror or the desire
to fix or flee.

We also breathe with those who are caught up in this tragedy, in the
intensity of panic, shock, and loss. Feel how this breathing-with
helps your heart-mind fearlessly and tenderly embrace them.

You see, if we understand and accept the Great Unraveling, we can let
it break us open to greater realizations of our innate solidarity.
That this realization in itself is a kind of "enlightenment" has been
brought home to me in my retreat by two great teachers of Japan.

One is the 13th century Zen master Dogen. He illumines our
connections with the ancestors and the future ones, so that we can
experience these connections in the immediate present moment. So does
the other figure, the archetypal bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who is
beloved in Japan, where he/she is known as Bodhisattva Jizo, with
images .everywhere Both of them help us realize that we are not alone
in this moment of time, but surrounded by past and future generations
ready to help. We who inhabit the present can do what they cannot:
that is to make choices and take action/ But the past and future ones
are right at our side with support and guidance.

Also, to hold steady and open in this anguished time, try the Spiral
of the Work That Reconnects. As I take in the catastrophe in Japan,
the Spiral serves to ground my heart-mind, and widen its dimensions.
It brings gratitude for all those at work to bring support and clear
reporting. It helps me honor the heartbreak, to simply open to it and
let it reveals our true nature and mutual belonging. It shows me how
solidarity can move us forward, and offer us practical, immediate
steps to alleviate suffering and enact safe, sustainable, and sane
energy policies. An obvious urgency is to stop US Government subsidies
and loan guarantees to nuclear industries, including bills that are
before Congress now.

As radiation from Fukushima spreads, I know that protection of self
and family is on our minds. I'm asking Anne to append here two kinds
of information: about health measures, and some links to breaking news
from Japan. See our page dedicated to this issue:


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