Yesterday we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history. At the time of this writing, 50 people are dead and 53 more are injured. My heart is too broken for anger. All there is, is sadness.
I grew up in the Shambhala Buddhist community, starting to meditate at the age of six. It's a community, like many religious communities, that believes in basic human dignity. Shambhala puts a special emphasis on welcoming people from all backgrounds, socio-economic, religious, and racial, including all sexual orientations and gender identities. And, like many other communities, I have seen individuals from it shocked to the core by such a horrific act as the tragedy of yesterday.
The funny thing is, I see a lot of people posting on social media about what a horrific thing has happened, and how it's time for us to see a change. I see very few people getting involved beyond that point and actually committing to affecting that change.
Based on who I see in the Shambhala and other Buddhist communities, the question then becomes: how many mass shootings does it take to wake mainly liberal, generally affluent, spiritually-minded people up to take action? I mean, we've had 173 of them in 2016 alone. And, by the way, there's only been 164 days thus far thus year. So if more than one a day doesn't do it, what will?
Yesterday is the straw that broke my back. As I mentioned before, I am sad. But I am also committed to making things better. Instead of posting about which political candidate I want others to support, for example, I'm committed to going to a swing state and knocking doors for them. I'm action-oriented, to a fault. So right now I'm researching where I can leverage my time and energy on a weekly basis for this important issue. Then I'm going to finally get involved, making this work a part of every week.
I am putting out a call, to anyone moved by this tragedy, to join me. Enough words. Enough "sending prayers" or "meditating for the victims." Let's get off the pews. Let's leap off the meditation cushion. Let's walk the walk and actually go help people. If we, the spiritually-minded or religious, the people who claim to support LGBTQ communities, people of color, or any other group that is being targeted by hate, do not step up then no one will.
There are those who will say, "Don't underestimate the power of prayer or meditation" and I hear you. It is powerful. Without the years of meditation under my belt this rant (yes, I know it's a rant) would not come from a place of openness or tenderness toward the victims, or even a tinge of compassion for the poor man who suffered so intensely that he thought this crime was a good idea. Meditation (or prayer if you're into that) has the ability to soften us and make us more available to the world around us. But then we do need to engage that world and take action.
Here is a link that lists ways for you to support those affected by yesterday's tragedy. Here are a number of organizations you can get involved in to make sure future tragedies do not occur. Please join me in putting your money where your mouth is and taking action. Gun violence prevention is vast and complicated but if you and I do not take a stand, here, today, then our complacency paves the way for future shootings. Let's be part of the solution. Let's move from our place of comfort into one of action. If we don't, who will?
Lodro Rinzler is the author of five books on meditation, including The Buddha Walks into a Bar and the co-founder of MNDFL, NYC's premier drop-in meditation studio.