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By Lodro Rinzler
Many people look to Siddhartha Gautama as an example of someone who
attained nirvana, a buddha. Each week in this column we look at what it
might be like if Siddhartha was on his spiritual journey today. How
would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the
workplace? What would Sid do? is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.
week I’ll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I
think Sid, a fictional Siddartha, would do. Like us, Sid is not yet a
buddha, he’s just someone struggling to maintain an open heart on a
spiritual path while facing numerous distractions along the way.
Because let’s face it, you and I are Sid.
I just have been feeling sick inside getting glimpses of the chaos in
Haiti. Being a Haitian-American who’s never been there, I feel close
yet far away. As a Buddhist, compassion and love are my most immediate
frame of reference. These may be labels but it is my experience. What has everyone been thinking, feeling, doing?
Also, what would Sid do??
Many blessings to all, Gemma
Looking at the footage of the earthquake in Haiti on CNN
I can’t help but empathize with you Gemma. Natural disasters happen
so suddenly and there is something that my mind cannot fathom about a death toll of as many as 100,000 people. Yet there it
is, images of Tuesday’s devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that left bodies in the streets, the elderly wheelbarrowed to safety,
and young girls crying having lost the rest of their
family. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
It can also feel disempowering for those of us overseas watching these
events unfold. If Sid was sitting beside me on my couch watching this
footage I have a couple of ideas as to what he might do.
When one becomes a member of Shambhala there are three things requested
of them: that they practice and study the teachings of the Buddha, that
they offer their service in the form of volunteering to help their local
meditation center operate, and that they give something financially to
help pay for the space and staff that keep the place open. I think this
model for membership can be applied to a Buddhist response to the
Even if we are novice meditators we can keep our hearts open to the
suffering we see and hold the victims of the earthquake in our
meditation practice. If you know tonglen practice you can do tonglen
for Haiti, for the victims and their friends and families. At the very least you
can meditate on loving kindness and, in your own words, dedicate your
meditation practice to all of those suffering in Haiti.
Opportunities for people who want to volunteer in Haiti are few and far between. A hot tip directed me to the Center for
International Disaster Information but it seems that they have already been inundated with volunteers and are no longer accepting offers. If anyone has a lead for medically trained professionals who wish to offer their services in Haiti please leave that information in the comment section.
I salute anyone who is engaging Haiti relief work. However, if you are like me and unable to able to
offer your services directly to the victims you can help
raise awareness about the need for financial support.
Many organizations state that in the midst of this crisis the most highly recommended form of support is through making a donation. There are a number of organizations that you can donate to in order
to support Haiti. The Red Cross is one of the first that pop into my
mind but that may just because everyone and their mom has donated their
facebook status to read, “Please donate to the Red Cross for Haiti’s
relief efforts.” All you have to do is text HAITI to 90999 and $10 will
be sent to the Red Cross and added to your phone bill. If everyone who
read this post were to do that simple act I think we as meditators
would have made a tremendous impact. I just did it. Maybe you’ll join
The important thing to remember is to continue to keep an open heart and not shut down and ignore the suffering of our fellow human beings in Haiti. If we can offer our practice, service, or generosity to the victims of the earthquake then we no longer need to feel disempowered. I imagine this is what Sid would do in response to this tragedy and invite others to share their own reflections on how we can help our friends overseas.