DeKalb Chronicle photo Eric Sumberg
"What is known about the gunman late Thursday is that he was an NIU sociology graduate student in spring 2007, said Peters, who added that the gunman apparently has no police record and there was no known motive for the shootings as of Thursday evening."
I was not at NIU but I had yoga students who were upset because they have friends at NIU. Even though I did not directly experience this tragedy it has still affected me. I keep thinking about the looks on the faces of the students who came in late to class and said, "there's been a shooting at Northern. my friends...." I have never seen so much fear in someone's eyes before.
DeKalb is down the road from the community college where I teach. the yoga studio where I teach is in a small town that is literally across the street from DeKalb.
The area is corn and soybean country, farm country, it's about as Midwestern fresh-faced as you can find. many of these kids are still innocent about the world, they aren't tough Chicago kids like I was growing up. many of them are farmers' kids.
A friend in India told me that the story even made the International Herald Tribune, he had already read about it last night before I wrote about it here. I always laugh when people ask me, "aren't you afraid to go to India by yourself?" Let me tell you: I feel safer being alone in an Indian village than I do in America. I feel safer being on the streets of Chennai at 2 AM than I would being in Chicago at 2 AM. Every time I go to India, when someone asks me what country I'm from and I tell them, more times than not I am asked whether I own a gun. This is the image that America has even in a remote Indian village.
The reality is that the same thing can very easily happen at the school where I teach. maybe somebody did not like the grade I gave them and they'll walk into my class, look at me and say "I GOT YOUR YOGA RIGHT HERE, BITCH" and start blasting. Buddha taught that death is certain, the time of it is not. our lives can change in a split second as many people found out yesterday in DeKalb. yet we live our lives as if we will never die.
Tragedies like this always bring home to me how important it is to live in the present moment, to be mindful and to live mindfully. thinking back on yesterday I recall how before I taught my class I went to my department's office to make copies of some handouts. two department secretaries were in the room complaining about one thing after another -- how the hot water in the sink was not hot enough, how the faucet in the sink was loose, how someone on campus did not respond fast enough to a secretary's email. it was a constant barrage of negativity and I could not wait to leave that room. I remember thinking, man, if they complain about that stuff, how do they handle the really big events in their lives? most of the stuff that we think is important really isn't in the grand scheme of things.
The other night I read excerpts from this article by Phillip Moffitt to my private students. I loved what he said at the end of the article:
"Looking back over your life, how many weeks, months, even years have you wasted anguishing over something you didn't get from a parent, a spouse, or in life? Did all that anguish serve you, or would it have been more skillful to have received fully the experience of the loss, accepted it as what is, and then allowed your emotions to go on to experience what is possible in the present moment? More importantly, are you still caught in an endless cycle of wanting mind, imagining that it is the next accomplishment, change in relationship, or piece of recognition that will make you happy? Pay the boatman at the river of loss and sorrow his three rupees and cross over to the other shore. Your life is here, now."
Be present. Be here now. Be love. Be peace.
so shall it be