As a teenager I hitch-hiked around town, praying no one who knew my Mother would see me. By 16 years old, I had graduated from high school and took hitch-hiking to a new level; first, hitch-hiking throughout Florida and next, throughout the United States.
I’ve always had what I called street smarts (but now acknowledge as intuition and awareness) when it came to personal safety. When I heard stories of girls who had been molested, raped, or murdered, I paid special attention to any details that might keep me safe. I prayed for the where withal to remember those things if I found myself in a dangerous situation. And honestly, I did find myself in some dangerous situations.
I am not fearless, although, I am not fear full. I have a realistic and pragmatic approach to safety and well being. After all, I am a Virgo and I’ve worked in DoD for most of my life. At one time in my life I was a card carrying member of the NRA and married to a man who had more than a few guns in the house. We made our own bullets and saved bottles and cans for Saturday target shooting. I wasn’t afraid of guns then, but I clearly had a healthy respect for the destruction they were capable of when in the wrong hands. When my husband shot a jack rabbit for no other reason than he could, my relationship with guns – and my husband, changed.
I often hear people defend the right to carry concealed weapons and I can’t support any aspect of that idea.
I remember how my boyfriend (when I was 16, he was 21) had a license to carry a concealed weapon. And so did his brother. They had no reason to carry a gun (if there is a valid reason). They just wanted the power that came with carrying the gun. I remember once, going into a 7-11 with my boyfriend and his six-shooter by his side. The clerk saw the gun and his entire demeanor changed. Fear.
I remember working at a clothing store and noticing a man with a gun under his coat. I didn’t know he was an off duty policeman. I didn’t know any reason at all why he needed to carry a gun while shopping.
Beyond concealed weapons, my first experience with someone dying innocently by gunshot was within the congregation of my church. If I remember correctly, two brothers were playing with their father’s gun and one boy ended up dead.
It appears to me that today we resolve problems – the problem of people who irritate us – by shooting them dead. If they are walking in a neighborhood that they may not live in, texting in a theater, or playing loud music in their car, we just shoot them dead. Problem solved. And then claim self defense.
Many people state that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Yes, people kill people with guns…and yes, other weapons. Those same people argue that performing background checks and regulating the types of gun one is permitted to own is unconstitutional. They say that any laws regulating gun ownership will only stop law abiding citizens from owning guns. I can’t help but shake my head and think of the law abiding citizens who have legally obtained guns of all types, and who have murdered. Even the most conservative statistics point to the dangers of having a gun in the house – the accidental and tragic deaths caused by someone who is quick to call on a gun to save their home and family (mistakingly killing a family member)….or to end a disagreement with a loved one.
As I said, I am not fear full, but neither am I fearless. And I’ve observed lately that when I go to a movie theater or really, anywhere in public, I am sometimes keenly aware of what might happen. More so than during my hitch-hiking days. I’m a little more suspicious and a little more observant. I’m not looking for criminals (if law-abiding citizens don’t have guns, only criminals will have guns) because my experience is that it is much more likely a law abiding citizen will whip out a gun and start shooting, whether s/he is emotionally disturbed or just momentarily disturbed. No, I’m not looking for criminals. I’m keeping my eye on the so-called sane and normal people.
Whenever I hear about an active shooter situation – the Navy Yard, a mall, a Sikh temple, or a grocery store, I wonder how I would react to the incident. Would I pray for a law-abiding citizen to step up and save us all from the shooter? Would I wish I had a gun to kill him/her before I am killed? Would I change my mind about what I believe regarding guns and gun ownership in America?
I believe I know the answers to those questions but of course I will never really know unless it happens to me, which of course I pray it does not. But acknowledging the fear I carry with me and the questions I sometimes ask myself is one reason why I meditate and practice stillness.
I’m not afraid of dying.
I used to say that I’m not afraid of dying but I’m afraid of the pain that might come with the process of dying. However, through my practice, I know that even that pain will diminish. I can trust my body to react to the pain and hopefully decrease my suffering. And at some point if the pain is too unbearable, my body may shut down so that I don’t feel the pain at all.
I believe that there is more to life than what I know through my five senses and while I believe that Kate will one day die, the essence of what I am will never die. And I pray that if I am ever met with a situation that puts me face-to-face with an active shooter, I call on that essence, rather than a gun.
This week I am going to the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center in Barre, MA for a seven day, silent Metta Meditation Retreat.
Honestly, my mind is exhausted with thoughts about guns and murders, the knock-out game, shady politics, government spying, financial debt, unsatisfying work, GMO’s, and human rights atrocities in the world. I seem addicted to it all, binging on The House of Cards and enjoying what I wonder might be more truth than fiction. I’m tired of reading comments on Facebook that are filled with fear, anger, and hatred. And honestly, I’m tired of everyone having the answer to everyone else’s spiritual path. I need to sit with that essence that you know only as Sharon or Kate. I need to sit with what I am and return to the very core of my being which is love.
Some people have shared with me, their experiences of week long silent retreats and some have said they can’t imagine sitting for even half a day. This will be the longest retreat I’ve experienced in silence and I am feeling fearful and fearless; ready to experience the noise of my mind to reach its silence; ready to sit and experience being human, trusting the experience will give me the relief of a mind sick with the fears of the society in which I live. And to this end, I surrender!