Selfless Service—A Reflection on Boston

As I write this, it’s April 16, 2013, less than 24 hours since two explosives ripped through the crowd at the Boston Marathon leaving three dead and more than 100 people injured. I sat in my bed last night poring through the news on my iPad and I came across raw footage of the first explosion. I allowed myself to absorb the graphic images and I felt a profound sense of grief and utter lack of comprehension for what had happened. Almost instantly I was reminded of Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita when Krishna shows himself to Arjuna in his totality. Arjuna is overcome with terror and awe as he sees Krishna’s mouthful of dead bodies, the giver and taker of life in all his awesomeness. I was drawn into the images unfolding on my screen, even as I recoiled with revulsion at the horrors they portrayed.

In the moments after the explosion, I noticed that there were two responses from the crowd. Many ran away from the source of danger, an understandable response. I could imagine being there with my kids and feeling the powerful instinct to protect them at all costs, to get away from the blast and find safety.  I don’t think anyone can say what they would do in such a situation unless it has happened to them.

The other reaction I saw was of people running into the smoke, toward the source of danger, and immediately pulling away the twisted metal gates in an effort to rescue survivors. I instantly thought, Wait, there could be another bomb! I was afraid for those helpers but I was also overcome with reverence for their courage. Tears were welling in my eyes, and I felt sadness, but I also experienced something else, something deeper: a greater sense of love. As I watched those folks move into the smoke in order to help others in need, I saw our inherent goodness shining forth in the face of terrible tragedy.

Here at Kripalu, we have a tradition of seva, or selfless service. I have often thought that the practice of taking skillful action without attachment to personal gain is a life practice for every moment, and upon watching those EMTs, police officers, National Guard troops, and marathon volunteers rushing into danger, selflessly, I realized the true power of seva. A popular modern yogic aphorism I often hear is that if you are ever in a plane that is crashing you should never forget to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else put on theirs. This morning, as I reflect upon the tragic events in Boston, I’m deeply touched by those who never gave a thought of themselves but rushed in for the ones who really needed the mask.

We were inspired by the image below. Thank you, The Illuminator.

Photo copyrighted, all rights reserved by mobilizersforthe99.

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Micah Mortali is lead Kripalu faculty, the Founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership and author of Rewilding.

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