Making Sense out of Tragedy

photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

As my yoga sister and I caught up over tea after our practice, we talked of many things. I shared with her the sickness I felt after reading about Trayvon Martin for the past few weeks. There are many different opinions on the matter, but the fact is, an unarmed 17-year-old kid carrying an iced tea and a packet of Skittles was shot and killed. He is dead and his parents are suffering and although the matter is now in the hands of the justice system, the case has stirred up a lot of emotions for many Americans.

“Where is the divine in this?” my friend wondered aloud.

The question has been percolating in my mind since she asked it. Where indeed? I have bounced back and forth between twin emotions of rage and sadness with each article I’ve read. Disbelief that this could happen in 2012 with no arrest for 46 days. Nausea when reading comments on Web sites and finding some of the nastiest, most racist sentiments I’ve ever encountered. As the weeks have dragged on those emotions have given way to uncertainty as to whether this case is about a poor investigation,  racism, gun control, the Stand Your Ground law, or a mixture of all of these.

Now that Zimmerman has been arrested, the case will play out in the court of law rather than the court of public opinion. Having raised awareness regarding the case to the level of the national stage, I hope that Trayvon’s parents can now begin the work of healing.

I still find myself reflecting on where the divine is in this sad situation. For the hard questions in life I turn to yogic wisdom. Perhaps one way of finding the divine in this, or any situation that calls up the shadow, either of one person or of an entire nation, is found in the Isha Upanishad:

“The wise person beholds all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings; for that reason he does not hate anyone.”  —Isha Upanishad, Verse 6


photo credit: h.koppdelaney

As I read that verse, I felt my heart open. It was still heavy, but at least it was unarmored. In seeing all beings in the Self, therein is the divine. In both Martin and in Zimmerman. In the beauty of a teenage boy captured in photographs, with his whole life before him. In the sadness of the aftermath of a life taken too soon, parents beset by grief. In the joining of voices of people of all races across the country, calling for justice in the form of an arrest so that the legal system can do its job. In the reminder that we still need to dig deeper and take an honest look at race in America and also gun control. In seeing that while Zimmerman’s fateful actions were driven by fear, the repercussions of that fear have sparked a dialogue that may yet move this country forward. In finding compassion for Zimmerman, a human being who is feeling his own grief about having taken Martin’s life.

Is it possible to view Martin and Zimmerman as teachers, exposing the very things about ourselves and our country that we don’t want to see, but that must be illuminated in order to heal and create actual change? I believe they have created an opportunity for each of us to embrace wholeness rather than divisiveness, and harmony rather than discord.

Can you see this, even with some difficulty?


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Nicole Taylor Linehan, RYT, MA, has practiced yoga and meditation for 10 years and taught for over 4. In addition to following her passion as a yoga and meditation teacher, she is a managing editor in Philadelphia, Pa. Nicole has studied ParaYoga with Yogarupa Rod Stryker for two years and is wholeheartedly devoted to living and spreading the teachings. Her life's purpose is to transmit vibrancy through coaching, yoga, and meditation. Visit her on the web at

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