Turning Dancing Into Mourning: Listening to Sacred Stillness

Turning Dancing Into Mourning: Listening to Sacred Stillness January 24, 2023

Turning Dancing Into Mourning: Listening to Sacred Stillness

Turning Dancing Into Mourning

I live in Southern California, close to the cities of Alhambra and Monterey Park. Last weekend, a man turned my neighbors’ dancing into mourning.

A holiday weekend, the first Lunar New Year people were encouraged to spend together since the Pandemic. The beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, a good omen.

Lunar New Year’s Day was not something I celebrated while I was growing up. I have learned about it living here.

We woke up on Sunday to learn about the shootings, following the story. Waiting for information, we did not do much speaking. We listened to the sacred stillness all around us, and within us.

Listening, one question grew strong within us. As the voices on television tried to explain the who and where and when, One question absorbed all their words.

We were not hungry for specifics or thirsty for details. The question we wanted to know about was, “Why?”

Why did this happen, here so close to us? Why did this happen now, on the eve of a new year?

What motivated this man to do this to these people?

It sounded like the law enforcement people were doing a good job of following up their leads, They seemed to be having good luck putting together the picture of what happened.

There was not much insight about why this had happened.

Understanding why can be the most challenging part of any criminal investigation, any criminal case.

Why had this man decided to turn our neighbors’ dancing into mourning?

The police might first need to find him and catch him so they could listen as he told his story.

Even then, they might not be able to discern the full truth. Finding the truth often involves sifting through a story to discover what matters most.

Lunar New Year

A lunar year has months which are moon cycles. Several cultures organize their calendars around the cycles of the moon, including Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Islamic and Jewish calendars have also been lunar.

The first mention of a lunar new year in Chinese culture was recorded in the Han dynasty. People gathered with their families, wished their parents good health, and toasted their ancestors.

Lunar New Year is one of the grandest traditional festivals in Chinese culture. The festival means the beginning of spring and the start of a new year. Families spend time together and people buy New Year’s goods.

The lunar new year over the weekend was the first one people have been encouraged to spend together since the Pandemic. People in China and people in Monterey Park had significant anticipation about their first New Year’s celebration in three years.

The travel in China, as people return home, is the single largest one-time movement of people on earth. This year’s traveling was expected to include two billion people.

The beginning of the new year in Monterey Park on Saturday attracted ten of thousands of people.

The beginning of a new year is particularly auspicious, similar to a new year in the Gregorian calendar.

Each year has its own qualities and meaning. This is the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, which is deemed to be a year of luck and good fortune.

This year, however, on the eve of the lunar new year, a man turned my neighbors’ dancing into mourning.

He entered two dance studios which were holding celebratory dances. Shooting several people in the first studio, he was stopped at the second studio.

Mourning With Our Neighbors

I was not in Monterey Park celebrating with my neighbors, but I mourn with them.

We mourn together, listening to the sacred stillness which engulfs us. When there seems to be nowhere to turn, nothing we can do, we mourn together in the stillness.

The gunman, the shooter, the killer, shot at least 20 people in Monterey Park, and himself later. He apparently intended to kill more people in Alhambra, but his firearm was taken away from him. Eleven of the people he shot in Monterey Park have died, and so has he.

I mourn them by listening to their stories, remembering them even if I never met them. They are my neighbors.

Mourning him, I listen and try to understand why he did what he did. We may never understand, no matter how long we listen to the stillness.

Monterey Park residents are keeping vigil at the shooting scene and outside city hall, reflecting and praying.

Slowly, drop by drop, wisdom is filtered from the sacred stillness all around us, and within us.

The answers to many questions will be discovered over the next few weeks and months. We may never understand why the man did what he did on Saturday.

I believe there is wisdom in the stillness, even when I do not appreciate it. It may take us years to recognize it.

Listening to Sacred Stillness

I search for wisdom and meaning in the sacred stillness each day.

Taking time to sit still, close my eyes, and breathe in deeply, I listen to the stillness.

There is sacred stillness all around us, and within us. It has wisdom to teach us and comfort to give us. We listen, desperate for its truths and eager for its embrace.

We cannot bind up the wounds of all our neighbors, but we can sit and listen with them.

As we listen and remember people we never met, the people we love and have lost sit with us.

The lives we like to believe we have under such careful control have lessons to teach us. We release our grip and life fills us with its precious and powerful uncertainty.

What will turn our dancing into mourning next?

Our neighbors will mourn with us.

We may never understand what happened and why, but we sit still listening to the sacred wisdom of stillness.

How will we remember the day when dancing turned to mourning today?

When will we take time to listen to sacred stillness this week?

[Image by chidorian]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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