By Kia Scherr
President, One Life Alliance
One year ago, I was a wife, a mother and a meditation teacher, living at a spiritual sanctuary in rural Virginia with my husband Alan and daughter Naomi, who was 13 years old at the time. Naomi was reviewing math for her SAT exam, a requirement for applying to boarding school, and excited about fulfilling the remaining requirement – an essay on the trip to India she was about to take with her father.
Last November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, took the lives of 170 people. Among the innocent people who were shot and killed in this tragedy were Alan and Naomi.
In those first hazy, grief-filled days, I was in a state of shock. Yet as we sat and watched the news unfold, I found myself saying to my family that we must send the terrorists our love and forgiveness. It is what I sincerely felt at the time, and continue to feel. It was so obvious to me that the terrorists were extremely separated from the experience of love, that I instinctively felt compassion for them.
One thing that stood out most clearly right from the beginning was the outpouring of love that came in from people all over the world of all religions and cultures. Some were old friends, but most were people I had never met. I heard from Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. These messages of faith inspired me then, and continue to inspire the ongoing response to this tragedy.
From an Iranian family:
From a Muslim:
These heartfelt messages reveal the essence of being human – the ability to feel love and share love with others. It is the essence of being alive. Life itself is our commonality and in this, despite the differences in how we experience life, we are one human race.
In any moment, we can choose love, understanding, acceptance, compassion and forgiveness. Feeling compassion and forgiveness has allowed me to be at peace within myself, and therefore, I can contribute peace to all of those in my world.
When life is lost so tragically, we value life all the more. Many lives were lost, but we’re still here. My husband and daughter are gone, and I felt I died while I was alive. And yet, I am still alive, so now what? What can I offer? Is there a contribution I can make? What’s left? Who do I choose to be? I feel connected to my human family as never before.
Before the Mumbai attacks, I lived the quiet, solitary life of a meditator for 11 years. Now, my days are full. I am the president of a new nonprofit organization, One Life Alliance, dedicated to honoring the sacredness of life through compassion and forgiveness. I have begun traveling and have met many people who are in full support of the message, and indeed, are living that message and transforming themselves and their world in the process.
As I wonder if I am qualified to offer anything, the words to one of Leonard Cohen’s songs come to mind: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
My offering is an invitation to engage in the conversation about the sacredness and oneness of life – to honor the sacredness of life, first in ourselves and then in each other. Whatever our faith, there is an underlying connection that we all share, and that is life itself. Together, perhaps, we can evolve our value for the life we all share.
Kia Scherr is president of One Life Alliance, an organization created to inspire the conversation about the sacredness of all life. She has been a meditation teacher for more than thirty years and previously served as national executive council member for the Synchronicity Foundation, directing hundreds of people through intensive retreat protocols as retreat coordinator, presenter and mentor.