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Contemplative by Catastrophe

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Learning to live with eyes wide open through circles of trust.

This article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. On High Alert Ten days after the collapse of the World Trade Center, The New York Times reported a small but significant event. On the morning of the attacks, “A policeman tried to help an investment banker who had fled the Twin Towers and seemed to be in shock. ‘I’m not in shock,’ the banker replied. ‘I like this state. I’ve never been more cognizant in my life.’” I cannot be sure what this man was trying to say as he emerged from that deadly chaos, but perhaps it was something like this: “Never have I thought more deeply, felt more profoundly, or been more fully aware of who I am, of what I love, of the suffering and joy around me. Never have I seen the world and my place in it more clearly than I do right now.” In the months following September 11, as I visited a dozen American cities in my work as a traveling teacher, I found many people like that investment banker. They were on high alert — not to the dangers of terrorism, but to themselves, to one another, to the world, to the gift of life itself. Their t …

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