Practicing What We Teach: Finding Peace In Times of Tragedy

Nicole Markardt
Practicing What We Teach: Finding Peace In Times of Tragedy

As my Vinyasa class comes to a close, I guide my practitioners as we bring our hands in prayer up to our third eye, “May we have peace in our thoughts.”

Then, bringing our hands in prayer over our lips, I remind myself and my fellow yogis to speak peace in our words. Finally, our hands held in prayer to our heart center, “may we know peace in our hearts.”

As I humbly thank everyone for sharing their Sunday morning with me, I remind them that this feeling of peace is always available to them. Peace can be just one deep cleansing breath away in any given moment.

Anxiety and Mindful Breathing

Having once suffered from crippling anxiety attacks, I was taught yogic breathing before ever even attempting asana practice.

The transformative practice of mindful breathing has helped me absorb life in the present moment, rather than hiding from it, as I waited for fear to creep up and paralyze my mind and heart.

Mindful breathing has helped me to quiet my thoughts, observe how my monkey mind swings from one fear-based possibility to the next, and concentrate on the richness of NOW—the only place where true life exists.

Peace in Our Thoughts

In the midst of my panic disorder, I got married. I married an NYC police officer and had plenty of practice in mindful breathing. I would often sit awake at night, trying to stay in the present moment, and not allow my mind to create alternate realities filled with tragedy.

I’ve been married for 13 years. I rarely allow my mind to dwell in dark corners if my husband is late coming home. As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I practice harnessing my thought energy and carefully choosing which ones will serve my highest good.

On a good day, when life is kind, it is possible and empowering.

The Tragic News Story of Two NYPD Officers

One late Saturday afternoon, I saw the tragic news story of two NYPD officers executed as they ate lunch in the marked police car that was their office.

The very same car that they discussed their families in, shared their lives, joked about random encounters with eccentric New Yorkers, and made plans for the future. Like anyone else, as the holidays approach, I imagine they were waiting to end their shift and focus on family obligations.

As I sat crying in front of the television (making sure that the volume was very low so my two children would not hear this tragic story), a familiar pang of fear tapped me on the shoulder. I recognized her immediately as she whispered thoughts of “what if...”

I could be one of those women. The world is an unsafe place. Those children could be my children...

Peace in Our Heart

As my husband left for work the following day with the same thoughts behind his eyes, I kissed him goodbye and fought past the urge to angrily respond to rants on social media.

I remembered my mindful breathing techniques, which dug me out of a claustrophobic existence over a decade ago. As I closed my eyes, slowing down my mind and heart with my breath, I was able get inside of my true heart space—the space that holds a knowing inside of her that people are beautiful and kind.

I know that there is nothing to fear because fear is a tricky beast that steals our joy. ~Nicole Markardt

I silently bowed my head in tribute to the fallen officers. I bowed to their wives, who lived through the moment of seeing those dreaded lights pull up to their front door. I bowed to their children who will spend the rest of their lives processing life without a father.

I bowed to all of the helpers who paid for the college education of these children and who paid the mortgages of these men so their families could breathe a bit easier, as they learn to live a very different life that the one they had planned.

Yoga means union. I refuse to live in the what if’s.

I believe in the power of love and I believe that it transcends everything. There is always union in times of struggle. The sea of blue uniforms present on the day of tribute to Officer Ramos, and the tears of strangers who never knew him, are what I choose to see.

There is beauty in this world. If we close our eyes and take a deep breath, we can see it. It takes practice.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ~ Fred Rogers