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Boston marathon tragedy – what can we lean on in such troubling times?

As we all cope with the horror and grief of events like this, how can we deal with the rising anxiety that they can bring? Are we really just sitting ducks for the next attack?

An attack at an event like a marathon – so full of good cheer, love and courage – can make us wonder if anything anywhere is ever safe.  It can make us feel as if our life is very temporary and subject to the whims of chance.

As a student at Boston University decades ago, I felt the warm vibe of Patriot’s Day, “Marathon Monday”, four times and stood on Commonwealth Avenue encouraging the runners as they came by.

It’s hard not to be shaken by the senseless evil of these bombings.  My heart aches for the families of those who died and those suffering from severe injuries.

Even if we’re not dealing with actual physical trauma from the bombs, we can feel a mental blow.  Our sense of moral and spiritual equilibrium can seem thrown off.  That uneasiness needs healing as much as any injury.

And some say this type of stress – anxiety about death and fears for our safety – can lead to negative effects on our mental and physical health.  It’s at times like this that I really try to turn my thinking in a different direction.

As riveting as it is, I don’t get too caught up in the latest news of police and FBI investigations.  Because after those involved in horrible acts have been killed or caught and brought to as much justice as our system can bring, there is still that sense of vulnerability and uncertainty.

What helps me deal with it is to focus on what’s permanent and cannot be destroyed.  One of those things is consciousness.

In his recent book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Dr. Eben Alexander describes how he actually experienced consciousness without a brain.  After a rare disease caused his brain to shut down and sent him into a deep coma, he had a profound and complex, conscious experience.

Here’s his own summary from a Newsweek magazine article:  “There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.”

And from the book itself:  “My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave.”

That is reassuring, especially in today’s world.

Dr. Alexander discovered that even though his brain was not working at all, he was still a conscious, thinking being.  I’ve come to a similar conclusion through my own research into a spiritual sense of reality.

I didn’t use to have any belief in spirituality.  Back in my student days in Boston, it was very upsetting for me to think about the possibility of death.  What bothered me most was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to think anymore.  It didn’t make sense that we would be here so temporarily and then just stop.

In my journey I’ve considered what the Bible says about eternal life.  I’ve wrestled with the question of whether my consciousness is in my head, or something higher.  And I’ve gained a conviction that whatever happens to my body or my brain, my conscious life will continue.  And so do all who have supposedly died.

This understanding has given me great comfort and been a rock in tough times.  I’ve leaned on it hard and been sustained through fear and grief in both personal and global tragedy.

My hope is that those suffering loss and pain right now will find their rock and be lifted up from despair by what is permanent and indestructible.

Joel Magnes blogs on spirituality and health and is a Christian Science practitioner. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Brenda, a canine behaviorist (think dog whisperer). They have a charming Havanese dog, Rafi, and a chubby orange tabby cat, Wally. See more on his website, called “HealthThoughts.”  Follow Joel on Twtter @CSinMinnesota

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