We keep in our prayers the victims and families of the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School.

The frighteningly high rate of school violence, with some estimates showing 2018 as having one school shooting per week, is a wake up call for all of us. While there are different reasons and causes behind the perpetrators’ actions, we must focus on addressing the root causes of violence and the treatment of its associated trauma.

What can we do to defeat violence in our schools today?

Firstly, while none of us can avoid the inevitable stress and storms of emotions that life brings, our young must learn to recognize and manage them. The challenge is to teach our young people how to handle their negative emotions and aggressive tendencies. Neither at home, nor at school are we taught how to handle our negative emotions.

Also, aggression is often confused with dynamism, and those who are peaceful are considered too passive or meek. However, outer dynamism without inner stillness is seldom effective. This is where meditation and yoga can help us go within and connect with ourselves. We can then manage our own thoughts and emotions better, so that we can connect more effectively with the world outside.

Meditation can also help victims heal the scars afflicted by the trauma of violence, and help them cope with their pain and suffering.

Secondly, a sense of disconnect or lack of belongingness perpetuates the issue of societal violence. This is also compounded when young people feel marginalized or are emotionally troubled. As a society, we should seek to recognize the hurt and wounded in our schools and convey to them in clear and unambiguous terms that someone is listening to them and cares.

Lastly, too often there is a sense of pride that is attached to violence. We need to change this. We need to show our future generations that there is enormous strength in nonviolence. When children are exposed to so much violence through video games and movies, they begin to see it as normal in real life, too. There is need for a collective and holistic action to tackle this. Change is needed at both levels, in legislation as well as in the mindset. Policymakers, intellectuals and faith-based leaders bear a collective responsibility to address this.

Now, more than ever, is the time to recommit toward creating a violence-free society. This is the birthright of every child. The United States serves as a guiding light in the world, standing as an example of diversity and harmony. School violence is damaging America’s beautiful fabric. By helping troubled youth at early stages and re-emphasizing the importance of nonviolence, respect for life and the dignity of every human being, we can make headway against the scourge of school violence. Learning appropriate techniques to handle our grief, pain, negative thoughts and emotions, can help build a stronger, more resilient society.

Together, we can create a violence-free, stress-free society.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values, which collaborate on humanitarian initiatives worldwide.

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