The Calm Before, During, and After the Storm
A Fire, a Hurricane, Meditation and 6.8 Million Lives
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones or their homes in Hurricane Sandy. Although affected by the storm, I still have a sturdy roof over my head and was unharmed. This past month has been full of challenges here in NYC and I want to share my perspective with you.
Just a few weeks ago I watched as dozens of firemen attempted to put out a fire burning in a restaurant at the ground level of my apartment building. It was quite a scene with fire trucks up and down the street, ladders reaching to the rooftop, and firemen climbing onto my fire escape. When I saw them heading for the building entrance I ran to tell them that I had keys if they needed access. They assured me that they didn’t and so I joined the crowd to watch the scene unfold. Soon I noticed a big burly fireman climbing out of my window and I knew immediately that they had broken down my door. It’s not the first time this has happened!
The Calm Before, During, and After the Storm
For some reason I was acutely aware of my reaction, or rather non-reaction at what was going on around me. I was slightly annoyed, knowing that the keys in my hand could have prevented a busted door, but what really caught my attention was the complete absence of anger or fear. As I watched the heavy smoke billowing out, I had no fear that my apartment would be destroyed along with my belongings. I felt completely detached, even though I love my apartment, and knew that I would be able to handle the outcome no matter what it was. As it turned out, I was left with a messed up door and a smokey space. No big deal. At one point, the realization came to me that it was the day I had tentatively planned to moved to North Carolina!
A couple of weeks later I was away at an Ayurveda workshop in the Berkshire Mountains, totally focused on what I was learning and unaware that Hurricane Sandy was headed to NYC where I live. It wasn’t until I was ready to leave on Sunday that I overheard someone mentioning that the neighborhood just to my south had been evacuated. I was stunned. As luck would have it my Metro North train left on time and arrived at Grand Central Station just fifteen minutes before the subway shut down. I made it onto a train and home in the nick of time. Again, I was strangely calm.
Friends invited me over to ride out the storm but I was tired and happy to be back in my own home. I slept like a baby for eleven hours, in spite of the howling wind and rattling windows. The next day I never left my apartment and the wind sounded like a soundtrack from a sci-fi movie. At about 9:00PM the power went out. I unplugged everything and decided to go to bed while the storm raged. I had another stellar night of sleep. In fact, I slept for eleven hours every night until the power came back on five days later. It was dark, quiet and EMF-free, just like nature intended.
New Yorkers are an amazing lot, and after the storm we gathered together for comfort and support. With the power out for days, I was lucky to be invited to friends’ homes for candlelight dinners. We even managed to celebrate a toned-down version of Halloween for the kids.
So what is it that’s keeping me so centered and calm? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Meditation. It’s the reason I have been able to weather the storm, as they say. Trust me, I wasn’t always like this. I was anxious and afraid of many things. Fire and tornadoes topped the list. But my daily meditation practice has changed all of that. Meditate, meditate, meditate. It’s my new mantra.
It’s the first thing I mention when a client or a friend asks me for help. Two weeks ago while on the train from Boston to the workshop, the woman sitting next to me said that she was riding the train all the way to Texas because she’s afraid to fly. I shared with her a little of my own story, and how deathly afraid of flying I used to be. I told her that ultimately, meditation had dissolved my fear and that I have now become the person comforting frightened passengers on turbulent flights. Maybe my story will help her conquer her own fear. I hope so.
And if my meditation wasn’t enough to alleviate any hurricane-related anxiety, something that Maya Tiwari (the Ayurvedic teacher leading the workshop) said certainly was. She told us that the ancient Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas states that each soul has 6.8 million lifetimes allotted them to reach enlightenment. If you don’t believe in reincarnation, this will likely make you laugh. But if you do, it certainly puts this one little lifetime in perspective.
I still don’t have heat, home phone or Internet service. It’s very cold and Vatas don’t do well in the cold. I have had many offers to stay with friends but my home is also my office, my studio, my sanctuary, and I am eagerly waiting for the boiler repairman to show up. I look a bit like Heidi coming down the mountain, with so many layers of clothes that I could go on a trip without a suitcase. A hot water bottle work wonders (thanks, Alissa!), and a wool hat, gloves and socks under two down comforters has made for some amazing sleep.
It was days before I saw a television and realized just how devastating this storm was for so many people. And you can’t help but think about the billions of people around the world living like this every day of their lives. It’s so much easier, I found, to reach out to others rather than wallow in my own discomfort. And frankly, disconnecting from all things electronic for several days is a good thing.
I want to thank all of you who sent me messages of support and offers of assistance. This has warmed my heart more than you can imagine and is helping keep me warm until the heat comes back on!