Why Practice? A Disaster Named Ike

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What is life? What do we expect?

In the Western world we have expectations of personal as well as global peace and happiness every single day. Of course, that is NOT the case. As Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us in his book, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, life is more or less a series of catastrophes, one after another. Why we expect it to be otherwise, who knows?

This has certainly been true during the past few days as Mike and I waited anxiously to hear word of our boys and Elisabeth in Houston, hunkering down during Hurricane Ike.

They are OK, sleeping on the tile floor in the RICE University Campus Center – better than so many who lost everything they owned. D. volunteered to cook for the “refugee” students holed up in the Center. He made a couple hundred gyros. Nate & Elisabeth’s apartment suffered minor water damage. One of the labs Nate uses has water pouring out of the electric sockets – probably not a good thing, but his ultra-high-speed laser is OK – so he’ll probably be able to get back to work on Tuesday. Fellow physics grad. student, Mark Knight rode his bike ten miles into Houston center to shoot some video of the after-effects of the storm, only to get a flat tire from broken glass. It was a long sorry walk back.

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What are we learning as we practice yoga and meditation day after day? We discover that this is drama, pure and simple. We find that there is a place within, a center of equanimity and stillness that we can access, even during our most troubling times. Is that happening for you? Are you finding some semblance of quietude during your catastrophes? Do you think this is possible? Can you sit in the anxiety? I had trouble sleeping as well as meditating.

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Stretching out in forward bends helped when I wasn’t on the phone to family. Let’s remember that this is a practice, not perfection. In the face of something as large as Ike, we are only human after all, despite years of practice. Acceptance of our suffering and raggedy edges comes with the territory. Despite saltines and peanut butter, no electricity and a mere trickle of water, day after day, even in 90 degree heat, there is opportunity to practice compassion from whatever softening crying hearts can muster.

Our prayers go out to you Texans. May you experience an eye of stillness within your storms.

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