Practicing during natural disasters
When we are facing a challenging time it is easy to scramble into hyperactive crisis mode and leave behind the structures and practices which keep us clear and grounded. However, all the practices and routines we build in peacetime are exactly what will get us through the rough patches.
I spent about a month traveling for work and weddings. I was hoping this last week would be a time to root back into my home and prepare for my 2020 programs. Instead, our community has been facing an intense wildfire with evacuations, no power or internet for days, and choking smoke. The nights have included leaving cell phones on to check Nixle alerts making sure the fire hasn’t shifted in a dangerous direction or a new fire hasn’t started nearby.
My first impulse each day has been to jump into action and not onto my mat. In the evenings there has been a pull straight towards sleep rather than my boot-down routine of silence and breathwork. I’ve missed a day or two of my normally reliable yoga, martial arts, and meditation. After noticing my mind become increasingly frenetic, I forced myself to push through a wall of resistance. I’ve found myself doing breathwork with a mask on and yoga by candlelight. Each round of practice has me feeling clearer and a bit stronger. The insights surrounding my practice have been much different than the well-worn thoughts of practicing in my usual setting.
Repetitously practicing under the same conditions bores the soul. We get stronger when practicing in a new context and setting-- even if it includes a natural disaster. Times of stress requires us to be clear-headed. These are exactly the times when we most need to practice!
Yesterday I finally pulled the ripcord and evacuated to clear air near Mt. Shasta. It is easier to practice in the tranquil vibe of a mountain stream, but there is a reason it is called “practice.” We are preparing for important moments or events that require us to be as fully present as possible. A dangerous situation. A deep connection with another. A rare opportunity ready to be seized. The moment of death. By building a daily practice we are cultivating a reservoir of presence and steadiness to draw from when it matters most.
All things being equal I’ll still take a boring, serene meditation near a mountain stream over finding my breath in choking toxic smoke.