I sit in my chair to meditate this morning. Gusts of wind heave heavy rain at my windows and the tears finally come. They don’t stop, so I am here with you, holding vigil for the people of Oso. Forty Five miles north of me loved ones stand in the rain over a 1.5 mile expanse of mud and debris waiting to confirm the fate of family and friends. King 5 News reports that “…tons of earth and ambulance-sized boulders of clay” from Hazel Hill loosened by steady, pounding rain, came crashing down on the houses below last week. They wait to have news of death crash down on their souls housed in now spent bodies. The official count today is seventeen dead…but the missing list bears ninety names- half the population of Oso, Washington, USA.
The constant rain has brought geologists to the area to monitor the very real threat of more landslides to the rescue workers in the valley. It is too much to dwell on it further. The video embedded below recounts the story of the rescue of a four-year-old boy. It helped me to understand better what this experience was for the people who died, and for those who wait. My thoughts from two recent posts bear repeating here.
One spiritual practice we can do for Oso is to step away from the role of spectator, and take the time and solitude to feel empathy for the people who suffer. Although we cannot fully know their experience of suffering, we know that it matters that they suffer, and it matters that we stand with them spiritually. Whatever the suffering is, it is. In our prayer we can ask that they be given the grace to be faithful and true to the process of living through it. May they eventually come to a juncture in their grieving, that they can embrace the reality of the experience and emerge whole again. By holding vigil with them we can live the suffering with them from inside the presence of God, vulnerable, clean and stripped to our essence. May they hold themselves together while training a vigilant eye toward grace. For those of us from afar, words are ineffective. We must send spiritual energy. You may find the meditations below helpful.
Buddhist Practice of Metta, Sending Loving Kindness
May you be safe from harm.
May you be happy and peaceful.
May you be strong and healthy.
May you take care of yourself with joy.
Tonglen Meditation Practice: Compassion
A fellow blogger at http://wildninjablog.com/ has gifted us with links for sending donations and helping in other ways. This is an in-person look at life in the 530 corridor at this horrific time It holds up for us the people of Oso and their strength and committment to the common good of their community.
Photo Credit: http://www.3news.co.nz/Photos-Washington-landslide-search-and-rescue/tabid/1125/articleID/337624/Default.aspx
While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat. He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat. At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface. At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves. The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.
Adapting. And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment? Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot. We survive and we often thrive. Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us. Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived. I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation. You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it. These choices have redeemed me at times:
1. Be Faithful
To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.
2. Be Helpful
Seek out viable and positive service opportunities. Service takes us out of ourselves.
3. Be Creative
Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music) Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.
4. Be Communal
Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.
These adaptations get me through the heat of the day: Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.
When I was too young to have developed psychological tools for protection, I was offered up on the altar of experimental psychology by a group which deemed me unacceptable, and who abandoned me emotionally. I felt so lost that I feared I would lose my mind- really, not metaphorically. From somewhere deep within I begged, “God help me! I don’t know what to do.” A resolution presented itself, and the beginning of equilibrium returned. Until then I hadn’t known about the safe room in my soul.
“Lost in the Sauce” seems to mean what you want it to mean: drunk, stoned, utterly confused, living outside of reality. At age twenty seven I was lost in the sauce, and that experience has become my salvation. Those three powerful words, God-Help-Me, pulled me into a place where I was safe and not alone. How had that place come to be?
It started with the foundation: parents and teachers who loved God. It was a different rendering of God than the one whom I now worship, but it doesn’t matter. They gave me a framework for my spirituality and consistent practices which drew me into God’s presence. As a child I was already learning to go to this place when buffeted by the little storms of life.
The soul’s safe room affirms who we are and that we are lovable and passionately loved by God, no matter that a violent storm threatens outside. It is an anchor. I regularly visualize a room in my heart where beloved books on a shelf provide sacred nourishment. Where mystics and prophets are invited guests, along with other spiritual guides who accompany me daily. At least one intimate friend is welcome at my table to remind me that I am loved. It is from this room that I instinctively cry out for God’s help when I am lost in the sauce.
As a young adult I felt like an exile with no physical anchor. As I age, the image of a nomad rings true. It seems to me that nomads must have a strong internal anchor which grounds them. Unlike exiles, they choose their vocation. If we regularly practice going to our soul’s safe room, even when no storm rages outside, we become spiritual nomads who are strong and ready to roam wherever the Spirit leads us.
(Enjoy Vanessa’s blog post, “Why We Need Nomads,” at http://www.vanessaruns.wordpress.com)