As I write this many of us are recovering from a powerful March nor’easter or northeaster, a powerful storm with high winds that caused flooding and much damage throughout Northeast, including here in the Hudson Valley. There was no power or cable for three days in my town, and many are still without. Now I have a generator so I no longer play the role of fire-builder and woodstove tender. I no longer have to travel to the fire station for water to drink and wash dishes and flush the toilet. Every day during this black out, I was grateful for these seemingly simple things: water and heat and light. I remembered that they are elemental and crucial and even profound.
The paradox of being cut off–trees are down and wires strewn across the roads in addition to no electricity and internet–is that we may briefly experience a deeper sense of connection to the way most of the world lives and has always lived. Our sense of what matters may shift, our borders soften. We may spontaneously remember that all beings deserve to be safe and warm and nourished.
We offered hot coffee and hot showers and phone charging to our neighbors. A modest offering and a simple joy came from it, but it also felt as if we were shifting from our usual busy isolation to the sense that we were participating in something larger, as if we were living in a shared world.
One thing about going through a big storm is that you have a lot of company. You can’t help but feel connected and feel compassion for everybody weathering the same conditions. This sense grew as I drove down to Tarrytown from Somers to meditate without traffic lights, grateful for the cooperation of the drivers as we made our way around downed wires, and especially thankful for the convoys of tree cutting trucks and power trucks, some from as far away as Michigan and Maine. As our group came in, the Westchester weather-beaten, I felt so blessed to be in such company.
Everybody there, everybody everywhere, is equally subject to forces beyond our control, to storms and losses. Everybody there has known moments of desolation and isolation, even within a single meditation. And yet there are other moments, fleeting but real, when we can touch the common ground of our being, when we come out of our separation and join a greater life.
Smirti in Sandskrit sati in Pali, and drenpa in Tibetan, all these words mean to remember. This means to re-member or re-collect the head and heart, to open to an energy that can weather any storm.