The sound of distant rolling thunder woke me up from my deep sleep. It felt like a freight train was headed in our direction, and I tried to go back to sleep but to no avail. The storm grew louder and louder until it was close enough to pelt the windows with a driving downpour. It was determined to be heard, demanding an awakening. And then, just like that (or so it seemed), there was silence as it must have quickly moved east. Even though the eye of the storm had passed, I could hear the distant rumblings, but from a different direction.
And yet, using my relaxation technique, I managed to go back to sleep again.But this felt like a different kind of sleep. Thunderstorms are known to charge the atmosphere with ions as they pass through. The severity of this one in the pre-dawn hour must have done the same. This new sleep felt like I had one eye open in uncertainty, in a kind of raised awareness. An awareness of a low intensity electric current running through the heart. A current that was asking questions like — what is truly essential in my life, what am I certain of amid this uncertainty, what is my readiness level for the next storm?
My Isshin-ryū sensei often used to say, a large part of preparedness is about knowing your strengths. He was also a proponent of practicing the basics, over and over and over again — even for, and particularly for, the black belts. “If you forget the basics, your foundation will weaken, and your mental reserves will eventually dwindle to the point where even a weak storm (opponent) will knock you over.” Good self-defense is a combination of awareness of our strengths, of the potential and intensity of the threat(s), and of our reserves.
Some storms come our way without warning or grow quickly upon us. They are like the hit that we don’t expect and they hurts the most. There are other storms which can be seen coming our way from a distance. The early warning systems are flashing yellow, and the ones who have had their sleep broken before, know that it’s time to awaken. They know that this isn’t time to choose to ignore the warnings or to believe that they are somehow immune. They take action to check on their preparedness, to build up their physical, mental and spiritual reserves.
What may our spiritual reserves look, sound and feel like? They may look like select passages of our faith’s texts or the essays and writings of spiritual luminaries who inspire and enlighten us. They may sound like the saying of our childhood prayers, the singing of our favorite soothing songs, the poetry recitations of hope, or the re-reading of stories read to us by our parents and teachers. They may feel like the remembrance of moments that gave us courage when we felt that we were deeply loved.
How do we build up our spiritual reserves? We build our reserves every time that we read a little bit more of the inspirational, sing a little bit more of the devotional, share a little bit more of the emotional. We can also build our reserves when we do regular check-ins with how we’re feeling, become more aware about how we let others’ actions influence our feelings, and clean our receptivity filters. Engaging the mundane can help us build our reserves too.
As I was walking the dog yesterday evening with my daughter, we got into a conversation about who expends more energy per body weight in a walk around the block – dogs or humans? Does it make a difference that humans have to only use two legs and dogs have to use four? This led to other mundane questions. How is it that the dog, in the middle of a deep sleep on a couch in the back of the house, can spring awake and bolt to the front of the house because he has sensed another dog walking by?
Yes. Sometimes, asking the mundane questions of life is a good distraction because it shifts our awareness from the impending storm to the present moment. It gives us time to pause, to breathe, to let our guard down and let the nervous system resume its normal flow.
So, what are we to do with all this preparedness? What is the best use our spiritual reserves? We can use them to support those who are leading community preparedness, to spread awareness about the need to prepare, to perform small acts of kindness, to dissipate our fear and to boost our spiritual immunity. We can use are reserves to create more empathy for the suffering, deepen our friendships and even form new ones, and learn anew to find joy in the small things.
We are all in this together. Now, more than ever, our connectedness is essential. Of that, I am certain.
P.S. Join us for our weekly conversation on twitter in #SpiritChat – Sunday, March 29 at 9am ET / 1pm GMT / 630pm India. We will try and boost each other spiritual reserves through (mundane) questions over tea and cookies. It isn’t the end of the world, and yet it may be the beginning of the creation of a new, more empathetic one. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Sunrise on the beach in Riveria Maya (March 2016)