I never in all my years imagined the climate would be messed up enough for us to get all the way to R S T in naming hurricanes. But here we are and this one, a real doozy, is named for me. So much for wanting to be remembered as special. I am getting emails from everywhere with friends joking that they see in headlines: "Hurricane Sandy approaching!" and think I'm near their door. I am writing back: "This blowup called Sandy is what happens when I try to stay calm. That bad stuff's gotta go somewhere."
Like everybody else on the east coast, I am waiting for the hurricane to strike, waiting for the blow. It could be a double whammy for me because I am not at home to defend the fort. I'm on the island of Martha's Vineyard. It's one of those good old New England places quite used to weather, and like Maine very used to getting no sympathy from the rest of the world when it gets some. So there may be blood but there won't be headlines about it.
The hurricane is coming just when I came for tranquility a group meditation and teaching retreat with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. So far, which is two days, he has given every indication he wishes he weren't here. He was downright gleeful last night at the announcement that today's teaching was cancelled and tomorrow's may also be. But last night he did say at the end of his talk, the hurricane was a good chance for us to discover rigpa: undistracted, glorious awareness.
Unfortunately, what I am discovering is how the hurricane is raising havoc among our nangwa
, which Tsoknyi Rinpoche described as "our experience of things, the way we each individually experience something, anything." That certainly is in full play here, manifesting so clearly in people's perceptions of this impending hurricane. Those who live on the island keep saying it's no big deal: just some wind and rain but nothing to get bothered over because the island's only been hit by one hurricane in maybe 12-15 years. My retreat mate who has lived all over the world and currently lives in Washington DC, which is potentially in the eye of the storm, is a laissez-faire sort who doesn't feel moved to make any preparations. People who came to the retreat from the Midwest and landlocked mountain states are freaking out with alarm and panic at the news of huge storm surges at high tide. I'm filling the bathtub, tea kettle and big pots with water for that inevitable poof! moment electricity vanishes. I just know from experience that two days of hurricane force winds sooner or later will knock it out, so I have no shame being prudent. I also got a few more vegetables yesterday in case the store shelves go bare. The big unknown in these weather events is not that the electricity will snap off like a tree limb once all the huff and puff starts, but when it will come back on. My experience in the last two hurricanes and many blizzards has been a week. Ergo my particular nangwa
, or take on Sandy.
As it approaches, all of us in the retreat were told to stay inside and practice. This is actually fun with the right attitude. Mine comes from the memory of the late Trungpa Pinpoche perched high in a glass tower in midtown Manhattan watching the frenzied movement on the streets and sidewalks below, sitting down and saying: "The greatest luxury is to remain perfectly still in the midst of chaos." So as the winds swirl with greater and great force, huffing and puffing to blow my house down, I am sitting stone still, listening not to the rain but to myself breathe. In and out, down down down to that pivotal place four fingers below the navel where we are all grounded. Breathing in and out, in and out, a stillpoint of the churning world.
Really what else should I do? Stop the hurricane from coming? Sandbag 85 mph winds? I've done the water and food and flashlights so now I'm doing myself, making the most of the occasion. This hurricane was undoubtedly fueled by all the ferociously nasty battering energy humans have released of late and gained strength from the rapid stream of lies warming tempers. A hurricane is Nature's temper tantrum, the effect of what we cause. Do you think it's by accident that the center of the storm, its eye, is going to crack down on the center of the cold-hearted, hot-headed hell realm: Wall Street? Well as my own beloved teacher, Thrangu Rinpoche says: put positive energy into the world, as much as you can, to counter the massive negative forces.
So I sit still breathing in and out, listening to the trees rustle as they sway, seeing frantic birds sensing the highly charged air, praying that all beings move to the good side so there is no more massive negative energy to boomerang back and create so much food and shelter suffering. I'm shrugging my shoulders to keep them loose and shake out thoughts, breathing in and out to demolish with the power of awareness what I happen to know is the real hurricane Sandy.