Holding the Storm

Around 1:30 this morning, I woke up to the rolling sound of thunder and the thrum of heavy rain outside my window, clearing the DC streets, bathing the city. On many days I might lament the rain. This morning I was grateful for it.

Today is my birthday. So much has changed since this time last year, in the world and within me. Water has held an important symbolism as I’ve worked through change, learned to be more fluid myself. As I’ve learned about forgiveness. As I’ve practiced non-grasping–things are often slippery when wet.

Many spiritual systems have traditions or rites invoking water. Often it’s a symbol of cleansing and rebirth. A renewal of spirit. A clean slate. It’s a model of impermanence, a very prominent reminder of the way everything changes. Molds to the shape of a container. Moves through states of being. Solid, liquid, gas. I was grateful for the rain this morning as I entered a new year–it felt representative of these cycles, of endings and beginnings, of opportunities for change and growth. It was a beautiful closure for a hard year full of truth, a beautiful and hopeful opening to a new one.

I was grateful, and then I felt pangs of guilt. I know where these rains came up to DC from, the destruction that was wrought by the same storm when it hit land south of me, surging through the Carolinas, displacing many and destroying structures, both natural and man-made. My cleansing birthday rain is the vestiges of a hurricane.  Is it okay to feel gratitude for the same storm that has devastated so many?

The nature of a storm is to eventually dissipate. To build until the point of release, to move with pressure systems until it’s pulled to bits and scattered over the earth. Isn’t that our nature as well? To build a life, to release our energy throughout our time here, and to ultimately return to our basic pieces? Ashes to ashes?

And haven’t we all caused harm in our pasts? Can’t we change course, water gardens, hydrate beings, make amends for our wrongs? Can we stay accountable to the harm we’ve caused and also recognize the ways we’ve served, created, lived a positive, generative life? Can we appreciate the change, appreciate the good, and own the bad?

I believe that to truly appreciate change is to be in the present moment–if I hate the storm for the destruction it caused before it reached me, I am only recognizing and clinging to what it was yesterday, not what it is today. If I wish for blue skies, I am only grasping onto an idea of what it might be tomorrow. But today there is rain. Cleansing, healing, amend-making rain. And I can feel both renewed and full of concern and sympathy for those who are now faced with the task of rebuilding in the storm’s wake. I can take responsibility for my own contributions to climate change and take presently-needed action to aid those who need our relief efforts and funds.

I can be grateful for the rain and heartbroken that so many have lost their homes, even their lives.

I can be grateful for the rain and furious that the current administration has further gutted environmental protections and even reduced relief budgets to fund family separation and deportation.

I can be grateful and heartbroken. I can be grateful and furious.

I have enough capacity to hold and honor multiple truths. And I can honor the lasting truth of change by knowing myself as I am on any given day, connecting with and learning about my own nature even as it changes–day by day, year by year, birthday by birthday–through a consistent practice of turning inward, deeply examining my desires and motivations, being in my body and with my breath. I can honor change by owning my hurricanes and embracing my soft, life-giving rains, but I need to be able to recognize and sit with each one first, be able to let go of what I knew of myself yesterday and take in what the truth of my self is today. That ability to discern and hold, that capacity building, that emotional, mental, and energetic space to continually check in is what yoga offers us–I can honor change by practicing yoga, always.

Ultimately, by contributing to climate change through both action and inaction, we all share in responsibility for the extent of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Maria, and many more disasters past and yet to come. If you’re able, join the efforts to bring a just recovery to Florence victims.

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