No, I didn’t evacuate. I wrote this instead…

3 lessons from riding out the storm

As a mountain is unshaken by the wind, so the heart of a wise person is unmoved by all the changes on this earth. — Buddha

It has been quite a week. I live in downtown Miami and chose to stay here despite residing in a mandatory evacuation zone. Was it a smart decision? Not sure anyone will give me that. It was what my instincts told me from the start and I am glad I listened.

One of the benefits of staying has been that I’ve had a lot of quiet time to think and write. As I write, I am bunkered down inside, the worst of the storm has passed. We lost power several hours ago so there are few distractions. Just howling winds, which have actually become quite soothing.

This week has certainly had its drama. As I reflect on what has transpired, several themes emerge. They not only ring true for riding out a hurricane, but also for riding out life’s many storms.

1. Fear is unfortunately our most dominant emotion

All week, all I did was listen to others try to scare me into leaving. Cable news has crafted their entire business model around it. Sure the hurricane put many people in danger and they do need to be warned. Many absolutely need to evacuate. But, the news has become a non-stop fear machine.

Every threat is multiplied a thousand-fold to full on apocalypse to ensure that our short attention spans are captured. Those that don’t panic or fully buy into all the fear are publicly shamed on TV.

This week, I received countless calls and texts from family and friends. All were asking, some begging, me to evacuate. While I appreciate all the love and concern, I hate the tactic of fear. The opposite of fear is love, yet so often we use fear in an attempt to control the ones we love.

Perhaps in a hurricane it’s necessary, but it happens just as frequently in everyday life. We all have our own intuition, just as I had in determining to stay put for the hurricane. So often the world around us uses fear to make us doubt that intuition.

This is why so many can’t trust themselves to make decisions. This is why so many are paralyzed with fear. Fear is a reactionary emotion meant to avoid imminent danger. For our society it’s become the dominant emotion and the cause of so much of our suffering. Choose love instead.

2. We control our experience

No matter how we look at it, Irma and Harvey created massive amounts of devastation. Many will face significant struggles to rebuild their homes and lives. I have nothing but sympathy and compassion for all those affected.

The reality is that those facing traumatic experiences are far greater than just those dealing with devastation. Our society whips people into such panics that we create traumatic experiences for things that haven’t happened yet. Often they never will.

Much of the pain and suffering we experience in our lives never actually happens. We are often most addicted to those stories where we are the victim and where we can seek sympathy. But we are in full control of these stories, we get to chose how we experience our own life.

One of the major shifts I’ve made in my life on my recent spiritual journey has been to surrender. I no longer try to control every outcome and obsess over what may happen. Instead, I try to just let life actually unfold.

With today’s hurricane, I was able to experience it with peace. Rather than fear all the bad things that could occur, I chose to accept its inevitability. Instead I focused on the opportunity for quiet time. I could catch up on some work, some reading and some writing. I knew I’d most likely lose power but that just ensured even fewer distractions. Instead of experiencing intense stress, I experienced complete acceptance and relaxation.

3. Everything is an opportunity for growth

When we open ourselves to a path of growth, opportunities begin to appear everywhere. I would never wish a hurricane upon anyone. But, it is possible to welcome it as a teacher. Our most intense experiences often offer the largest rewards of growth.

All week even as the media and my loved ones tried to strike fear in me, I had a sense of calm. There was even a bit of anticipation. I by no means wanted to see a devastating hurricane hit Florida. I did; however, feel an opening; an opportunity to learn and grow. I welcomed it.

The hurricane just passed a few hours ago and I’m sure I haven’t processed everything yet. I have felt a deep awareness all week. Being aware has enabled me to see many opportunities for growth. Sometimes these can be major breakthroughs. Other times, they can just be golden opportunities to practice and instill new ways of being. For me, this week has been largely the latter.

For the past few years, I’ve worked hard on learning to surrender. Until this week, I didn’t realize how far I had come. Despite the severity of the situation this week, I felt little stress and I didn’t complain. Rather, I sought to take the situation head on. I found myself practicing patience, compassion and stillness. While we never hope for such experiences, they are in our lives for a reason. When we look at everything as our teacher, we become true students of life.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences. — Robert Green Ingersoll

As I type this post by candlelight, my laptop is running out of battery (so please excuse any typos). I am relieved to have the hurricane behind us. I feel for all of those affected by its massive destruction. My head is still filled with all the emotions, thoughts and lessons from today and this week.

This week may appear as total chaos to most. But, like all of life, there is order within it all. Nature is our best teacher. Today she offered up a lot in a short period of time. It is up to each of us to be open, to seek wisdom and peace.

Often the most light is hiding in the most darkness. I guess I should be grateful that my power is still out.

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