Happy Solstice to all. My blog series on the power of the divine feminine in a dark time will resume next week. Today I offer a more intimate sharing about my experience with the ice storm in Toronto.
ICE ON THE STREET, ICE IN MY HEART
The power has been down at my Toronto home and studio for the past 18 hours. The city has been struck by what the news calls a “catastrophic” ice storm, leaving 300,000 without power in December. The hydro company deems the situation grave and estimates that I, and many, will be without power for the next three days.
Habit tells me that no matter what is going on in my life, I meditate as soon as I wake up, so that I may meet the day fully. So I do. I make my way to my cushion bundled in a snowsuit and woolly hat to offset the chill in the air. I love my practice and feel glad that I can sit in quiet to center and watch this day as it unfold. I settle in, until the sound of snapping trees, burdened with ice, falling on houses and into streets leaves me unsettled. I get up to look out the window. A large tree limb lies lifeless in my frozen back yard. The falling branch struck part of my house, but it is nothing serious. I sit back down to continue my practice.
As my mind stills and my attention is drawn within, I find it challenging to notice anything other than a high pitched screech that I can only think to be the sound of my revved nervous system. I feel anxious, deeply anxious. Beneath my bravado to simply move on despite the temperature, my meditation practice asks me to authentically meet the situation and how I truly feel. So I open. The fear I touch is not one I meet often, as it speaks to me of survival. Surprised, I pull back from the inner deep sea dive and distract myself for a moment. It all just feels too much and I feel overwhelmed. I look into the back yard where the broken branch fell, and see the serene Buddha statue covered in a thick layer of snowy ice, steadfast and unaffected. I pause.
Despite years of practice, hours every day, faced with a relatively common power outage I have to honestly say that I am shaken. The sober reality of how I feel leaves me to consider all those around the world who live in profound tragedy. I note how fragile I feel, how delicate my practice is and how tender the human condition truly is. If meditation practice is geared to train the mind to meet the day with equanimity and the moment of death with non-resistance, I wonder how I will do as life unfolds and when my time ultimately comes.
Unlike many in the city, and millions around the world who don’t have enough basic food and shelter, I am fortunate enough to have a place to sleep tonight: my mom’s. Her house, on the other side of the city, remains warm with light, power and the ever so precious internet. So after I finish my practice, I decide to go there.
I slide along the skating rink sidewalks to make my way to the subway, which is partially operational. After I lost the ability to move my legs due to a severe spinal injury in 2011 (that I was able to walk again some months later was medically deemed miraculous), I walk icy streets as though I were an octogenarian who suffers from osteoarthritis. I fantasize about the safety of a walker. I fear that any sudden tumble could leave me permanently paraplegic. Feeling fragile, I take each step with absolute caution and trepidation. I make it to the subway and thank the staff for working on this stormy day.
While on the train to greater warmth, I notice someone reading a newspaper with the headline “India floods create village of widows” – subtitle “Himalayan village of Deoli-Benigram has lost about a quarter of its population”. With a flash of a much larger reality, I feel that my perspective on the day has been restored far beyond my own fears.
In the past week, I have been “out there”, in the public eye, in ways I have never been before, spearheading a crowd sourcing campaign to raise funds for two music videos this January. I have felt challenged in so doing, in all sorts of new ways, fearing a deeper form of judgment, a new kind of failure, a different form of rejection than what I have been used to dealing with so far. As a spiritual aspirant, this is a good thing, as this is all an opportunity to see the ways in which I am attached to the illusion of little old “me” and resist the grace of the moment, which is ever loving and supportive.
I have encountered within myself a soul-level mistrust, even misalignment, with the power of nature to love – me. As I sat this morning in front of my shrine, I palpably sensed the way I feel disconnected from the whole of love, the way I can perceive myself as separate. I pulled a card from my Amma card deck as I often do, and asked for insight. It read: “Today I repeat as often as possible the mantra “I am love”.” How perfect.
It is grace to feel this fear, to feel this disconnect. At present, I can only imagine a reality in which every moment I feel viscerally connected to literally everything as an expression of love – even that treacherous ice on the sidewalk that felt like looming paralysis.
There have been moments since my spinal recovery that I have felt that everything is so easy, as though the very cells that make up my body are the broken branch, and the new life that germinates with the body of that tree. There are times I feel so loved and so connected, as though there were no sense of me, just one collective, greater whole.
But today, as I type on a computer that sits on the desk where I studied daily throughout my awkward high school years, I feel like a child, new, unsure and aware of much growth ahead. The ice on the streets has led me to an icy area in my heart. Beneath the frosty fear that causes me to overwork, push too hard, judge others or fear being judged and hurt, there is a soft place within that is surrendered and at ease. She rests in absolute trust of the love that always is.
This solstice weekend, in the Northern hemisphere, is the darkest time of the year, the most introverted time of nature. It gives us the opportunity to go within and touch our darkest places, our deepest fears. I feel that I have been gifted with that this weekend. The solstice is also the turning point towards the light; and I can see, as I embrace these tender and scary places within myself, that I return to a deeper sense of wholeness, and feel part of that eternal light.
May all find the eternal light even through their darkest places. May all be sheltered, nourished and safe.