Lessons From Hurricane Irma

Though her physical impact on the Tampa Bay Area was minimal, Irma provided us with insight into living life with quality. Here’s what she taught us:

  1. Embrace the essence of non-attachment

At one point, it was predicted that Tampa was going to be a direct hit with an incredible storm surge. If that were the case, our little first floor apartment on the bay stood no chance against the forces of water. It was time to practice non-attachment; a state in which a person lets go of the identification of their being with their worldly possessions. Sometimes, it’s difficult to part with our materials things, especially if they are imbued with memories. But I had no choice. I threw all of my clothes and books and travel souvenirs on the highest shelf of my closet with the understanding that all of my things were at the mercy of the storm. When I shut the door of our apartment, for what I believed would be the last time, I decided my things aren’t mine anymore. But then, again, they were never mine to begin with. It was unexpectedly liberating.

  1. Sometimes all you can do is surrender

After all of the hurricane prep was complete to the best of our ability and we fled to higher ground, there was nothing we could do but wait. We monitored the storm via weather apps, hoping Irma’s power would begin to dissipate, but the enormity of the storm was not up to us. I had to relinquish my perceived control of the situation and flow with Mother Nature’s plan.

  1. There are more angles than what the media presents

I had friends and family call and demand why I wasn’t fleeing the state. They watched the news, they said. It’s gonna be bad. The biggest, baddest storm to ever move across the Atlantic, they heard. They suggested I fly out, or pack up the car and hit the highway. But they weren’t here. All of their knowledge about my situation was regurgitated straight from their television. They didn’t know that gas was so sparse that you’d empty your tank just going out in search of a station to fill up. They didn’t know that the highways were practically live parking lots. They didn’t know that flights were packed and at risk of being delayed and cancelled. This lesson was not to undermine the love and well-intentioned advice that I received. It was about using the entirety of our minds to think critically; to think further than what we’re told because there’s always more to a situation than what the media lets on.

  1. Build an emergency fund and get the right insurance(s)

I’ve been advised to do this a few times before, but it never resonated with me until now. Having an emergency fund is crucial. Anything can happen at any moment. A pipe can burst, a fire can start, a hurricane can blow through. And while none of those are favorable, they are very real and very costly. My boyfriend and I spent few hundred dollars on dry food, water, and survival equipment and even though it was a small amount of money, we weren’t expecting to spend it on emergency supplies. But, thankfully after securing our lives, we didn’t have much at stake. We are renters without any valuable assets so the loss would have been minimal if our area was as devastated as they forecasted. But, there were some who had to worry about losing their homes, their businesses, their boats, etc. And while everything is replaceable, it is easier when you have a back-up fund.

  1. Shake it off

While Irma didn’t cause much damage here, she did shake things up. Loose leaves fell from the trees like confetti, dead branches snapped and separated themselves from the trunks of healthy trees, while the unhealthy trees uprooted themselves from the dirt. It seemed as though Irma forced the Earth to release all that no longer served Mother Nature. Since humans embody an Earthly element, we can relate. Sometimes, we endure metaphorical hurricanes, having to face strong winds and heavy rains, and while these situations may seem dark at the time, they require us to revisit our beliefs and let the dead things go.

  1. Be grateful

I couldn’t believe our luck when I woke up the morning after Irma to the low hum of the refrigerator running. We had power. And even more amazing, we had survived the storm unscathed. So had our apartment. And all of our belongings, and our neighbors and all of their belongings’. We went from preparing for homelessness to a joyous return to life before the storm. I felt an immense gratitude for the life I live, a feeling I promised myself I would continue to cultivate. Count your blessings. Even the mundane ones because chances are, if they disappeared, you’d want them back.

  1. We live in a fast-paced society, but slow transitions are okay

The morning after Irma, it seemed society was on track to return to it’s normal speed by noon. I found this quick transition to be too radical. The energetic balance of life was still off, yet people were headed to work as if nothing happened. I know I am more sensitive than most, but I saw this rapid transition to be of sociopathic nature. As progressive as our fast-paced society seems, I find that it does not always support the highest and best for our emotional and mental bodies. The lesson here is: society is going to continue moving at a rapid speed. Let it and catch up when you feel like it. Or don’t. It’s up to you to live your life at the speed you want.

Please take a moment to open your heart and send love to those whose lives were compromised and those whose homes and communities were devastated as a result of the storm. There’s power in prayer.

Namaste,

Mary

The Return

I felt like a fraud. Inauthentic. Fake. I was lying to everyone— my friends, my family, my entire social media following. But even worse than all of that, I was lying to myself. I was preaching about love and union and oneness, yet I felt so separate. So isolated. So alone.

I was depressed and afraid to admit it. What if I told my friends and family and they didn’t take me seriously? What if they dismissed my illness because of its deceptive invisibility? What if they discredited me as a yoga teacher? What if this feeling never went away?

For two months, I wouldn’t acknowledge those questions. I refused to give them any sort of attention. Until, I went to a psychic who told me I had an aura of sadness surrounding me. Yes, I paid someone to tell me how I’ve been feeling lately: depleted, drained, unhappy. But, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to hear the truth. I had gone to her as an escape, a desperate final attempt to prove to myself that I was okay (even though I totally wasn’t). The last palm reading I had, about a year ago, I was told that I am a world traveler and I will always have safe comings and goings and that I was about to embark on a chapter of self love and discovery, so I thought that this visit would elicit the same kind of feel good, sunshine-and-rainbow type of fortune. But, that was not the case. Instead, I was left to face the undeniable truth. My depression was real.

And when I did, I felt temporarily relieved. It felt good to talk about it, to free the words that I had encaged within for so long. But then I got caught up in the label of depression and felt worse. Every few days I would feel better until inevitability something would cause me to retreat back into myself. Eventually, this irregular emotional confusion changed form to a vicious cycle of hopelessness and despair. I felt sorry for myself, which made me feel sorry that I even felt sorry for myself in the first place considering how good I have it in comparison to the rest of the world. And then, I would go back to feeling sorry for myself anyway because the pain was so real. I even began to indulge in it, suffering for the sake of suffering. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I began to identify with my deep despondency, as if my depression and I made some sort of arrangement to keep my painful memories alive and to only focus on the sour parts of my life. I completely lost myself. I was saying things I didn’t believe in, throwing myself daily pity parties, and self-sabotaging to another degree.

Even though I was barely recognizable to myself, there was a part of me that was still paying attention, that cared to take note of all of the things that helped and didn’t help. I learned that listening to sad songs, and pitying myself, and oversleeping and believing that I wasn’t good enough, hurt. While being patient with myself, practicing yoga, doing intense physical exercise, writing, believing I was good enough, and reaching out to to people, helped. Especially that last one. (Let’s read it again: reaching out to people helped). While I was unaccepting of feeling most of the love I received, it’s the support from others that really helped me recover. My family and friends offered all that they could from their level of understanding, and my boyfriend helped me flee a toxic situation. I was not alone, after all.

It’s been about a month since I’ve felt really low. I still have good moments and not so good moments, but for the most part, I feel that my energy has returned. I’m sleeping regularly and laughing more. In the last few weeks, I made the move to sunny Florida with my boyfriend and even though I am starting anew without much direction, I am optimistic.

As I begin this new chapter of my life, I am grateful for all that has transpired to get me here. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It was all a part of the process. We endure difficulties in order to experience growth. It’s just one of life’s overwhelmingly complex laws, confusing and incredible at the same time. I could spend years pondering the concept, but I don’t think I will. All I know is I am alive. And that is enough.

It should be noted that no two people are ever going to recover the same. Healing is a very personal process. What works for one, may not work for another. So, while I did not participate in therapy or the use of prescription drugs, does not mean that I do not discredit them. It simply means it was not a part of my process.

If you ever feel depressed, know that you are not alone. Reach out to friends, family, or helplines. To connect with the Depression Helpline, call 1-800-826-3632. For more information, visit www.dbsalliance.org.

Namaste,

Mary

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