A winter storm at Halloween? It seems that the universe tricked us. With a foot or more of heavy, wet snow on trees that still had their leaves, countless trees and power lines were damaged and down. Our landscape in western Massachusetts was transformed. Schools, colleges and businesses were closed, people impossible to reach, gas difficult to get, roads closed, and events cancelled.
In all of this, I was very lucky. My home lost power only briefly, and I quickly found someone to clear my driveway of the many tree limbs that made it inaccessible. Still, unable to rely on ‘ordinary’ life and its predictability, I was feeling deeply disoriented, powerless and concerned for those without power.
As the week began, I pondered the theme for my yoga classes. What can I offer when I myself am feeling so off balance? I think of a recent talk by Douglas Brooks, whose tantric wisdom enriches my understanding of Anusara yoga. The forces of the universe, he explains, are almost equal parts karma (predictable, explainable) and lila (random, not explainable, literally ‘play’). While the balance is slightly tilted toward the predictable, clearly this storm is about lila (pronounced ‘leela’). And lila, very importantly, connects us to our own receptivity and creativity.
As students appear, longing for their yoga practice, they inspire me. While many are deeply fatigued, most have found the resources and creativity they need both in themselves and in their community to meet the storm’s challenges. Students, friends and even strangers tell me their stories:
*A couple with neither power nor water melt snow on the woodstove for water and keep food cold in sealed boxes in the snow.
*Bathing is an issue. Some resort to an old-fashioned method, heating water on the stove in a large pot. Others gather at a friend’s heated home to take advantage of hot showers and share desserts—a ‘shower party!’ Others wait patiently in the long line at the health club’s showers.
*A young couple’s car skids off the road onto my friend’s property. My friend insists that they stay overnight, knowing that the route home for them is completely inaccessible. These two couples, strangers before the storm, begin a friendship. Because the young couple is creating a chocolate factory, lots of chocolate is involved.
*A woman I don’t know chats with me in a food store: “I can’t believe I’m shopping for small amounts of food, just what we need for one meal so there won’t be any left over.” She laughs at herself, amused and pleased with how she’s accommodating to life without a refrigerator.
*A college student normally focused on academic work is delighted that this interruption has made it possible for her to ‘actually have conversations’ with her friends.
*A man who lives in a town very hard hit by the storm is relishing what it feels like to be living very simply, as if in another time. The simplicity brings clarity.
Students and their stories call me to be my better self. My yoga theme reflects what they have shown me: As challenging as the effects of this October storm are, when we accept them, we can open to our own resourcefulness, patience and creativity as individuals and community. Without the electrical power we have come to rely on, we tap into our much deeper resources. And we are not without power.