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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earthquake . All Shook Up

On Easter Sunday afternoon, on a perfect day, the earth started shaking - without any warning. It shook about one whole minute. Books and statues fell out of shelves, lamps were swinging. Fortunately, things seemed without much damage - in San Diego at least. However, I continued to shake inside...

In my life I had had experienced 2 earthquakes, until Easter Sunday of 2010. Both had been in Austria, one when I was about 5 and one in my college years in Vienna, when it woke me up in the wee hours after a long night out, wondering what had been in that last drink. Both were kind of fun to experience, and Austria is certainly not known for having earth quakes.

This one on Easter Sunday sent the shock waves right into my heart. Many things are different today - I am older, I currently have responsibility for my 17 year old niece, and we own a house by the canyon - built in 1923, where only the front wall is on the ground and the rest is on stilts. I had been sitting on the bench on our front porch, enjoying the gorgeous Easter Sunday afternoon, my husband and my niece each on a sofa in the living room, taking a nap, in sight. The scene was sheer contentment for me. Then, the shaking started. First I thought my first glass of wine since the beginning of lent was doing weird things to me, then I thought the new aluminum bench from Costco wasn´t that great after all. When it did not stop shaking I realized what was going on: an earthquake! My husband and my niece joined me in front of the house, my niece enjoying the experience. I got quiet and felt so helpless, hoping our house would be okay and mostly hoping that nobody was getting hurt amongst all the people affected by the ground shaking.

Several aftershocks were noticeable, me stiffening every time. I was amazed, how deep that experience had gone. It also surprised me that this experience was so different from the ones before. It made me think of the Buddha´s definition of suffering: Let go and freedom will be, where suffering has been. My attachment to our house and things has changed how I perceive nature on its course. Of course, I feel attached to the safety of loved ones as well. That one is much harder to let go, if at all possible for me at this point (being not enlightened). But something else is on my mind since then. The wish to control the circumstances and a dislike to be inconvenienced is also creating suffering. It would be so inconvenient, if something came that cannot be changed but changes our daily lives, our schedules, disturbs our sense of safety and security, our sense of knowing what was happening at any given moment throughout the week.

It also made me think of the fall in 2008, when the dramatic wildfires were raging in San Diego County. I volunteered as one of the Psychologists of the San Diego Psychological Association. I listened to and comforted people who did not know if their houses were still going to be there upon their return home. Amongst many impressions I mostly remember one woman who reported that she had lost her house and all her belongings once before due to wildfires. After her first shock she described it as a chance of a fresh start in life. She seemed less concerned than the others at the temporary camp at Qalcom Stadium. I remember her and remember how impressed I was by her and how deeply I understood that truth: letting go is all it takes for the suffering to go away.

For now, I am just so happy that we are all safe. Meanwhile, I continue to be thankful on a daily basis and practice non-attachment as much as I can. I can only wish to be able to live it as truthfully as that woman who lost all here belongings to wildfires and could stay calm while facing it happening again to her. About earthquakes I need to say, there is not much more impressive than nature showing its power through the ground shaking from Mexicali almost all the way up to San Francisco and stopping Millions of people in their tracks. Talking about truly getting the insignificance of mankind. Of course, the good news is, if I am shrinking to gnat-size, so are my problems. Very good news indeed.

Have you ever experienced an earthquake? Tell me about your thoughts about it, I would appreciate it.

Stay safe!

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