On Friday night, a news alert flashed onto my screen that a magnitude 7.2 earthquake was rocking Oaxaca, Mexico. Lizzie, my “twin sister from another mother,” is vacationing there.
After a single, blinding white flash of raw fear – the amygdala doing its job of flooding my system with fight or flight – as my phone began to blow up with texts from friends and family, I found my breath and rolled out the spiritual arsenal of the mettā phrases and prayer (to all possible gods, covering my bases), all while Googling for news, checking my wife’s Facebook feed, and texting Lizzie.
For the 10,000th time, I give thanks to my teachers – Thank you, Sharon! – for years of patient instruction in steadying the mind: When the situation is dire, when there is nothing more you can do, stop your headlong rush, curl your empty hands into the “hold the earth” mudra, and sit.
And so I sat, suspended, bringing my mind back to the present moment as it threatened to careen into apocalyptic images of earthquakes, and repeated Lizzie’s name over and over and over:
Lizzie, may you be free of danger; Lizzie, may you have ease of wellbeing….
I managed to squeeze out just enough spaciousness to begin to include others in Oaxaca:
May all beings be free of danger; may all beings have ease of wellbeing….
And then my phone pinged, and there she was: “I am okay I love you.”
Tears of relief and gratitude rolled down my cheeks and dropped into my lap – relief that my friend was safe, and gratitude for our love, for the reminder of how precious she is to me, and for this practice, which steadies me and holds me … even in an earthquake.