By Ruth Kaplan
Breathing in, I see my fear.
Breathing out, I return to the present moment.
Breathing in, I see my attachment to my life and possessions.
Breathing out, I see the truth of impermanence.
Breathing in, I do what I can to protect myself and my property.
Breathing out, I remember that my most valuable possession is peace of mind.
Breathing in, I am grateful for time and resources to prepare for the storm.
Breathing out, I feel compassion for those who are not able to prepare.
This exercise can be adapted for use with any fearful situation, especially natural disasters. So often, by remaining in our fear of the future, we forget that we are okay in the present moment. Our fear then expands to fear of loss of possessions, and we calm ourselves remembering that all possessions, including this precious body, are impermanent. This can then give us the equanimity to do what is reasonable and possible to protect ourselves and our possessions, without fear. But even as we go about making preparations, we can return to our true selves, and maintain peace of mind in the present moment. Finally, it helps to remember that many others are in similar situations, but without the ability to prepare, or the trainings to help them maintain peace of mind. If we cultivate loving kindness and compassion for them, it helps us as well to be less fearful. After all, just as with hurricanes, so often we are fearful and prepare for something that never actually occurs. So if we use it as an opportunity for practice, our actions are not wasted.
Ruth Kaplan, Subtle Lake of the Heart, lived on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and wrote these gathas while preparing for Hurricane Cindy, which missed her area. She has since moved to Austin, Texas, and practices with the Plum Blossom Sangha.