Finding the good in my very own landslide – by Rose Diamond
One month ago, on December 14th, after 3 days of torrential rain, our beautiful small community of Golden Bay was overwhelmed by flood and the home I shared with my soul friend and co-evolutionary, Maggie, was damaged beyond repair by a landslide.
It had been a good day. I was excited about being very close to launching the next phase of A Whole New World. After supper Maggie was standing at the kitchen window washing dishes when she called out, “The ground is moving” and sure enough the steep bank directly behind the house was slipping and creeping fast across the lawn, bringing with it trees, bushes and rubble. I grabbed my computer, stuffed a few things into a bag and within minutes we were outside seeking refuge in our cars. It was the kind of rain that drenched to the skin in minutes even through raincoats, and Maggie who has a heart condition was struggling to draw breath. The only thing to do was to be in a state of calm alert presence, right here, right now, taking the next step.
Our next door neighbors invited us in. Their driveway was thigh deep in water so we had to clamber across a high fence. There we found two others who had just fled their beachside cottage through water up to their chins. Everybody was amazingly cheerful. We were making up beds for the night and getting cups of tea when we realized we had to leave there too. The same steep bank backed their property and some big trees were swaying dangerously at the top of the hill. We drove down to the village hall through streets which were now rivers, covered in mud and boulders, strewn with potholes and trenches. From the hall we were then billeted to the campsite for the night. This worried me as the camp is right behind the beach and it was high tide that night but everyone assured me we would be safe.
The torrential rain continued unabated all night. They called it “weather bombs”. To be at the mercy of such an uncompromising, unstoppable force of nature renders one intensely vulnerable and humble. At 2am I was shouted out into the torrent to move my car. The water in the campsite was now knee high. I couldn’t hear what was being shouted at me above the din and visibility was negligible. I had to turn my car into the flood to get out. That was a terrifying moment. Back in the relative safety of my bed for the night, I surrendered to whatever might come, including the possibility we might lose all our possessions or even our lives.
The morning after the flood we awoke. The rain was still falling but more lightly now. The campsite and streets were a sea of mud. Our neighbor had already been out on a reconnaissance mission and reported that our house was still standing but probably uninhabitable. A sixty meter wide landslip had completely obliterated their garden and their house would probably also be uninhabitable. I felt keenly for them in that moment. Only a week before I had stayed in their house looking after their dog; Maggie and I had marveled at the exquisite beauty of their house and garden, both of which were works of art, lovingly crafted over a decade. Here was the sand mandala of the Buddhists, symbol of impermanence and non attachment, the work of art once completed is destroyed and offered up, and the work begins again anew.
Over the next days we heard similar stories: some friends lost their veggie garden which kept them in food all year, others lost their house, a whole street was filled with mud, an elderly man was swept right out of his front room. But miraculously there was no loss of life. The damage was caused by landslip when the earth reached saturation point and could absorb no more water, and by log jamming from unsustainable forestry practices, so the losses were random. In our street and surrounding area only two houses were damaged beyond repair: ours and our neighbors.
On that first morning and thereafter, Maggie and I were certainly shaken but we felt so glad to be alive. Right from that first moment when the land slid, we had both known this was a transformational opportunity, an opening for radical change and possibility, which we had both been waiting for. Maybe it is just the human need for meaning which leads me to believe that I was there, and Maggie and I were in this together, for a reason.
Certainly, in the aftermath it was those who could see no meaning in it and therefore felt victims of the flood, who suffered the most. I discovered that as long as I kept surrendering to what was happening in each moment and didn’t try to resist it, even though the circumstances were frequently demanding and stressful, I was mostly able to maintain a positive state of mind. Whenever I attempted to resist suffering quickly followed.
This may sound very simplistic but think about it. How often do you complain or feel resentful about your life? Even when it comes to something as basic as the weather we all continually complain: it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. That’s resistance to what is. Moaning and complaining about the weather doesn’t change anything, taking action does: putting on a warm sweater or a raincoat or going for a cool dip in the heat changes circumstances and experience.
Of course we all feel grief when we suffer a loss and crisis is the harbinger of loss. Feeling and expressing grief in all its stages, and letting it go, is vitally important. I am talking about something else here. We humans seem to be conditioned to complain and suffer passively without taking the action that will bring about change. We can get stuck in the rut of our familiar discomfort and become disempowered.
Surrendering to what is doesn’t mean being passive, it means accepting the reality we’re faced with, conserving energy that would be dissipated in complaining, using that energy to make a conscious positive choice and taking inspired action to mobilize the resources we’ve got and create something new.
The first step in transforming our reality is to see every situation, however inconvenient, uncomfortable or not to our liking, as an opportunity for positive change and to make a choice to do everything in our power to uplift our situation and those around us. In each and every situation we can choose to be an evolutionary catalyst: through putting out good vibes or inspiration, making someone smile, challenging abusive behavior or dysfunctional ways, or going to help shovel mud from our neighbour’s driveway or garden. We can each make a positive difference in so many ways and it’s a moment to moment conscious choice.
I’ll share more of our story next time and how we learned to find the gifts within crisis. For now, I wonder how this strikes a chord in you? Maybe you have been in a natural disaster yourself, or suffered other unexpected loss and upheaval? This is my particular story but it is not just my story, for we are a species in transition. Our old world is crumbling through natural disasters, economic crisis and political upheaval. Perhaps parts of your life are melting just as is happening in the world at large? Maybe you can relate to the need to surrender and you’ve learned that surrender does not mean being powerless or passive. Like the snake shedding its skin or the butterfly emerging, the process of transformation and renewal renders us vulnerable. And being vulnerable is a good thing. Crisis, loss and sudden unexpected
change rip open the veils of illusion with which we normally shroud ourselves, allowing us to see more deeply and clearly and sense into the soulful interconnectedness of life and the mysterious intelligent, energetic web which holds and directs us.
Very soon, on February 11th I’m starting a new series of interviews with people who are bringing about positive change and creating new ways of living in their local communities and beyond. We’ll be exploring new economic systems, sustainable ways of living together and the nuts and bolts of creating a resilient new culture. I’ll also be delving more deeply into the creative and interpersonal skills we need to create resilient community and how we can mine the gold from the heart of crisis, whether that is a personal or a global healing crisis.
We can stay empowered and support each other through this exciting and perilous passage of transition. As we create a whole new world we become the whole new human and as we become the whole new human we create a whole new world together. Please join me on this journey of discovery.
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Each one of us makes a difference and together we can do what seems impossible.