On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia with my daughter we felt the earth move, literally, in the form of several earthquakes. My daughter, a geography student, found it quite fascinating and I, after quake no 3, not so. It was deeply unsettling and frightening to me.
Our lives were never in any danger, and I intuitively knew that. I, therefore, allowed myself to sink deeply into the experience of what was happening in the moment.
Indonesia is located on the Ring of Fire, a major horseshoe-shaped seismically active area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, where most of the earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Due to the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, there is no warning, they can suddenly occur at any time. First, you hear the deep (terrifying!) rumbling sound, then the swaying and shaking starts, and after about 10-15 seconds of what feels like an eternity, it’s over.
I quickly discovered I was afraid of what might happen next, and not so much the actual event itself. I was afraid to hear that sound and kept listening for it. Skittish and jumpy, yet at the same time trusting, and knowing full well it was my thinking mind playing tricks. I needed to take great care to allow space for these anxious feelings, and when I did, they subsided.
When we teach in mindfulness how we are hardwired for flight, fight or freeze, it was interesting to experience this first hand. In one split second – you can scan a scene, notice the placements of objects and people, look for ways out, feeling the adrenaline pumping, and at the same time realising you are completely powerless to what is happening. You are simply fully in it. Then afterwards, you become obsessed with analysing your experience, finding meaning and trying to explain why this happened. Checking websites, speaking to the locals, exchanging information with fellow travellers.
The metaphor of how this mirrors life itself crystallized, all whilst finding yourself in a location that can only be described as being in paradise. Life becomes accentuated, everything is deeply felt, your senses heightened. Profound compassion is felt for the plight of the people on the neighbouring island of Lombok, which experienced the most loss of lives and damage. Every cell in your body is felt, as you have been so deeply shaken. The colours, the textures and beauty of it all is seen in a profound, more appreciative way. The love is ever present, spontaneity rules the day, and life continues to happen.
Sometimes our lives are rocked beyond belief, and we feel powerless. However, there seems to be a natural order to it all. It will shake for a while, as adjustments are being made.
Then, the tectonic plates settle, and somehow a new order is restored as peace once more returns.