Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Unforeseen: Water Rising Fast

The story of the rising river in Arkansas is deeply moving. Campers sleeping in the woods woke to the fierce imperative of the water, washing away concrete pads, tents, trucks, people and trees. Some survived with ingenuity, some with sheer physical feats, some inexplicably through letting go into the moving world. Many did not survive.

I react as I hear the reporting on NPR. Park personnel and meteorologists knew there was potential for bad weather but no one “saw this coming.”

The ongoing unfolding of events and effects in the Gulf Coastal region from the sudden outpouring of oil and gases from deep in the earth has evoked a lot of pain and suffering. No one saw this one coming either, though the actions of the humans involved would seemed to include some perfunctory projections and measures to handle the unforeseen. The unforeseen includes a continuous change in the composition of the ocean affecting all the life in it, as oxygen is reduced throughout the sea with dispersal of gas by microbial action that releases CO2. How do I accept this awareness without it sending me plummeting into despair?

September 11, 2001 was “unforeseen.” I watched the deep dark plume cross the bluest of blue skies over my head, chanting for peace in the souls traveling there, unconsciously as a way of finding out whether I was still breathing. The effects of human choices and actions are often unforeseen. I think of all the news that streams at me from all over the world. A flood in Nashville, economic collapse in Greece, daily terror in Palestine and Afghanistan, struggles below the surface everywhere, and signs above ground.

Unforeseen. We cannot know enough to see how everything will play out or to be ready for any and all consequences. Maybe I can open my mind beyond the dualistic, understanding that the flood and the gases, the campers and the oil-coated pelicans are all part of one world. This is part of the flow of events and our actions and reactions will continue as the flow. We have choices about that.

Krishna says to Arjuna:
You have a right to your actions.
But never to your actions’ fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction. [Gita 2.47]

Self-possessed, resolute, act
Without any thought of results,
Open to success or failure.
This equanimity is yoga. [Gita 2.48]

The teenage girl who chose to hang on to a tree in the rushing waters, in spite of the severe pain and injury she suffered chafing against the bark, saved her own life. She will recover and carry the scars of her survival and her losses. The ocean has many mechanisms with which “to hang on to the tree,” so to speak, but there will be losses, and scars. The people living on the shores have choices too, how to use their resources, where to put their energies. W cannot know what is coming, nor the full effects of resultant and changing conditions.

Must I remain attached to my reactivity? Will sorrow and attachment to the idea of a right answer weigh me down and sink me like a stone in the rushing water? Can I detach and cultivate consciousness so that all the possibilities remain, including that the water may throw me onto shore? This too is unforeseen.

I lean into my yoga. Saying “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya,” I breathe the ache in my wrist and my heart. Saying “May I release in to that which sustains me,” I sense the open space where possibilities spread like the rising water. Perhaps sinking, floating, hanging on, or tossed on shore, the way will open if I inhale and I exhale.

Recognizing grace in the unforeseen. The wind in my ears, I am reminded that the human voice is but a natural and impermanent part of the world. Let go and find myself here. Now.


  1. Commemorating my brother's birthday, who was swept away by his frail human condition in 2005, leaving us with softness and simplicity and grace. Happy Birth Day Joe.