Peter_Doig_-_Red_Boat_(Imaginary_Boys) 2004


Hurricane Lane may be an opportunity to mindfully experience the discomforts many face as facts of life: no dependable electric power, no clean, running water, no internet, and no cell service.

As I write this weekly email, we are preparing, here in Honolulu, for Hurricane Lane, a massive category 4 storm predicted to make landfall sometime later this evening, August 23. Mainland press carry front page pictures of folks “emptying stores of their supplies.”

Headlines proclaim “Hawaii residents have nowhere to evacuate.”

No where to evacuate!

I guess they mean, unlike Mainlanders, we Islanders can’t jump in a pickup with our essential stuff and drive a couple hundred miles to safer ground at a relative’s place, or somewhere they’ll leave a light on for us.

Fear had not entered my being until that headline caught my eye on CNN (yes, on my phone – hey, there’s a natural disaster happening…)

With a little mindful reflection, I had a good laugh — I hadn’t felt fear until I read about how trapped I am supposed to feel from  a“safer” perspective – the journalist writing this story in Los Angeles for CNN!

Safety is a relative notion.This, of course, begs the question, what is safety? And, what is danger? We live in a seemingly secure age. We pride ourselves in eradicating many of the illnesses which just a hundred years ago killed tens of thousands.

But still in 2018 — malaria, diphtheria, cholera, and a new, virulent meningococcal meningitis C kill tens of thousands in the developing world.

Some of us lead comfortable lives. Many don’t.

Hurricane Lane may be an opportunity to mindfully experience the discomforts many face as facts of life: no dependable electric power, no clean, running water, no internet, and no cell service.

an outbreak of fear?

Yes, we need bottled water and batteries and gas in our cars in case the worst happens. But how much of this scrambling for supplies is just an outbreak of fear from knowing, deep down, that we are in an untenable situation, globally and existentially?

Globally, think climate change, this is a hurricane, and the closest a category 5 has come to the Islands as far as we know. The air quality in Seattle this week was worse than in Beijing due to all the smoke for forest fires.

what is ultimate safety?

Existentially, as when we deeply reflect on what is ultimate safety, beyond the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

A senior American Theravada Buddhist monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, observes as the Buddha prepared many of his monks to go out and practice in the wilderness, many of his teachings deal with issues of safety and danger: recognizing what true danger is, what true safety is, and knowing how to best find true safety within the limits of our day to day lives.

Condensing one of his talks, Thanissaro Bhikkhu has good news and bad news.

Total safety is possible, but only in nirvana. As long as you’re not there yet, you have to accept the fact that you’ll be forced again and again to sacrifice some things in order to save others that are more valuable. Life in samsara is full of trade-offs, and wisdom consists of learning to make wise trades.”The second points are about how to find the total safety of nirvana and the third, the relative safety in the world.

Here is an outline of one his arguments:

“To find some safety in the world, you first have to give safety to the entire world.”

If you are committed to sound, ethical judgement and conduct, and the sincere practice of universal loving-kindness meditation, you are giving a gift of safety to everyone.

He continues:

The primary danger from other people lies not so much in what they do to you but in what they can get you to do. Their karma is their karma; your karma is yours. Even when you’re mistreated by others, their karma doesn’t become your karma—unless you start mistreating them in return.

In the coming days, with trees and wires are down, can we practice with that? Can we “give safety to the entire world” through our actions, words, and thoughts?

Can we reflect on our own fears?

Can we reflect on receiving life as it unfolds as we wait for the local utilities who work so hard for our comfort?

As we rush to prepare Hurricane Lane, can we appreciate why the Buddha taught, that happiness comes not through gaining or possessing things, but through giving and compassion?

Be safe, be well, and be “protected from all inner and outer harm.”

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