31 May 7 Noetic Steps to Surviving a Volcanic Ash Cloud
I was preparing for my lecture on consciousness transformation to the League of Optimists in Brussels, Belgium when I got the news: All flights from Europe were cancelled. I was due to go on stage shortly and nothing about the implications of this information had sunk in. I just wanted to be here tonight and home tomorrow.
As part of my back story, I was in Europe on our IONS global engagement tour. I had spent the past two breathtaking weeks meeting and connecting with the European consciousness community. Perhaps more importantly, as mother of an 11-year-old son, we were both being challenged by what was the longest time we’d been apart since his birth. I had a delightful time visiting four nations, speaking with diverse audiences, responding to the press, meeting old and new friends, and dining in wonderful cafes. And in a perpetually jet-lagged state, I was counting the nights before I would return to my family. And so after tonight, following an inspiring public dialogue with author Thomas D’Ansembourg convened through a French-speaking translator and my own presentation, I’d be going home a very happy camper. Or so I had thought.
Over the course of the days that followed, I got a chance to live the topic of my conversation with Thomas that night: Why and how does consciousness matter? What is the connection between theory and practice? And how do these questions apply when you’re stuck in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, longing to go home, with a very real threat of volcanic ash clouds hanging over your head – and not a plane, train, bus, car, or even ship will get you out? It was from this place of direct knowing and being that I drafted my noetic tips for surviving a volcanic ash cloud.
- It’s not personal. Of course, trying to remember this was sometimes challenging. Why did that infernal volcano have to go off on the night before I was heading home? Occasional appeals to Vulcan, the god of Volcanoes, became part of my reflection repertoire. But mostly the ash cloud became an experiential lesson on the power of nature over human efforts to control the world.
- Remember to breath deep. Of course, this begs the very real question of air quality – given that nasty black cloud heading our way. Looking up, it was a surprise to notice clear blue skies and crisp clean air. In fact, the weather could not have been more pleasing. Go figure!
- Set intention. This depends, however, on the depths of one’s defense mechanisms. Disbelief is a very logical response. You’ve got to be kidding? A cloud of volcanic ash is heading our way and no one knows how long we’ll be stranded? Right! But once the reality sunk it, it was time to grab the best in the moment. Wallowing clearly wasn’t the most adaptive response – though at moments tempting.
- Secure the base camp. This was very hard for many who were stuck in uncomfortable places. For me, it meant staying calm when there were no hotel rooms – only to find in the light of morning that because of a cancellation my room was available for the duration of my stay in Brussels. Other friends offered refuge. Eventually I made my way to England, where I was one step closer to home. Here I was offered sanctuary by IONS Community Group Leader and new found best friend, Claudia Neilson.
- Know you’re not alone. Connecting into my network of fellow noeticians – and tweeting with fellow refuges – offered great comfort. Once I brought my attention to the reach of IONS and my thread of relations throughout Europe, a safety net appeared. Having unplanned time was a unique change of pace. In a kind of suspended animation, I was presented with rich and fertile gifts of conviviality and fresh encounters.
- Be flexible. I looked for comfort in simple activities. A book. A meal. A hug from my friend and host Mickael Drouard’s four-year-old son. Some time to reflect and write. Not knowing was the hardest part. Even after I was safe with friends and filling my days with exploration, my dreams were plagued with heavy suitcases, missing homework for my son, and unknown destinations that left me confused when I awoke in the predawn hours. With emerging daybreak and warm exchanges came the opportunity to again be at home within. As the old adage has it: Wherever you go, there you are!
- Practice gratefulness. Once I got that this was out of my control (or anyone else’s), I found a flow. I discovered that my beloved friend Brother David Steindl-Rast, a valued teacher and tireless promoter of living a grateful life, was also stranded in London waiting for a flight to the States. Each day shared in the wake of the Volcano gave us the chance to play with the spirit of gratefulness while surrounded by companionship, goodwill, and simplicity.
Eight days later, full of equanimity and balance, I safely returned my familiar life in California. Now, as the days unfold, I remain filled with delight at the amazing gifts that continue to unfold from that remarkable volcanic eruption. More than anything, I feel more at home in the world that lies beyond my known comfort zone.
Many of my encounters in the global tour – and those of IONS staff – are here on this website. And more discoveries are afoot as we engage our expanding community in the study of consciousness and human potential to promote our collective well-being. Hope to see you soon!
You can also view this post on the Noetic Now Blog.