Recent events in Japan remind us just how fragile we humans are.
We may have been moved to empathy by the images on TV while
wondering about our own ability to cope with such a disaster.
After all, the residents of Los Angeles face the very real possibility
of earthquakes as well as the weather-related crises of drought
and wildfire, which are part of what some call the ‘Long Emergency’
– the impacts that climate disruption, peak oil, and economic
contraction will have in our lives.
o our communities have the necessary
resilience, which means the ability
of a system to hold together and function
in the face of change and shocks from the
outside? The Transition movement seeks
to grow such local resilience through activities that prepare us for a future that
is less energy intensive but more self-sustaining and secure. Joanne Poyourow,
the founder and leader of the Los Angeles Transition Core Group, calls what
happened in Japan “a test of our inner
resilience.” She recommends that Los
Angelinos honor the victims by using the
triple crises of earthquake, tsunami, and
nuclear contamination as an occasion
to examine our internal and external resources and our emotional preparedness.
Do we have the fortitude, the community
spirit, and the forbearance under pressure manifested by the stricken Japanese?
How well do we cope with crises in our
own lives? In what ways might we cultivate an inner ability to deal with stresses
and shocks to our ecosystems? Who better to ask these questions than two teachers who counsel others on such matters:
Swami Omkarananda directs the Sivananda Yoga Center and sponsors transition
activities in Mar Vista, and the Reverend
Peter Rood leads his Episcopal congregation at the Holy Nativity Church in
Westchester, where the core group of Los
Angeles Transition has its home.
Anneke: How are these difficult times
manifesting in your community? Are you
noticing a heightened level of fear?
Peter: My own Episcopal community,
which is in middle-class neighborhood in
Westchester, reflects the general concerns
over a slumping economy. Several of my
families have members who have lost jobs
and in some cases are still looking two
years later. Many folks are struggling to
figure out what the future will look like
as well as to deal with the reality of the
economy now. Many are thinking about
retirement and beginning to see that may
not enjoy the lifestyle they imagined. Parents are worried about the quality of life
in the future of their children.
People are coming to grips with the
reality that everything may not improve
and get bigger and better. People are reassessing, which may feel like a bad thing
because of the disappointment and worry
and fear and even despair it brings. But
this can be an opening for a process of Inner transition, which describes our faith
journey as an interior process of growth.
In my tradition we might speak of being
reborn, or being made a new person in
Christ. We can use the crisis as an opening for this transformation to occur.
Swamiji: The Yoga center represents the
safe place or oasis where people can come
to have respite from all of that external
concern so they can get a feel for an inner life. But I also see the external pressures as creating the potential of motivating people to address their internal life.
As the director of the Sivananda Center,
I have to be an example in my personal
practice so people can get a sense that we
are primarily spiritual beings. I want to
give people both the time and opportunity to gain a different perspective of who
they are and what this journey in the material world is really about.
I got a phone call at 3 AM to tell me
about the tsunami in Japan. For 30 min-
utes I did nothing; I stayed quiet, as often
it’s our immediate reactions that get us
into trouble. If there is a disaster some-
where else and I can’t do anything about
it right now, or I hear bad news from a
family member, what I’ve learned is to
try to not react immediately. I know the
danger of rapid emotional overreaction,
so this is advice I give people, based on
my experience and training. We can ac-
knowledge the situation and offer of help
but still stay dispassionate. I teach people
that from a spiritual perspective there is
an opportunity in everything that hap-
pens. I wouldn’t say that to people in Ja-
pan right now, but I understand it is true
for myself. And I teach people to always
look for a positive in any experience be-
cause looking for the negative constricts