I spent the weekend of Mother’s Day 2006 at AMC’s Cardigan Lodge in New Hampshire doing volunteer trail work with my daughter, Marie. It turned out to be a good thing we had stopped on the way there to buy some quality rain gear because it rained the entire weekend. The new gear kept us comfortable working outside in the rain. And the rain helped us see places in the trails that needed better water management – making it easy to choose which water bars to clean and where the trails needed new ones.
All in all, we were having a great time. But then, at lunch on Sunday, we all started getting messages from home that there was flooding and roads were being closed. The entire work crew hurriedly packed up and headed back home as safely as they could manage given the road conditions. I was grateful the roads to our home were not closed, so we made good time getting home. But, when we got there, it was to discover that my house was flooding.
The existing sump pump was pumping water out, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the water coming in. We called the fire department. They came, had a look, and told us there was nothing they could do. My other two children came home and brought their Dad to help. We all started desperately doing whatever we could think of to try to get the water out of the house: using the wet vac, hauling up buckets of water, calling around to see if we could borrow or buy more pumps, trying to sweep the water in the driveway back out to the overwhelmed drainage ditch. Everyone was stressed, tired, crabby, and frantic. It was getting to be late, we were all exhausted, and the water level was continuing to rise.
At some point, I had the presence of mind to take a step back from the situation and just breath. The moment I did this, tension dissipated.
My jaw relaxed, my shoulders softened, my mind cleared, and I could see the physical changes in my children as they were released from the expectation of trying to fix the situation. I could see clearly that nothing we were doing was having an affect on the water that was slowly filling the first floor of our home. I could try all I wanted, but I could not change the reality of our home being flooded.
With attention in the reality of the moment rather than trying to fight the flood, we all had the clarity of mind to think about what steps could be taken to deal with a foot of water in the lower level of the house. Now we could use our physical and mental energy to do things that would make a difference. We started moving things to the upper level of the house and figuring out how we were going to get some much needed dinner and sleep.
That’s what this yoga stuff is all about. By practicing the postures, breathing, and/or meditation, we start to develop the ability to take that step back, breathe, and free our energy up to take the next constructive step.
Try it now with this short meditation on the breath: