In November I returned from a teaching trip to New York that coincided with Hurricane Sandy. Before the storm arrived the weather channel was in overdrive, tracking minute-by-minute the route and intensity of the approaching storm. As I’m sure you remember, it hit land and the impact was felt along the northern Eastern coast. Flooding, fires, tidal swells, 80mph winds and all that followed: subway systems closed, electrical transformers exploding, downtown Manhattan in darkness, basements flooded, airports closed and bridges and tunnels into the city all off limits and a marathon cancelled. Most sadly of all, dozens of lives were lost.
As I reflected on the impact of Mother Nature and the message she was sending, I witnessed the fear and hopelessness that people were feeling. Clearly the message was a strong one. What are we to take away from this? How can we better understand what is going on when we see such destruction and apparent chaos?
From the Vedic perspective, we understand that destruction is an integral part of the process of evolution. Change always involves three aspects, though not necessarily in equal proportion.
The first phase of change is CREATION. That which is new, innovative, fresh, not seen before.
The second phase of change is MAINTENANCE. As creativity begins to plateau there is a status quo that emerges – that which is relevant and useful is upheld.
The third phase of change is DESTRUCTION. In this phase, anything not worthy of being maintained is highlighted for deletion – it is removed in order to make way for something more relevant. And then the process returns to creation.
Creation, maintenance and destruction are playing out at every moment of every day.
Let’s look at a simple example of this – the most recent meal you have eaten. As you began to eat, the food initiated a vast number of creative processes in your body, building new cells in order to form new tissues, muscles and bones to support growth at all levels. As time passed the food was broken down and certain parts were assimilated by the body for maintaining ongoing repair, sustenance and wellbeing. And of course destruction was not far behind – those parts that were no longer serving the process were marked as waste product and began to move out of your system.
The creation, maintenance and destruction process can be applied to everything in our life from relationships, jobs, where we live, the seasons and of course the weather.
For every action there is a corresponding reaction.
When we witness destruction in our lives and the world around us it does not always feel comfortable or desirable. Whilst destruction is a legitimate part of evolution, naturally it is not where we want to be stationed. The destruction phase becomes uncomfortable when over-maintaining has occurred. The previous phase has been upheld too long and that has allowed irrelevancy to build up. When this happens, the subsequent dismantling phase may be extreme and feel rough. If we drag our heels in the evolutionary process, nature steps in and brings about correction. The more we ignore and delay, the more forceful and intense the correction.
In the case of Hurricane Sandy it helps to begin with the broadest view of what nature is telling us. As a society what are we ignoring? Where is the unsustainability in the way we are treating our planet? What collective behaviours are we allowing to be maintained that are no longer helpful?
And what does this mean for each of us as individuals? How can we each introduce more sustainability in the way we live our lives and interact with the planet we inhabit? How can we get on the front foot and introduce correction before it is imposed upon us? What behaviours and thoughts are beginning to feel as if they are stagnating and ever-repeating?