A few years ago I was watching a documentary about the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. You may recall, there was a tremendous loss of human lives and property in that tsunami. To witness the destruction being captured ”live” on video, gave a sense of immediacy to the tragedy. I felt as if I, too, was there with many of the survivors, barricaded in an upper-floor house or hotel, hoping the sea of death and destruction wouldn’t swell any higher and sweep us away.
I was struck in particular by one scene of the video. Dark, muddy water flowed through the streets of a small village, taking everything in its path that wasn’t anchored to the ground. Houses crumbled, cars were tossed around like toy boats, and human beings, unlucky enough to not find higher ground, were hurled about in the debris-filled, ocean soup. A man and woman, thrashed about in the black water, hung on to a broken tree, and frantically searched for something more stable to cling to that would possibly rescue them from impending doom.
While the man and woman clung for their lives, I was soon aware of two birds that landed on a power line directly above the chaos. The juxtaposition of the two scenes hit me hard. The two birds, apparently deciding to take a break from their flight to relax, were oblivious to the heart-wrenching display of struggle and survival that was being played out directly below them. They surveyed the picture, determined there was no threat to them, and continued their peaceful pause. Meanwhile, human tragedy continued to take its toll beneath them.
I’ve never been able to shake the image of those two birds or to forget the idea that, in the midst of every human tragedy, there is an atmosphere of rest if we know where to search. Sometimes that rest is in the deepest of the ocean during a hurricane or it’s in the highest altitude during a tornado. And while those physical locations may provide for us some protection, there is also a spiritual dimension that ensures peace during any storm, tragedy, or catastrophe. We may not be as fortunate to be the birds on the wire, with physical distance from the calamity but we still have that spiritual location of peace and protection we carry within us wherever we go, even if it is in the heat of the battle or in the heart of the destruction.
This spiritual center of peace within us is our true Being. Because it is who we are, we can never be removed from it. It is our secure foundation to hold to when we are being tossed about by life’s waves. When we become aware of this center of our Being on a regular basis, we begin to realize that it is never touched, moved, or injured in any way during any condition, even if our body is maimed or destroyed. We begin frequently to reside in the awareness of this spiritual location ”above the earth’s calamities,” similar to the two birds in the tsunami. We anchor ourselves in this place of deep joy and peace, untouched by sickness, tragedy, or annihilation and, in doing so, we see manifested our true life of happiness, peace, and love.