When I first started telling stories, I learned this Japanese folk tale when I was a member of Spellbinders volunteer storytellers.
An old man tended his rice fields high up on a mountain. One day, he saw the sea recede and the great wave coming for the shore. He did not know what to do, but he knew that something had to be done immediately to warn his friends, family and the villagers down below on the shore. In an instant, the answer came to him. He set fire to his house and rice fields. Instantly the flames engulfed his wooden house and rice fields, sending out thick plumes of black smoke.
“Look!” The village people cried out. “There is a fire on the mountain! We must go and help!”
All of the village people climbed up the mountain to help the farmer put out his fire, just in time to escape the giant tsunami wave that was headed their way and would destroy their village.
The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that hit Japan are an intense and devastating event. It has shaken all of us to our core and presents us face to face with life, death and humanity. The ability to react to such an event in compassion creates wisdom and awakens our humanity. I offer this story to tell, discuss and heal in this tragic time, as my prayers go out to the people of Japan and all of those with family and loved ones there. Additionally, the nuclear catastrophe will affect us all.
With such intense disaster comes lessons. I find it amazing to go to bed one night and then wake up and the world is permanently changed. Such sublime events affect us all deeply on a collective level. Telling stories and connecting can help us process these intense emotions and feelings. The process of hearing a story takes us on a journey where we experience something and the symbols have deep messages for us. The outcome gives us a decisive plan of action as we have rehearsed for the possible tragedy. Tell this story especially with children to help calm their fears and discuss sacrifice, love of one's neighbor and heroism. How can we find compassion to help the people of Japan? How has this disaster put us in touch with our own fears and anxiety about tragedy and death? How do we value what we have in this very instant? As the next instant it may vanish.
I remember reading as a child Pearl S. Buck’s classic The Big Wave about a tsunami. It has lessons for us all of how to live with danger and be present to our lives.
“We must learn to live with danger, “ said Kino’s father.
“Do you mean the ocean and the volcano cannot hurt us if we are not afraid?” Kino asked.”
“No,” his father replied. “I did not say that. Ocean is there and volcano is there. It is true that on any day ocean may rise into storm an volcano may burst into flame. We must accept this fate, but without fear. We must say, “Someday we shall die, and does it matter whether it is by ocean or volcano, or whether I grow old and weak?”
“I don’t want to think about such things,” Kino said.
“It is right for you not to think about them then,” his father said. “Then do not be afraid. When you are afraid, you are thinking about them all the time. Enjoy life and do not fear death – that is the way of a good Japanese.”
Tell stories. Practice yoga. Gather the ones you love around you. Live each moment as if it were your last. Make sure you are doing what you want to be doing, or make changes. Life is precious. These are the lessons of the tsunami and the lessons at the heart of yoga. My love and prayers are with all.
Namaste and have a Magical Day,