Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to
Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
It always amazes me how our experience of reality
is so utterly personal. We like to believe that we’re a global
society; that we are connected on a personal level to world events,
but the truth is that our experience of reality rarely leaves
our personal microclimates.
For example, I currently live in San Diego,
California (motto: “Weather is something that happens to people
with affordable housing.”). As I write this article, it is approximately
97 degrees and sunny (in my living room—it’s slightly cooler outside).
This is typical weather for Southern California.
My parents live in New Orleans, where I grew up,
and are currently living in a hotel in Shreveport (Northern Louisiana),
having evacuated the city two days ago to beat the rush.
In the past few months, my parents have called
to tell me they were heading for higher ground at least four or
five times. I personally can’t understand why, because while they’re
being deluged with the latest tropical storm to buzz by the Gulf
of Mexico, I’m living in a city where rain is an annual event
at best. Even though I grew up in New Orleans, and miss the rain,
the weather they’re experiencing isn’t part of my personal reality
As I write this article, Hurricane Katrina is breaking
all recent records, with winds up to 170 miles per hour, and is
expected to hit New Orleans in about 12 hours. Even filtering
out the sensationalism of the news reports, New Orleans isn’t
expected to survive the storm if it continues on its current path.
The entire city could be under 20 feet of water by the end of
the day tomorrow.
Needless to say, there’s mass panic from the threat
of the storm. In fact, the threat of the storm is being felt as
far east as Miami. (My sister lives in Miami, and if New Orleans
is flooded, my parents are threatening to move in with her.)
I simply can’t grasp the ramifications of this.
New Orleans is home to over 1.3 million people, and in the space
of a few hours, 1.3 million people may lose everything. This could
be one of the largest natural disasters in the history of the
It’s got me thinking about how I would feel and
what I would do if I were living in New Orleans. I look around
my apartment and frankly, I’ve got a lot of stuff. I have books
and CDs and photographs and artwork that I cherish.
I think about what would happen if my apartment
were flooded out and everything was destroyed, and the balance
in my Safety Account drops almost immediately.
Evidently, I’ve got some attachments to my stuff—and
I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not alone.
Take a moment and think about what would happen
if you were forced to evacuate your home because of a natural
disaster. Think about all of the things that you would have to
leave behind—all of the things that would be destroyed.
Now, take a moment and notice how you feel.
If you feel at all tense, then you’ve just discovered
how attached you are to your possessions.
Now, attachments are normal. We all have attachments
to various things. What matters is what we choose to do
once we’ve become aware of an attachment. Every single
attachment makes us feel less safe, makes us feel less free, makes
us feel less powerful, and makes us feel less connected to the
We always have a choice. We can either choose to
keep our attachments, or we can choose to release them. Of course,
if we choose to release our attachments, we’re also choosing
greater freedom, connection, power and safety.
The challenge is that it seems like the opposite
is the case. Our egos create attachments because our egos believe
that our attachments will make us feel more safe, not less.
As usual, when the ego tries to protect us, it only makes the
situation worse. Protecting us is not part of the ego’s job description.
In order to choose to release our attachments,
we first have to bring the balance in our Safety Accounts back
up to the minimum required level. We do this by using the “Present
Moment Awareness Safety Exercise,” that you can find on page 48
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship
in Your Life. You can also listen to this exercise online
Becoming aware of the present moment reconnects
us to the truth of who we are. It can instantly reduce stress
and anxiety. Most importantly, it reconnects us with our true
power and allows us to consider our situation objectively.
The truth is that we live in an infinitely abundant
universe, and all of our needs are automatically, easily and effortlessly
met. All we have to do is be open to receive.
Most of our possessions can be replaced—and most
people who have survived fires or floods and gone on to rebuild
their lives experience the freedom of not being burdened by years
and years of accumulated things. Many people set about immediately
buying new things to replace the old, of course, and within a
matter of months have restored the familiar clutter of their lives.
But many others learn to relish the freedom and live their lives
more sparsely with fewer possessions—and more importantly, with
What most people worry about are the things that
can’t be replaced: photographs, scrapbooks, and personal memorabilia.
And while there’s nothing wrong with cherishing old photos and
videotapes of our families, we can easily become attached to these
as well, and in more subtle and insidious ways.
Old photographs and souvenirs can keep us trapped
in the past. It’s always nice to be able to look back over our
lives and our family’s lives and reminisce, but we must be vigilant
I often see vacationing families in San Diego videotaping
their entire trip so they’ll have it to remember. And often it
seems to me that they’re so focused on the video that they’re
not actually enjoying the vacation itself. When we become attached
to preserving a memory, we often cheat ourselves of the actual
experience. And the irony is that if we experience something fully,
our memories will be richer and more detailed than any video or
photo—not to mention that they’ll last longer.
After taking a few moments to do the Present Moment
Awareness Safety exercise myself, I took an inventory of my apartment,
and explored my attachments. If I were forced to evacuate, there
are only a few things that I would absolutely take with me. I’m
completely attached to my computer (or at least to the data on
my computer) and so I would absolutely back that up onto my eternal
hard drive, and grab my laptop as well.
I’ve got some important papers that I’d probably
want to take with me, and a few small items of personal value.
Other than these things, some clothes, and my cats, I could survive
without everything else.
Are there things I would miss? Of course. I have
a ridiculous number of books, many of which are very collectible,
or at least very out of print. I have some artwork, including
one of my mother’s pastels, that is irreplaceable. I have records
that I’ve collected for 20 years, and comic books that I’ve collected
for 30 years, not to mention old photographs and memories that
I enjoy browsing through every few years.
I’m not saying that if I lost everything in a fire
or an earthquake it would be pleasant. However, I know
that I would survive. And, having released some of my attachments,
I feel more safe.
I know my parents (and over a million others) are
currently struggling with their attachments, facing the very real
possibility that everything they own will be destroyed or damaged.
My thoughts and prayers go out to them tonight. I hold the truth
that everything that we truly need is always provided for us;
that often, our possessions simply get in the way of our ability
to experience all of the joy, abundance, safety and love that
is available to us.
I invite you to know this truth with me, and to
hold this truth for all of those whose lives will be impacted
by this seemingly imperfect storm.
I know that there is a powerful gift in this experience.
I know that in the wake of the damage and devastation is a tremendous
opportunity for freedom. I know that this act of God provides
everyone with the opportunity to see his or her life in a different
light. I know that more than loss, that the people of New Orleans
experience support, community, cooperation and acceptance as a
result of Hurricane Katrina. I know that even as they receive
temporary shelter and food from the relief workers, that they
celebrate the fact that this support is absolute proof that the
Universe automatically provides them with everything they need.
I know that this experience opens the hearts of
everyone involved, and that as they begin to rebuild their lives,
they do so with a greater appreciation for their abundance, and
a greater love of mankind. I know that this experience, like the
2004 Tsunami, serves a higher purpose—that it creates a global
feeling of compassion, and incrementally raises the collective
vibration of the planet. I see and accept the absolute perfection
of this storm, and know that those directly effected by it also
recognize its perfection.
I invite you to hold this truth with me, and share
this article and this prayer with others. Our thoughts are
creative, and our prayers do make a difference.
And as you hold this truth for others, remember
that it is also true for you. In order to experience perfect freedom
and enlightenment, you have to be willing to give up everything—but
you don’t have to actually give up anything—except your
attachments. Embrace the perfection of the present moment and
experience the joy of knowing that you are completely supported
by an infinite and loving Universe.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every
Relationship in Your Life.
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