What to do About Monster Storms? Absolutely Nothing.

Get rid of your mental sludge so you can do great work.
Get rid of your mental sludge so you can do great work.

Every time I boil an egg, I am reminded of people who have no eggs. No eggs, no water, no power—and whose chickens are god knows where. From my privileged perch above the (rising) Boston harbor, equipped with wifi, plenty of food, organic everything, and a cache of red wine, I stare at the eggs bobbing in the roiling Caribbean sea of my humble cooking pot. And I observe the simple principle that as water heats up, it boils.

As we all now know, elevated water temperatures can cause significant trouble on an oceanic scale.

Consider the Caribbean Ocean, and on into the Atlantic Ocean, which lap the shores of lush vacation spots and major urban centers, i.e. Houston, Miami, San Juan, and, further up the coast, New York and Boston. September hurricanes here have shattered records for velocity, frequency, disruption, cost, and suffering.

Every day brings more evidence of a changing climate: Arctic sea ice is disappearing rapidly, accelerating sea-level rise. Alaska permafrost is thawing, spewing dangerous methane into an overloaded atmosphere. Conditions are ideal for wildfires in the West. Conditions are ideal for all of it.

Americans are awakening to the reality that political leaders in control are exacerbating climate calamity instead of protecting an increasingly aware population from these extremes. “In the United States, we have in place a range of policies that all but guarantees a worsening string of Katrinas, Sandys, Harveys and Irmas”—and, now, Marias—”as far as we can see into the future,” well-known hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel writes in the Washington Post. “Climate change acts as a threat-multiplier to these policy-generated disasters, making them progressively worse than they would have been in a stable climate.”

Last night at a South-End dinner party among new acquaintances, the conversation turned from the delicious menu to clean-tech investments and climate-policy issues and then to the anatomical manifestations of a new classification of stress.

“I must have rock marbles in my shoulders,” said one foundation executive, wincing and shifting in her seat. Across the table, an interior designer nodded vigorously. “I have TMJ. Otherwise known as clenching your teeth,” she explained to the group.

“Are you a clencher or are you a grinder?” the foundation executive inquired.

“Clencher. My doctor gave me a mouthguard to wear when I sleep. It wasn’t cheap, and it doesn’t work.” In a low voice, an insurance banker mentioned his worsening neck spasms.

We all want to know when the next storm will hit.

One psychologist says that hurricane Irma was “one of the most anxiety-inducing storms” in memory – before, during, and after the storm hit mainland Florida. “The images … and the length of time it took to get here made it even worse. In waiting for the storm, you are talking about the fear of the future and when it’s over, you are talking about the fear of what you are returning to, if anything….” Floridians raced to board up their houses, sandbag the garage, pack their cars, and bundle up their kids and pets for evacuation, only to revise those plans with each storm-tracker update. Since Irma was the size of France, it easily covered the entire peninsula.

“People are worn down by the process of awaiting a storm, the process of fighting gas lines, the process of evacuating, staying with friends or family.” This from a New York Times report titled “Frazzled Floridians in Search of a Balm” posted on September 14.

As the heat index hovers above 100°F today in Maria-savaged Puerto Rico, where the hospital corridors are dark and air conditioning is a fading memory, the rest of us contribute to relief efforts, grind our teeth, and boil our eggs. The big picture is coming into focus for tens of millions: This is what climate change looks like.

And, we want to be part of the solution.

First, I have a humble suggestion.

Do nothing.

For ten minutes.

Every day.

Sitting quietly, aka meditating, is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and sanity. It’s free, it doesn’t take much time, it will help you think more clearly, and you will do everything better.

Concentrate on your breath. You know, breath: the air that goes in and out of you, which keeps you alive allday/allnight without you paying much attention. For ten minutes, pay attention: Breathe. Count one as you inhale, two as you exhale. Try counting to eight. Inhale, exhale, 5, 6, 7, 8. Then try sixteen.

You’re still sitting there, right?

Easy? No. It is not. You’ll fidget, you’ll get side-tracked, you’ll think about what’s for dinner. That’s completely to be expected. Never mind any of it. The point is to set those things aside, again and again. And again.

Return to the simple task at hand: do nothing.

Fortunately there’s an app for this! I live by Headspace, Andy Puddicomb’s brilliant meditation university on a phone. Imagine a world where we can all choose our own surnames! “Puddicomb” is perfect for this savvy, soothing, mindfulness expert—equal parts friendly cockney bloke-at-a-pub and enlightened spiritual leader on high. Like all successful on-screen edutainers, Andy can become a dear friend. In truth, he can become essential.

At last count, more than 6 million people around the world are Headspacers. Try it free: https://www.headspace.com/

And, or, find yourself a great yoga class. They’re all around.

When you pay attention in this way, you are building an insistence on being your best so that you can do your best work in the world. Returning to the simple exercise of stillness and breathing, you learn to do one thing well, one at a time. And that, my friends, is the path to accomplishment.

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