Old game: Name 3 things you would want to have with you on a deserted island.

New game: Name all the things you would put into one bag to keep, and anything that does’t go in it is gone for good.

Now do that last exercise in 15 Minutes: scan your home, your clothes, your kitchen, your books and journals and photos and makeup and jewelry and your shoes and designer purses… what are you going to choose, and why?

That’s exactly what I was doing at 8 AM yesterday. At 745 AM I got into my car to go to LA for a meeting. The winds were gusting up to nearly 100 mph, the same as a Category 2 hurricane. When I pulled out of my garage I saw what looked like a huge dust storm moving in. Within minutes of getting on the road I was getting freaked by how bad the visibility was with this darkening sky and how much debris was flying around wildly, like a scene from the Twister movie. My intuition told me right then: “turn around and go back, cancel this trip to LA today”. And in the very next second I was overwhelmed by the smell of smoke. THIS IS A FIRE STORM, NOT A DUST STORM.

My brain couldn’t process what my eyes were seeing fast enough. Still just two miles from home and I was surrounded without warning by dark orange skies and thick smoke rolling across the freeway. Just 17 minutes after leaving home, I was back and making a plan to evacuate.

I needed to get packed immediately and have plan to get out fast.

15 minutes was all it took for myself and my son to each pack. I took quick video of the apartment including a fast look inside each closet, cupboard and drawer in case I needed to recall what was left behind if it were lost. We walked out of our home not knowing if we would ever see it again.

I learned some interesting things about myself during that 15 minutes of packing:

  • I was much more calm than I imagined I would be if I were ever in this situation.

  • I am thankful for a body that is strong enough to carry what I was taking and for a strong emotional disposition that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

  • The things I packed to potentially be my only belongings were less than I would normally pack for a 10 day vacation. I could have chosen to fill 2 or 3 more bags to take, but when I fanned my hand across the clothes in my closet, it was a surprising awareness of just how unattached I am to all of these things; that taking 2 of my favorite pairs of trainers, jeans and yoga pants with a half a dozen shirts was enough. Throw in my fave jean jacket, leather jacket and a cozy hoodie.

  • Passports and some documents, makeup/skincare and hair products. A bag of snacks for my dog and his favorite stuffed toy.

  • Sentimental things I took: a few pieces of jewelry that have special meaning. My MacBook & 2 journals.

  • At the last minute, also picked up my favorite throw blanket and pillow.

No photos, no Christmas ornaments or home decorations. Why? Because when I think of those albums and boxes of photos, I immediately get images in my mind of what’s in them, what they look like. I already have them with me in my mind, the only place that matters. They’re nice to have, but honestly, how often do I ever even take them out to look at them?

The shoes, pretty clothes, designer bags - they belong to me but they’re not part of who I am. The things that I have an internal connection to are those journals and my MacBook. They are the chronicles of my growth; it’s where I have poured my emotions & thoughts while I was destructing and reconstructing myself; they have my plans and the ideas and drafts things I’m creating around my work. They tell the story of my spiritual development over the last few years.

There is a strangely calm peace in me today because of this freedom from feeling attached to so many things. I actually didn’t know what I felt about these things until I was faced with what to do with them. In fact, when I came back home after the evacuation I threw away the crappy hand towel with the snagged loops that has been bugging me for a while. I tossed out the t-shirt that never quite fit right and had a mark that wouldn’t wash out. Those things were actually taking up mental space with ‘that thing bugs me’ every time I saw them and they didn’t even come close to making the short list of coming with me, so why continue to hang onto them?

The lesson of non-attachment is one of the biggest taught in yogic texts and Buddhism and the hardest one to embody. We want what we want. We get attached to our daydreams and fantasies about how we want our future to look. We set our sights on goals and plans and don’t want anything to get in our way. It’s a continuous calibration to balance manifesting what we want with letting go needing it to be a particular way.

I started writing this blog before I went to sleep last night (the same day that started with this evacuation experience). This morning I shuffled my Oracle card deck and the card that fell into my hands for me today was this: Destruction; the element of fire. Somewhere there is a guardian angel of mine laughing their ass off at dropping this one into my hands today. The card is at the top of this post; here is it’s interpretation:

I can’t tell you what to hold onto or what to let go of. I can only tell you that when you really get there you’ll know it, and you’ll know you just reached another level of freedom in being open to the things that are trying to find you instead of hanging onto what you no longer need.

Karen xx

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