At the eye of the hurricane

……there is said to be a centre of deep silence. Yesterday, much to my surprise, I was that deep silence.  An extraordinary Zen-like moment of stillness inside me radiating outwards into a force nine gale. Yes, really. I’m still reeling from it.

I am not talking about metaphorical or emotional or spiritual hurricanes but a physical one, albeit one generated in an environmental tank.

Yesterday afternoon I took some of my students to our local college, which was originally purely a maritime and boatbuilding college for an experience in the pool used for training rig workers, lifeboatment, pilots and so on in the basics of escape and rescue at sea. I know this seems a strange thing to take language students to, but I do what I am asked. I don’t always ask questions.

The pool is basically a very deep swimming pool, equipped with machinery to simulate extreme weather conditions. The students who were not going in stayed up on a gantry-style platform about 3 or 4 metres above the water. This not only kept them safely out of the way but kept them from getting soaked when the waves were in action.

My first concern was whether they would have a lifejacket to fit me. I am rather well-endowed and it did somewhat worry me that they would have to cast about to find one big enough… but I worried needlessly and before long, safety talks done, we trooped down to the pool and leaped in. It took me five minutes to get used to not needing to tread water and let the jacket do its work.

We arranged ourselves in a circle and the waves started. Big waves, crashing all over the place. That was rather fun, though I mistimed a few and swallowed a fair bit of water. Then out and back up onto the gantry. I totally bottled out of the 4m jump; truth to tell I wanted to try but my knees gave way when I looked down. About half of the students(some were English, from the college itself) did and then the instructor upped the odds and had the lights OFF for jumps.

I rejoined the pool the less scary way by leaping in off the side for the next exercise which was the life raft. Now when you see them in films, you kind of wonder what’s so hard about getting into one. Big round inflatable thing with a sort of pyramid/cone for cover, and handy little ropes hanging off it, what’s so difficult about that?  Eerrm, where do I start? The sheer effort required from upper body strength to heave a fully clothed body(did I mention we had to be dressed and shod for this? No. Well, we were in leggings, t-shirt and trainers over bathing suits) out of rough water, into a wet rubber thing, is enormous. No one managed it unaided, including the two fit lads who went in first. Then they helped haul the rest of us in. I did tell them to leave me for the sharks but they kindly refused and I lay soon gasping and floundering like a landed fish on the floor of the raft. I struggled to move out to the back of the raft because it was bucking like a demon possessed bronco. I elbowed a student in the face at some point. I think she’s forgiven me. Propped at the back, gripping some inner ropes I leaned against the wall of the raft and the last of our ten person crew flopped in and then everything changed again. The waves and the wind and the rain began and we were flung around like a cork in a whirlpool. Everyone was screaming, partly out of excitement and partly out of real fear. I wasn’t. I squealed once and then stopped.

The lights went out. Almost total darkness and the storm raged around us, flinging the raft around, whirling it like a leaf and artificial lightning leapt across the blackness. The screaming intensified. I went deeper into the quietness inside and became the silence. I seemed to be totally withdrawn from the emotional responses I had been feeling seconds before. I’d been close to total sensory overload and now, all was stillness. I was stillness and silence and utter peace. I didn’t understand why people were screaming. Could they not feel what I felt?

The moment passed and the storm, controlled by the instructor waned and stopped and we all flopped out, swam to shore and the next group got the perfect storm while we stood and dripped. We were asked to climb a rope wall from the tank, which is unbelievably hard. I tried twice and fell off twice; my arms simply not strong enough to haul my sodden (and let’s be honest, bulky) body out of the water on a ladder that swung and slipped and took the skin off the palms of your hand. We all had a chance to be winched out, which was quite fun and then it was over.

Back in the changing room I reflected first on the fact that at sea I would have died, probably from cold, because I wasn’t strong enough to climb out alone and then on where that peace had come from. It was a totally awesome moment, using the word in its truest sense and not the slang meaning.

I didn’t sleep much last night. Aching muscles and an over active mind saw to that. I’ve got through a hard day today on about three hour’s kip but I keep returning to that still silence at the eye of the hurricane. 

At the eye of the storm is a point of peace; how often can I become that point of peace in a troubled world?

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14 thoughts on “At the eye of the hurricane

  1. “……there is said to be a centre of deep silence. Yesterday, much to my surprise, I was that deep silence. An extraordinary Zen-like moment of stillness inside me radiating outwards into a force nine gale. Yes, really. I’m still reeling from it….. ”

    “…At the eye of the storm is a point of peace; how often can I become that point of peace in a troubled world?… ”

    A most interesting and informative post, Viv, full of detail and images. As I read your narrative I imagined I was there, your words are magnetic in that sense.

    You will see I have quoted parts of your post.
    These are profound and mystical and spiritual.
    They touch me, and though I am a virtual friend
    writing on my screen to you, I wanted you to how I feel.
    I am moved by these passages.

    Thank you for that, Viv.

    John

    • Thank you John. I am touched. I didn’t feel I did the experience justice at all, but I didn’t want time to dilute it. I could have written more about the cameraderie of the group, the sheer supportiveness of the students of each other and of me, of shouting encouragement to each other as people attempted difficult physical feats(and in my case, failed miserably, twice) of my surprise at my inability to make that 4m jump into the water(I was sure I could and then my body wouldn’t let me; not my mind. My knees, my legs and my gut refused) and of the certainty that unaided, in a real situation, I would have drowned. The students who are in my class were today very warm towards me and my colleague who watched commented to our boss she thought I had been extremely brave to do it, which warmed me.
      I can see something like this would forge strong and improbable friendships in real life as it might also have done as a mere exercise; those you share trauma with become soul friends and brothers-in-arms.
      A totally humbling and extraordinary afternoon.

      • I am touched. I didn’t feel I did the experience justice at all, but I didn’t want time to dilute it.

        To my eyes you did the experience justice. While I suspect you would not wish me to us the term “spellbound”, because cliches are simply that, I will try to assure you
        that you truly did justice to the experience and that all of your telling speaks for it self on the page and is quality stuff.

        I am but another blogger commenting and in that sense
        my belief and enthusiasm for your post here is on a par with anyone else’s comment, perhaps. But your telling
        of all of this is enthralling and, yes, makes a riveting read!

        those you share trauma with become soul friends and brothers-in-arms.

        How very. I personally can testify to this and have experienced it.

        Thank you again Viv, for a delightful read. It is very inspiring in all of its telling of what happened and how you felt.

        Best wishes, always
        John

      • Thank you John. I am glad the post spoke so trongly to you. It’s a shame that so many useful phrases have become cliched now; I guess they have been overused over theyears because they are so useful and now, they have no power left. I guess that’s a lesson for us all to use language as freshly as we can, to make sure the words do not ever become stale.
        xx

  2. A beautiful experience – light and dark at the same time. Your ability to translate your experiences to the minds of your readers is unbelievable! While reading your posts, I felt that it was I who was going through it all…the initial fear, the whorl of screams that surrounded the dark, cool peace in your mind, and even the sleeplessness you experienced in the night!

    Thanks for sharing:)

    Warm Regards,
    Shafali

  3. Viv, what a fascinating experience! And your words, your way of expressing yourself is so powerful, I could picture every second of it and experience it myself.
    I always believe there is point of stillness in every hurricane, a moment of silence, and if we can find that, whatever horrific experience we’re going through, it no longer feels that distractive.

    “At the eye of the storm is a point of peace; how often can I become that point of peace in a troubled world?”
    I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I’ve read your post… Still no answer but I am hopeful 🙂

    Much love

    • It is very true. My father has often said to me when I have been going through hard times that one day it will all only be a memory, which is not always very comforting. Why is it,I wonder, that hard times last years and good ones are over in moments..
      Thanks Lua!
      xx

  4. Yes it did. And it also spoke strongly to others.
    I am conscious of the need not to devalue the coin or the value is debased. Whenever and wherever I AM effusive it is my sentiment peeking out and my willingness to step forward, most of the time.

    xxx

  5. Very interesting read Viv! I love the way you bring a unique and poignant insight of life to life through the tangibility of your style of storytelling! You make it your own; and yet, it freely becomes ours too! Truly enjoyed it; thankyou! ☼

  6. Pingback: On Why Resistance is Not Futile but is actually Essential « Zen and the art of tightrope walking

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