We seem to have had more than our fair share of natural disasters in these late summer months – more category 4 and 5 hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States than have ever been encountered, two powerful earthquakes stunning central and southwestern Mexico, record high temperatures with devastating forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and many other regions of the western US.

As dire as these events are, spawning widespread devastation, killing hundreds, and leaving 10,000s of people homeless and destitute, I have been impressed with the power these catastrophes have had in bringing people together. Heart-warming scenes of strangers risking life and limb to rescue strangers, groups of people uniting in common effort to save others, numerous examples of people rescuing thousands of frightened animals caught up in the mayhem – these disasters have shown how mother nature’s worst destructive chaos often has the effect of demonstrating how we really are all in this together, that our most redeeming qualities as human beings are illuminated by such extreme challenges.

Those involved in treating alcoholism and addiction often refer to the power of the “gift of desperation” – that the illness often drives someone so low that they are forced to deal with it, the alternative being death. In many ways, these natural disasters offer a collective gift of desperation. As my journey since coma in 2008 has revealed to me, the challenges and hurdles in life should be viewed as allies – they often provide the power to provide for our growth and maturation as spiritual, interconnected beings.

My interpretation of so much of the good I have seen in people through these disasters is that such challenges bring us closer together, in ways that support the notion of the Collective Mind, that we are all expressions of a vast intelligence, bound together through love and compassion, and acts of simple kindness.

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