Spontaneous expression of thoughts and emotions in words.

A Gratitude Lesson from the September 18 Earthquake

The earthquake that jolted Bhutan on 18th September 2011 is a good reminder for all of us that life is very uncertain and anytime anywhere anything can happen. Judging by the way people were frantically running about in the streets and open spaces to seek safety made me think if we are prepared for any disaster at the individual level. This is also a reminder for the construction people that we need quality structures with earthquake resilient features included.

This earthquake claimed many lives across India, Nepal and Bhutan. In Bhutan only more than 4000 structural damages are reported including houses, schools, BHUs and Lhakhangs with Haa Dzongkhag being the worst hit. Many people are still living in makeshift houses and tents out in the cold yet they are fortunate that they are alive. There are people who are mourning the death of their loved ones, there are people recovering in the hospital bed, and there are people who have been severely traumatized by the incident. Then there are the fortunate lots who live to narrate the various experience felt at the time of incident. I am one among them- the fortunate lot. Today I am here being able to pen my thoughts out because God has given me a second chance.

I was talking to some of my colleagues in the boarding schools and learned that the situations in the hostels were a topsy-turvy. One of them said that it was so chaotic that everyone was running about hysterically. She said that in reality the theory of “Dug, Cover and Hold” that they practiced under the disaster management did not work at all.

Since the time of the incident I have been contemplating about my life. While I empathize and send out my prayers to the victims of the earthquake, I am filled with gratitude for this life. And I wonder if all the survivors of the quake despite their material losses appreciate the fact that they are still alive and kicking. Think of those people lying helplessly in the hospital bed, the helpless prisoners in the jails, women struggling with last minute labour pain, and the old and the sick. What must have gone through them when they felt the tremor and were helpless to do anything. All they could do was pray and accept their fate.

Thus, the most important lesson we need to learn from the tremors that started from northeast India and shook Bhutan by surprise is that we need to redefine our very purpose of living on this earth. As long as we are alive on this earth we take everything for granted. But the near to death experience should at least wake us up from our slumber.

While we are living we are always running about ignoring the simple pleasures of life. We do not see the flowers bloom in the spring, we do not listen to the birds sing in the woods, we do not notice the branches that provide us shade in a scorching sunny day, and we forget to dance with the rhythm of the rain drop. We are always in a rush that we forget to relish the taste of the food that we eat, cherish the moments of togetherness with family or be with the nature.

Most of the time, we are either filled with resentment, hatred or bitterness with one thing or the other. We are never satisfied of anything that comes by and we go on complaining about life. Gratitude is a word that is so common yet so uncommonly practiced. Sogyal Rinpoche, one of the world’s most renowned practitioners mentioned in one of his teachings here in Bhutan, that “gratitude is the best religion in the world.” How many of us appreciate the little and small things that come our way bringing happiness?

I, for instance, have been fussing about my apartment since the time I moved into it. For the first time on that fateful day, I realized how lucky I was to be staying in that house. I felt so grateful to be staying on the first floor with exit door leading directly to the open space in case of major disaster.  I felt so grateful to be able to hold and hug my kids.

Then and there I picked up my lap top and wrote the journal of gratitude which was long overdue. I wrote in my gratitude journal, “I am so grateful for this life, I am thankful that the quake that shook the north east India and almost all part of Bhutan shook me to the point of redefining my very purpose of living on this earth, I am grateful that I am living in a flat where I could run away easily where as there were people who were  chained to their beds in the hospital and were helpless when the shaking took place for that lethal few seconds, I am so grateful that I could sit with my family and my friend and her family and enjoy the dinner and have a good night’s sleep despite the tremors we still felt in us. Most of all I am grateful, for today I am reminded once again that life is all about being able to appreciate the small and little things in life and being grateful for what we have rather than lamenting about what we don’t have.”

We talk of Gross National Happiness and we seek it in the material world rather than knowing that happiness lies in the little things in our lives. We always compare our life with that of others and find want of something or the other. I always say that never to compare your life with that of others and if you do then compare with those less fortunate than you and you will realize how blessed you are. If we find discontentment with our life all you have to do is visit the Jigme Dorji National referral Hospital and we will find that we have everything we want

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6 thoughts on “A Gratitude Lesson from the September 18 Earthquake

  1. Pem Dema on said:

    Oh boy! Talk about the earthquake and I can still feel remnants of the massive jolt that shook the living daylights out of me! You wont believe how I ran down the stairs with my children following close behind 🙂 I swear on Siddhartha sitting atop the Kuensel Phodrang that never in my entire life do I remember running like that, not even when I was competing in sports during my school days! 😉 on hindsight it feels funny trying to visualise myself running like that followed by my entourage of four children he he…..

    On a more serious note, I am absolutely grateful that my children and I touched base with the ground safe and sound albeit barefeet. Who cares about the shoes when we had each other to lean on to during such times right?

    Infinite gratitude that God is always watching over Bhutan and the Bhutanese! I feel truly blessed to be living here!!!

  2. Pem Dema on said:

    wai charo, I can see typos in my comments. Will try and figure out later why all those typos? Meanwhile, I hope you will be able to figure out my thoughts and feelings without having the typos distract you 🙂

  3. Pingback: A Gratitude Lesson from the September 18 Earthquake | karmachoden

  4. “She said that in reality the theory of “Dug, Cover and Hold” that they practiced under the disaster management did not work at all”. I could not agree more.
    When the incidences are abrupt and appear all of a sudden, even, we as a teacher (some of who are trained) runs out for our life. May be it can save the life after the earthquake is over but during the occurrence of the earthquake, that is simply a big fail.
    Read your post after a long long time madam.

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