Earthquakes and Mindquakes

The situations that produce mind quakes in others leave a meditator’s mind well alone to enjoy its stillness. Meditators do not suffer mind quakes even during earthquakes.

I recall my first earthquake in Dehradun, India, when I must have been about 9 or 10 years old.  The whole family had gone out somewhere and I was absolutely alone.  I felt the ground and the house shaking, my mind said this is an earthquake!  Something inside me made me run out of the house,  jump down two steps from the platform on which the house was built, into the middle of the road and I stood there fascinated until the earthquake subsided then went back in.  I recall a fascination but not a fear.

I do not know if this would be the case with other 9 or 10 years old alone at home during an earthquake.

At Margit Jacob's House in Napa Valley

Back sometime in the 1980’s I used to hold weekend retreats in the house of Margit Jacob in Napa Valley California.  We were all in Margit’s yoga hut, everyone lying in shavasana and I sitting and guiding a long relaxation practice.  An earthquake came and there was no faltering, nor any movement from those lying in shavasana.  We just continued as though nothing was happening.  After the session was over we did then comment to each other “yes there was an earthquake”.

Manuel Fernandez  in Chili

Manuel Fernandez has practiced under Tibetan Lamas for nearly a decade.  He has done many silent meditation retreats.  He has also been living in our ashram for over 5 years.  PhD in cultural anthropology from University of California, Berkeley, he has helped develop our research programmes at our Meditation Research Laboratory.

Recently Manuel had to leave to go back home to his native Chile, when the recent Chilean earthquake struck.  Below are two of the comments we have received from him.

“Since I am in a 14th floor I figured I had nowhere to escape, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful view of the city shaking from my panoramic window.”

“Today I was teaching a yoga class to one single student in my apartment and we had two strong earthquakes, one of them was about 7 Richter! and then we had many aftershocks, some quite strong. Yet we continued with the class until the end. When I was doing the final relaxation I was very aware of my voice and I noticed every time there was an aftershock my voice was about to break but I managed to relax enough so my voice was not affected and I don´t think the student noticed any change in my voice.”

These events show that Meditation does indeed liberate us from our fears.  The situations that produce mind quakes in others leave a meditator’s mind well alone to enjoy its stillness.

Here is another Earthquake story which may help some people.

Joanne Sullivan’s account

It was 1980, Arcata, California. In the wee hours, an earthquake rattled and roared like a giant train tearing through the room. My husband said "grab the baby" and we ran outside. I was calm because I had gone to sleep from meditation and the mantra was still strong when the earthquake awakened us. I knew that we were all quite safe.

But then something strange happened. Over the next two weeks of aftershocks, I started thinking about the experience, about how we were standing on largely liquid---not solid ground. Then, one night, in utter panic, I phoned my friend Sherry and asked her to come over.

"John is at work and Isaac is only 2 months old. I do not want to create fear in him," I said.

"I'll be there in 15 minutes," she said.

No sooner did I hang up the phone rang. It was Dr. Arya. "Hello?" his whole being came pouring through the phone lines. "Joanne? Is this the Joanne Sullivan who died in an earthquake?"

"Oh, Panditji," I sighed.

"I heard there was an earthquake there but the lines were tied up. Are you all okay?"

"Yes, but I'm scared."

"Joanne, have you no faith in God?" he said.

"No, Panditji."

Then he proceeded to tell me two scary stories about earthquakes. "Did you hear about the earthquake that swallowed a man and his banana stand? The ground opened and closed around him. He ate bananas and drank water from an underground stream for three days until they dug him out."

Meanwhile, I am thinking "Why is he telling me this? I am already scared!" as he launches into another true disaster tale, this time about a man walking along the beach on a perfect day when a tsunami comes along and pulls him out to sea. We lived close to the ocean coast at the time so this was not particularly heartening to hear.

"He woke up the next day on the beach," he said.


Dr. Arya said a few more words and gave his blessings. By the time we hung up, my fears were gone. Based on the true stories of disasters he was telling me, I expected to be yet more frightened. I wasn't. I don't know what he did.

Soon after, something in me decided that an earthquake was an event of great power with billions of tons of earth moving below my feet. Awe, not fear, was more in order.

Mind lessons still not learned. The night of the event, buddhi, the discriminating mind beyond reason, was in charge. Over the next two weeks, I had let manas, the so-called rational mind, get the upper hand. This is a perfect example of what Swami Rama writes about in Meditation and its Practice and the difficulties we can get into when, through old habits, ahankara, the I-maker, or manas (lower mind, the part that "reasons") does not let buddhi do its job and guide you.

Karma and God’s Grace

What I was trying to tell Joanne was that it does not necessarily mean that harm will come to you and that your karma and God’s grace may save you through unexpected means.


19 Dec 2021;
07:00PM - 08:00PM
Full Moon Meditation 2020