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Cyclone Winston March 19 2016
Early on the morning of Saturday March 19 2016 a great tropical Cyclone slammed into the Fijiian Islands, with winds up to 180mph, tearing a path of destruction through the island nation. Directly hit was the beautiful Hermitage Island of Naitauba, also known as Adi Da Samrajashram, spiritual center of the global community of practitioners of the Way of the Heart, given by the spiritual master Adi Da Samraj. For over 30 years the island of Naitauba has been a site of retreat and pilgrimage for a generation of practitioners that has poured its heart into cultivating a unique place on earth, building beautiful temples, meditation halls, gardens and retreat facilities. I have had the profound good fortune to be able to visit there several time on extended 4-6 week retreats, in 1990, 1995, 2008 and 2013. Each of these trips was a major gift of spiritual deepening and transformation in my life. 

 In the days following the storm, we were able to receive some communications from our friends on the island. The destruction is breathtaking. The lush jungle that covered most of the island (which had been carefully regenerated after the non-native coconut plantations were removed according to Adi Da's instruction 25 years ago) has been decimated - virtually no leaves remain on any of the trees and the hillsides are a ruin of downed limbs, broken trunks and skeletal forms. The wildlife is in total shock. A core staff of 60 devotees live and serve there, along with a local Fijiian village of around 120. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries (some cuts and gashes). But the island is a total mess. Please take a look at www.naitauba.org to get some sense of the brutality of the destruction and the heroic efforts underway to mitigate the damage. It will be many years before the Hermitage begins to return to anything remotely resembling normal.  

For the Adidam community, this disaster comes as a special blow, following the Valley Fire, which burned over 75,000 acres around the Adidam retreat center in Lake County California just six months ago. That fire (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Fire) was the third worst wildfire in California history and burned over 1000 acres of the Mountain of Attention retreat sanctuary as well as destroying the homes of over 130 members of the community surrounding the sanctuary, including the house that we had just moved into in June. Altogether the fire destroyed over 1300 homes in the vicinity. Fortunately, the core retreat and temple center was saved, thanks to the heroic efforts of a group of local devotees, but the surrounding woodlands and communities were badly burned. For the past six months, my wife Magdalena and I have been working full time to help our community organize our efforts to rebuild and we have been participating in the county-wide relief and recovery efforts. We are learning on the ground every day how complex and long the process of recovery from a major disaster is. We know very well now the struggle that also awaits our friends in Fiji. 

 


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