The key to finding a Zen calm… even in the event of a storm

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I woke up in the middle of the night a while ago. Nothing unusual about that as I am a light sleeper and it doesn’t take much to wake me up.

This time it was the sound of the wind howling outside that bothered me. I was surprised because I had not seen it coming. This was not in the forecast and when I looked out the window I saw that the recycling bin had been knocked over outside the door and was lying on its side.

Luckily the contents stayed inside, but I could see other debris strewn across the road. A few of the tall trees were trying hard to defy Mother Nature, but my neighbor had done a good job removing a lot of the dead wood after storm Eunice called, so I wasn’t too worried.

The fence at the back of the house had been flattened after that storm and had only recently been repaired, so I was afraid to look that way in case it suffered the same fate as the trash can. I decided to forget about it and go back to bed. I couldn’t do anything about it now anyway.

In this case, it survived intact, thanks to the know-how of the manufacturer.

There was no point in lying awake listening to the house beating, but falling back to sleep wasn’t easy either. My wife doesn’t have this difficulty because she can sleep through anything, which reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago.

This is the story of a young man who applied for a job as an agricultural worker. When the farmer asked him why he should hire him, he said, “I can sleep through a storm. This puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man, so he took it.

A few weeks later, the farmer and his wife are awakened in the night by a violent storm which tears the valley. He jumped out of bed and called his new hired man, but found him asleep in the middle of the storm and couldn’t wake him up.

Annoyed, he snapped out of himself and quickly started checking things to see if everything was secure. He found that the farmhouse shutters had been securely closed and a good supply of logs had been placed beside the fireplace. The farmer and his wife inspected the rest of the property and found that all the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, protected from the elements, and the bales of wheat had been tied and wrapped in tarps.

The tractor had been moved into its garage and the barn was properly locked. The animals were calm, had plenty of food and everything was fine.

The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man’s words: “I can sleep through a storm.

Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was ready to weather any storm. Thus, when a storm broke, he was neither worried nor afraid. He was satisfied when he went to bed that everything was fine so he could sleep in peace.

Maybe if I had been more like this guy, I would have had the good sense to put the wheelie bin in a safer place when I left it outside.

American author Mitch Albom had his own take on this story, and he said that if we take care of the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love, and behave in accordance with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the painful beating of unfulfilled business.

Our words will always be sincere; our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of “I could have” or “I should have”. We can sleep through a storm and when it’s time to leave, our goodbyes will be complete.

My father was not a religious man, but he was a decent character and his advice to me was something similar. He said: If you don’t go out of your way to cause harm to anyone and give a helping hand to anyone you meet along the way who needs it, you won’t go wrong too.

I never forgot it.

So, it would seem that a good conscience is the key to a good night’s sleep, but what if you don’t? Or how can you prepare for a storm if you’re not as organized as this farmhand?

Well, you better make a plan because the future looks bleak.

Gerald Fleming was a weather forecaster with RTÉ a few years ago and a familiar face. We were comforted by his reassuring wink, but now he has some grim news. After studying long-term weather patterns, he believes that change is on the way.

Climate predictions suggest that by 2050 our weather will be warmer overall, especially during the winter months when there will be a noticeable decrease in freezing at night.

Our winters will also be wetter, our summers drier and we will have fewer winter storms.

The bad news is that these storms might be fewer, but they could be much stronger.

Precipitation can also become much more intense and is likely to be delivered in shorter, more vigorous bursts. Hotter summers could bring heat waves, adding a significant mortality threat to the elderly and many others who are already in poor health.

Heavier winter rains and swollen rivers, along with increased risk of winter flooding, are probably the biggest threats extreme weather poses to this country, he says.

That’s not good news for my trash can, my fence, or my sleep pattern.

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