This event has been quite different from others I have written about and has really hit home -- literally.

As some of you may know, I am a native of New Orleans, born and raised, until I left for college (to Duke in North Carolina). I spent two more years in New Orleans between college and grad school and visited my family there every year until they moved to Memphis a few years ago. This week has been hard for me, even with my normal spiritual reserves.

I have spent the week trying to get in contact with friends, while also trying to stay abreast of news and (continually hopeful of) progress and improvements in rescue. I have also spent the week ruminating and attempting to get a sense of what this huge, unprecedented national tragedy was about on a higher level. And that is what I would like to share with you.

As always, it is my sense that a huge event like this disaster has to do with shifts and lessons and I'll share my sense of what those may be.


One huge lesson that I feel is implicit in this catastrophe is that we are all connected, irrespective of our geographical location, not to mention our age, race, gender, nationality, religious persuasion, etc. So many times in the past, we may have been able to look at a natural disaster and, while feeling compassion for those directly affected by loss of family, friends, home, livelihood, etc., we may have also felt unimpacted directly by the events.

This disaster, being of such a huge magnitude, reminds us that we are all connected because we will in all likelihood unavoidably be impacted. Being able to watch coverage of disasters on television, I feel, can lead us to feel like spectators, watching others without participating ourselves. If we have felt separate before, even in the wake of previous hurricanes, we will quite likely be impacted this time -- by an influx of evacuees into our areas needing housing, food, jobs, and resources and also economically by the seemingly inevitable rise in gas, fuel, and heating costs. This time we may be continually reminded of our interconnectedness for months. This may be a painful hammering home of the lesson of interconnectedness: if we haven't been able to feel it in our hearts, we may likely be reminded in other ways.

This is the single greatest lesson from this terrible event, I feel: that we must remember that we are all connected, in spite of how busy or stressed our lives, in spite of any perceived differences among us, in spite of anything that may have served to blind us from our sense of connectedness. And this remembrance of our connectedness must be through the heart, through feeling it, and not just thinking it.

Some other thoughts on connectedness: At our best, in such a horrific event like this, we will feel compassion -- heart-opening -- for those displaced who have lost homes, family, livelihood, etc. (This is, after all, quite simply a massive heart-opening experience.)

And yet we may also encounter those who feel less of a connection. I have been surprised to hear those expressing the feeling that this disaster represents a clearing of "negative energy;" some have even made references to "Sodom and Gomorrah." (I heard similar thoughts expressed in the wake of the terrible tsunami: that because so many of those affected "weren't Christians" they were being "punished" -- of course by a supposedly strictly Christian God.) You might guess that I do not subscribe to these views that, quite frankly, I regard as coming from a less than healthy mentality. (And, interestingly, in New Orleans the “Sodom and Gomorrah” that people refer to – the French Quarter – was untouched by the destructive flooding, while so many residential areas, where the citizens lived, were devastated. So much for the theory that the destruction was to “punish wicked people!”)

What is it that can drive us to feel such things? The interesting thing about making negative judgments such as these is that doing so allows us to separate ourselves from those about whom we're making the negative judgments. They become "other" and less than. Judging negatively in this way allows us to close our hearts and compassion off. For those who may be sensitive, it may also be a way to feel less pain. So, making these pronouncements about why others are being "punished" or must suffer can represent a way of distancing ourselves from their plight.

In no way do I feel that Katrina occurred to clear the Gulf Coast and New Orleans of "negative energy." In no way do I feel that the Gulf Coast and New Orleans are being punished for their "Sodom and Gemorrah"-like ways.

I do feel that those in the Gulf Coast and New Orleans have participated in a great drama unfolding for the benefit of us all -- perhaps even for the clearing of "negative energy" within us that leads us to want to blame victims for what happens to them. Pontificating about others' participation in their own disasters is an excellent way of intellectualizing and removing ourselves from feeling emotion. It is a seemingly comfortable mindset that cocoons us from feeling, experiencing, and being connected, while it allows us to sit unscathed in our ivory towers and cast aspersions. Mindsets and beliefs are mindsets and beliefs, whether they’re conservative in nature or come from supposedly spiritual teachings – and they tend to serve as a buffer to our own openness to feeling and experiencing.

The day may come when we not only feel compassion for what the victims of Katrina have lost and experienced, but also gratitude for the lesson their participation in this tragedy has given us all.

Lessons in Energy

I have personally received some lessons in energy through this. Beginning last Sunday I started feeling somewhat sick to my stomach. I knew I had no other symptoms of coming down with something -- a virus or illness; I just had that sick feeling in the pit of my gut.

That sick feeling continued through Monday, even after it had appeared that New Orleans had dodged the bullet (as newscasters put it). I consciously wondered what that sick feeling in my gut was about, because it continued to persist. That sick feeling I knew was warning me that something really bad was coming.

Tuesday morning it became much clearer. I suddenly knew that it had to do with the destruction of my hometown.

The reason I mention this is that, even though I visited New Orleans every year my parents still lived there, I hadn't felt a connection to it for years. I even made negative judgments about its qualities and vowed that I never wanted to live there again (just go visit and eat in the wonderful restaurants). I found it to be an "ignorant" city. (There's that judgment again.)

I have continued to be sick to my stomach. I have been in a state of shock. I have grieved for the city I have known so well, watching scenes of devastation and recognizing those places I know so well.

The lesson in energy is this: that it would appear that our hometown, where we grew up, is entwined somehow deeply in our energy field -- even aside from how it can evoke memories in our consciousness. It permeates the energy in our being, not just in our memories.

In addition, we can have a bodily awareness of something at a very deep level without knowing consciously what it's about (or perhaps before we are prepared for knowing it consciously).

Causality & Other Connectedness

Inevitably, when something this huge and traumatic occurs, we question why and how. What contributes to the causes of events such as this? Is it punishment from God or the Universe? Is it manmade because of human conduct? Is it from a combination of factors?

Although I feel that all things happen for a reason, we must also remember that we humans are not invulnerable and that there are forces greater than human ones. As much as we might like to think that we can "manifest" our future and what we want, there are indeed forces greater than those on the human level.

Nature indeed is a massive force and one greater than man. As much as we humans may have the hubris to think that we can conquer the world, Nature has a way of reminding us that it indeed is greater than we are and that we humans are just one part of the larger web of life.

And it is often when man tries to separate him/herself from nature and upsets its balance, intentionally or unintentionally, that we can be reminded of our true role in the greater order: we are merely parts -- and interconnected parts -- of the greater whole. And when we try to artificially maneuver and change the greater whole -- the environment -- we may find ourselves reminded by rude wake-up calls that our world is an interconnected ecosystem that doesn't always respond well to our monkeying with it.

I personally have a sense that even deforestation throughout the world has contributed to a rise in violent storms, aside from the effects of global warming. And, moreover, even in spite of human disruption, Earth has always had intermittent natural disruptions, from volcanoes to earthquakes to tornadoes to violent storms. Because of this, it may be more useful to respect Nature and its implicit complexity of design, rather than try to harness it, subdue it, or sever its interconnectedness.

Other whys we tend to consider include what astrological triggers there may have been. I read one astrologer's attribution of this event to the square between Mars and Neptune. I myself (certainly no professional astrologer) pondered the encroaching opposition of Saturn and Chiron. I emailed George Ward, a wonderful astrologer in Raleigh, whom many of you know. (His website is at

George in his customary wisdom told me about the conjunction between Mars and Sedna, the new planet discovered in 2004. As George wrote, "Sedna is an Inuit/Eskimo sea goddess and she deals with respect for nature, storms from the sea, etc." Mars, as we know, deals with martial (warlike) and assertive energy. This conjunction is powerful and will be in place until February 2006 (which could portend more disastrous storms, God forbid). George also mentions the large number of solar flares affecting Earth.

So it would appear that there are indeed some potent astrological aspects at present (not easing up until February). Interesting that one of them speaks to our need to respect nature and storms from the sea.

Further Lessons in Environment

Questions of environment have already been raised in the wake of Katrina. In the instance of New Orleans, there has been discussion already about whether New Orleans should be rebuilt, given its below-sea level elevation.

My strong sense is that, insofar as New Orleans and its environs is concerned, this disaster may come to represent an opportunity to rebuild it in a stronger manner and one which resolves long-standing problems in the infrastructure -- as well as an opportunity to reverse ecological damage.

One problem highlighted by this tragedy has to do with the erosion and loss of Louisiana's wetlands and barrier "islands" -- which actually serve as a barrier to hurricanes. A wonderful benefit that could come from this national tragedy would be the recognition that this long-standing issue needs to be addressed. We have unfortunately in this country had the attitude for decades that we could do whatever we wanted to the environment and not suffer any consequences as a result. This hurricane should serve to teach us the converse.

In looking at the causes of barrier island and wetlands erosion at the mouth of the Mississippi River, there is actually a multiplicity of causes, from dredging in oil and gas locations that interfere with natural tidal flows, to deep shipping channels that alter salinity, to nutria imported from South America that have been eating the wetlands -- to even the levees built for flood control along the Mississippi River that prevent the silt flow and build up that actually constructs the Delta.

Even fertilizer runoff from farms hundreds of miles from New Orleans has caused a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

That said, one of the largest causes of the loss of this natural hurricane protection – the barrier islands and wetlands – is the oil and gas industry, which has benefited every citizen of the United States. Whereas Texas and Florida have received up to 50% of their oil and gas industry revenues from the Federal government, Louisiana has historically only received 2-3%. So Louisiana, at the hands of the Federal government and for the benefit of everyone else in the country, has been forced to sacrifice its natural, God-given hurricane protection with no compensation or restitution.

This tragedy should highlight the need for the restoration of the wetlands and represent a clarion call for our respect for this environmental necessity. It should also serve to remind us of our place in the environment as parts of the whole and teach us to be better stewards, not dominators, of this beautiful planet we've been given as a habitat.

An Opportunity?

I want to feel that down the road this terrible, tragic event will represent an opportunity, even in the rebuilding aspect. For example, New Orleans’ location below sea level obviously makes it vulnerable to flooding and inundation from both Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. The pumps that pump water out of the city were engineered and built in the 19th Century and were a marvel of engineering then. I don't think they've undergone much change in design since then.

Rather than tolling the death knell of a city lying below sea level, this event represents an opportunity to rebuild and re-engineer solutions to below sea-level elevation. The Netherlands did it in the 50s through an innovative approach that has been quite successful and should inspire the U. S. to similarly be innovative. (Indeed, a Dutch spokesman, as cited in a CNN article, said, "I don't want to sound overly critical, but it's hard to imagine that [the damage caused by Katrina] could happen in a Western country.")

Indeed this disaster can be a call to re-awaken the dormant “can do” attitude that used to be so evident in this country and that led us to be so resourceful and innovative. It would appear that our “can do” attitude has been replaced by complacency born of comfortableness and affluent self-indulgence. Terrible catastrophes such as the present one could serve to re-ignite that resourcefulness, out of sheer necessity.

Another aspect of opportunity for the rebuilding of New Orleans lies in its strategic location and importance as a port. I was informed a few years ago that New Orleans had been losing a large percentage of its port business to other ports due to the outmoded nature of New Orleans’ port facilities and equipment. Surely the devastation wrought by Katrina represents an opportunity to retool and modernize New Orleans’ port capabilities and facilities. As we often find after the mind-numbing destruction of disasters, devastated areas can be rebuilt in an even stronger manner afterwards, resulting in a refurbished and improved area.

Even the massive effort of rebuilding the city itself and its buildings, both businesses and homes, could represent an opportunity for the huge numbers of residents displaced and out of work. Just as the WPA (Works Progress Administration) put scores of people to work during the Depression, jobs could be made available to New Orleans residents for the rebuilding of New Orleans. What better way to give people back an income than in the rebuilding of their own beloved city?

Individual Opportunities?

Our own individual responses to this week's events will be as individual as we all are. And yet I feel that there is a clarion call to remember our interconnectedness, to open our hearts to each other, to look for opportunities and ways in which a phoenix can arise from the ashes (and we can re-invent ourselves), to look for the transmuting light that will inevitably return after the dark, and to hold hope while grieving and sharing. Personal pain can definitely challenge our spiritual platitudes, as I have learned this week in my own pain, and yet I continue to feel that everything does happen for a reason, while I also know that I need to allow myself to grieve for my hometown and for the pain others are going through.

Some people have donated money, some have donated food or clothing, some have opened up their homes or volunteered their time. Some have prayed or sent healing energy.

I also remember the animals -- all the pets that may have died or have been left behind and are panicked, hungry, and hoping for rescue -- all the animals in the zoo who have met whatever fate. And the animal rescue groups have not yet been allowed to go in and begin their animal rescue efforts. I also include the animals in my consciousness, thoughts, prayers, and contributions.

I trust that we will all navigate through these difficult waters and times -- and be able to garner the lessons and good that lie in potentiality for us, eclipsed perhaps at present by the obscuring dark. I feel, as always, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Author's Bio: 

Diane Brandon is the Host of “Living Your Power” on the Health & Wellness Channel of, as well as an Intuition Teacher, Integrative Intuitive Counselor, and Speaker. She is the author of "Invisible Blueprints" and several articles on personal growth topics, as well as a contributing author to "Speaking Out" and "The Long Way Around: How 34 Women Found the Lives They Love." Her private work with individuals focuses on personal growth, working with dreams, and personal empowerment, and she has done corporate seminars on intuition, creativity, and listening skills. More information may be found on her websites, and She may be contacted at