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How Did 3/11 Change Me?

March 10, 2015

By Jacinta Hin

Four years ago on March 11 a devastating earthquake and tsunami, culminating in the Fukushima nuclear plant explosion, struck my adopted country of Japan. I was in Tokyo at the time. Although far enough from the epicentre to be safe, the city shook badly. In fact,the shaking was so intense that I feared for my life. The weeks that followed were filled with aftershocks. On top of this was the threat of a nuclear cloud and the knowledge of the horrible fate of the people of Tohoku.

How did that day change me, I often wonder?

I tend to think about my life in terms of before and after 3/11. The experience of the quake itself and the anxious weeks that followed was surreal, to say the least. I remember having a sense of both my own and the entire country’s death and rebirth. Life before the quake was pretty much about myself, friends, family, and work; it was innocent, peaceful, manageable. 3/11 ripped that sweetness away, but also awakened in me a deepened responsibility and compassion for a world much larger than my immediate environment. I stand more firmly in life now­­, more aware, more connected with a larger whole. I feel braver, too. Perhaps I would have arrived at this point in any case. Who knows? But without a doubt, March 11, 2011 was a defining moment. That evening I went to sleep in a different world than the one I had woken up in.

I asked some of my friends in Japan what changed for them. Here are their stories:

Ruthie Iida – ­ I am braver in spirit now than I was before 3/11; stories of what children endured during day of the tsunami alone humbled me, and stories of those who didn’t survive tore at my heart. Of course children weren’t the only heros, and young lives weren’t the only ones lost, but those were the stories that touched me most deeply. I believe that in my heart I now hold myself, my own children and my students to a higher standard. As a teacher and parent, I want to value and experience the power of empathy and to hold my own life and the lives of every fellow traveler on the planet in greater respect. And, as the sinister release of radioactive particles has wrecked havoc on the environment, I want that respect to extend to the air, the soil, the trees, and the ocean waters that nourish and sustain us all.

Sherilyn ­ Siy – Because of 3­11, we find ourselves still here in Japan, the landscape of our plans and our future redesigned. I have a more realistic understanding of what can and cannot be controlled.

Angela ­ Jeffs – Before 3/11, I imagined I would live out my life in Japan, but I also felt stuck. The earthquake unstuck me big time. The tsunami swept away all fear of growing older. The meltdowns introduced a new fear but more importantly an enormous anger towards the government and nuclear industry. It was this anger ­ together with family and financial issues which synchronistically came to a head roundabout the same ­ time which was ultimately what pushed me into to pulling up my roots and transplanting to Scotland.

Dean ­ Newcombe – The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami changed my life forever. After traveling there as a volunteer in 2011, and giving my time, energy and money to help these people, I realized something incredible. Firstly, for all that I gave materially, what mattered far more was just that I was there. The people were moved by my caring, not by how much I could bring or do. Furthermore and perhaps the most important realization; the people of Tohoku helped me even more than maybe I could help them. They helped me see the world differently, understanding what really is the most precious thing we have to give, and that is something irreplaceable that I will keep for the rest of my life.

Kathie Paul – Looking back these last 4 years, I see the world we live in having such potential to be an endless supply of love from a bountiful sea of open hearts. The sacred feminine concepts of love, compassion and nurturing are the true gifts that emerge from disasters and the grace that lead us towards healing, both others and ourselves.

Aruna Byers -  ­ I cannot say that anything has changed in me since 3/11. My environment has changed, the attendance numbers for my satsangs and workshops are a lot less than they used to be, and I have had to deal with some major health challenges because of this body’s sensitivity to chemicals, EMFs, etc. But who I know myself to be, (the nameless, formless Self that brought this body to Japan in 2011), is simply Presence, an expression of love which does not move or change as a consequence of altering circumstances.This body responded to 3/11 by moving to Japan a few weeks after the devastation, when others were leaving and close friends said “do not to come.” There has never been any question about either coming to or remaining in Japan, even though daily life is harder than it was when I lived here from 1998 ­- 2002. My role, in the big picture, is to serve others as a vessel for light that can permeate the darkness, and this body is in Japan to fulfill this purpose. Awakening this light in those I work with is my way of amplifying the light.

Charlie Badenhop – Not sure that 3/11/11 changed me all that much. The moment it all took place was fairly scary as the trembling was pretty strong in Tokyo, but at the same time I did not have a sense that it was going to accelerate into something much worse. I found the LONG series of aftershocks over the next month or so to be rather disconcerting. Especially when I was occasionally woken up at night. I had a strong network of friends that allowed me to filter thought media nonsense and keep a good perspective of the dangers. I lost some gaijin clients afterwards because they moved out of Japan, and that necessitated me changing my business model some. I was surprised that the stores in Tokyo stayed empty for as long as they did, since there was not any real damage to Tokyo in any way. I once again realized that living in Tokyo has a certain risk factor, but after 25 years or so of living in Tokyo, I was also used to the risk factor. Afterwards, I see that the Japanese government has not really tried to take care of the local people that were most affected, and I find that sad. That is about it for me.

About the author: Jacinta Hin was born in the Netherlands and has been living in Tokyo, Japan, since 1989. Her professional background is in human resources, career management and coaching. She is passionate about helping people, herself included, discover new perspectives of possibility, move to embracing and working with their transitions, and designing and realizing changes aligned with who they truly are and what they truly want from their lives.
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