A devastating earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015. Any natural disaster of this scale overwhelms most of us, including me. Though my family and I were physically safe, my ability to think clearly, decide properly, and act in a timely manner was dramatically reduced. It took at least some weeks for me to regain a normal state of functioning.
Once I knew my family and I were safe, I started to find out about others who were in trouble, who needed attention and support. Thousands died, tens of thousands were injured, and hundreds of thousands were made homeless, and entire villages were flattened. People were in chaos. Elderly, sick, pregnant women, and infants were the most affected, and worried about a safe place to spend the coming nights and their next meals. On top of that, subsequent aftershocks threw people back into fear and hysteria. Those of us who were safe and wanted to help others had lost our sense of right judgement and action.
When we are overwhelmed and not in a normal state, we become unable to decide how, where, when and why to focus our attention and energy. At those times, we need others–usually those who are not overwhelmed and able to function from their core self–to help test our judgements, receive feedback, and navigate a right direction. This enriching process of testing our judgement about a situation, action, or next step, receiving feedback, and navigating a new direction is what I understand as discernment. This was my experience from our relief work during the 2015 post-earthquake situation in Nepal. A few days after the earthquake, Nadine on behalf of Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific asked me how they could help people in Nepal. Within a few weeks, an unexpectedly large amount of money was donated to help the Nepali people.