A Yogic Perspective On The Pandemic
By Rachel Fiske
“Happy virus!” said the older Chicagoan, gallantly scooting himself and his dog away to give me a wide berth on our shared sidewalk. “Happy virus to YOU!” I replied, amused and heartened.
That was yesterday. Today, everything could be different.
While I’ve never had LESS security in my life than I have during (and because of) this pandemic, at the same time, I have never been more comfortable with my utter lack of security. Perhaps because everyone (the self-employed service providers, anyway) is in the same boat. We are a collective. Perhaps because I had felt this one coming.* Perhaps because, after the other times when the “bottom” has dropped out and everything I knew to be true suddenly wasn’t, I learned that I create my own security, and that in fact what looks like security externally is actually merely…familiarity. Comfort.
Like when my daughter’s dad (my dead ex-husband), a trader, lost a million dollars, plus $50K which was not even ours, or like the moment he died, or like the moment I read the email from the real estate agent telling me that the house I was happily renting was suddenly on the market—those were moments I’d never want to repeat. But what I had learned from those moments of dire discomfort was to not reach out immediately to whoever I thought would say the perfect comforting thing, but…to stop and feel. Feel my body, feel where the terror had landed, and if possible, where the truth was located. To observe the way my mind tends to project into the worst-case scenario, and to not believe that story. To trust that the actual truth is both unknown and trust-able. How to trust the unknown?
First of all, don’t make up stories about it—unless it’s a story of opportunity.
Indeed, that is the entire point of having a spiritual life—and/or a religion. Dealing with the great unknown.
Having evolved from Catholicism to New Church to yoga to tantra over a lifetime, I’ve gleaned a few truths along the way…and on the tantric path, the bottom line is non-duality, the concept that everything and everyone IS divine. IS “god,” as opposed to god being outside us. Wait, even Donald Trump? Even Covid-19? Yes. And yes. I know that seems crazy, but first:
Western culture uses the word ‘guru’ synonymously with “all-knowing,” but actually a guru is simply someone who lights up the darkness. It’s not about what they know. They are just a mirror that reveals you to yourself. A guru shows you who you truly are. They light you up. You know those stories in which the devotee is yelling at the guru, or crying, or begging for help, and the guru is calmly sitting there, legs in lotus position, with a beatific smile, maybe even laughing? It’s sort of a guru trope, but…what that image conveys is that a guru is simply a Mirror. A guru is a mirror for what is going on inside us.
So: Covid-19 as guru. I know. I could not be LESS interested in doing my personal awareness via a virus. But bear with me.
What first came up for you, when this virus hit? Knowing only that about ourselves, we can learn so so much—and learning so so much, in my line of work, is the entire point of human existence. Awareness. What if the virus is here to accelerate that process of knowing who we are?
Sadly (for me, anyway), growth and the expansion of consciousness rarely happens when we are coasting along. Growth happens when we are confronted, thwarted, or challenged. (Hello, novel virus.) So, again, what first came up for you? Who did you worry about, what did you worry about? Whom did you blame? What did you hoard, what did you mourn? What worst case scenario stories did you make up?
These are not rhetorical questions. These are retroactive journaling topics; go for it. The time is now. Notice what your deepest fears are, see what your concerns truly are, see what matters most when all is said and done, and see how other people’s fears can lead you to act in ways you might not ordinarily act.
BECAUSE here is the thing. We (yoga teachers and power of positive thinking type people) have been saying for decades that we “create our own reality,” and people are so quick to disagree and say no way, humans would not have created war and famine and dis-ease, but let’s break it down into a tiny manageable simple bite:
(Oh, but first, Welcome to the New Age. Welcome to the Awakening of Human Consciousness. There’s no turning back now!)
This is how it works:
Human THOUGHTS freak out over a potential shortage of toilet paper…for whatever reason. Those thoughts spread virally. We as individuals and quickly as the collective then hoard toilet paper, and thus we CAUSE that. We caused exactly what we feared. It is so clear. Writ large. We just created our own reality.
On the other hand, what if humans of the western world had a fear of a potential toilet paper shortage and instead someone said, let’s all help each other out here and distribute the TP to those among us who need it most, then buy enough for two weeks, and only enough for two weeks, every two weeks…and use this as a collective TRUST exercise instead of creating our fear? What if we trust that there will be enough for us all? (I mean it’s a steep what-if. But: what if?) See how our very thoughts would have created a different reality? A reality of cooperation and abundance? Yes, sometimes shit happens, but also…we to a very large extent do create reality with our thoughts.
What if everyone all prayed at once, instead of everyone running to Trader Joe’s at once? What on earth could THAT create? (I am not saying we could pray away a disease but I do wonder whether we could pray away dis-ease.)
For me, having had the bottom drop out of my life more than once, and having learned a lot from those experiences, I see this virus as another massive screen upon which we all project our thoughts and fears--and the toilet paper example is the easiest one to grab and run with.
What if…I know, here I go again, but…what if one purpose of this virus was SO we could see that, SO we could see a clear example of how we individual humans create our own collective reality?
And what if another purpose of this virus is to help us SEE what goes on inside our own sacred selves when our world is suddenly filled with troubling unknowns? And by that I mean: what if this virus is a guru? How can we use it as such, how can we use Covid-19 to bring our lives back into alignment, whether we start with organizing our kitchen pantry or our computer desktop or going back to basics with our now-adult children who are temporarily living with us until the crisis passes?
I am going to take it even one step further, for those of you who may be thinking oh, yes I already know all this so far, thanks, but I already do all this (and if you are not in that category, and you can’t possibly imagine taking it one hypothetical step further, skip this next part because it’s more a leap into the absurd than a step). So. What if, those of you who are still with me, what if, in the Byron Katie sense, in the New Testament sense, what if we are meant to LOVE the virus?
I mean, I don’t, I can’t, it’s a virus, and I love my health and those two are clearly mutually exclusive--I mean I don’t just hate this virus; I hate each and every virus and I want to kill them all with Purell! (Oh wait, there is no Purell because everyone else wants it too!) But as long as I’m encouraging this leap into the absurd, I will have to take the leap too, so I ask…how can I love this virus? Wow, well that is really a steep curve, a drastic jump…it really sends me back to my roots, to Jesus’s last-ish words: they know not what they do. The ultimate forgiveness of what is literally killing you. Viruses are not alive. They feed on us. They have no consciousness. They know not what they do.
The minute I “hate” the virus, I put myself into a victim mentality. The minute I love the virus, I take back my power.
By loving this virus, I do not mean I offer it my body to cohabitate in…I mean I give it the power to remind me to take back my power, to make me actively change—in this case it has taken me from my introverted one-on-one healing role in my individual clients’ lives and into being here writing words that may actually help or inspire someone outside my sphere. It has definitely taken me out of my everyday procrastinating writing until 10pm, and into crisis mode, into “write now, or forever hold my peace” mode. Is it possible to be inspired to love your enemy? Our enemy? I find that I need to take it one day at a time. Wake up, find something in this world of unknowns to be grateful for. I am grateful that we are all faced with the same enemy. It seems to be uniting us, even as it physically separates us.
Speaking of viruses, here’s another thing.
There are viruses literally in and around us all the time, but this is a new one that has been isolated and labeled for us, and its behavior has been studied, so based on that, in this new world populated by this novel virus, now we get to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE our relationship to it and to each other and to ourselves. What are we going to do with all that power? What if we use it to increase our awareness, because if we don’t, we risk letting it dictate that we become victims, victims of this external, invisible enemy. Speaking of victims, here’s another thing. What if, and here I depart from my early religious roots and leap into yoga and tantra, what if the “savior” is not external? Are we looking to be saved, do we want pharmaceutical companies to research a cure, and better yet do we want them to research a vaccine, so we don’t even have to deal with the enemy in the first place? That’s the old paradigm, in which the savior is external. But in the new paradigm, we are not meant to be victims. The world is changing this very second. Old paradigm: god is out there, and we are at “his” mercy, victims of “his” will. New paradigm: we are creators, not victims; the savior is within. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are being shown how to SAVE ourselves: slow down, be with our loved ones, work from home, don’t panic-buy, nurture our immune systems, trust we will pull through with a lot of help from our friends and communities. We can do it. As a collective.
I am going to take it a step further, extrapolate even more. My daughter went to a Waldorf school, a school with a philosophy of life and a form of education and its own method of organic farming and even its own branch of health care called anthroposophic medicine. While there is a misconception that the anthroposophic philosophy is “anti-vax,” it isn’t, but they definitely do consider childhood illnesses to be a re-booting of the immune system and a way of moving a child into a new phase of development. So, my one step further is this: what if that’s happening to us, here, now? What if Covid-19 is, for those who unfortunately contract it, a system reboot, but also, for all of those who don’t, for not just this country but for the entire…what if this is a new way of seeing the entire world, a new way of being in the world? The flowering of human consciousness, as Eckhart Tolle says.
Yes it certainly sucks, I do not deny. Having a mere flu or a sinus infection or a bad cold also sucks—and the extreme contagiousness and potential death rate of this one is horrifying—so yes, it sucks, but also! We have been able to communicate with and learn from Italy and China and our literal individual next-door neighbor through the miracle of technology (years ago I wrote a blog about how the internet is merely a physical, tangible version of how connected “we” all already are, in the We Are One school of thought that characterizes the New Age, and maybe back when I wrote it it sounded outlandish, but…). Today WE are all fighting the SAME virus…the president tried to characterize it as a foreigner, but in truth it is a PAN-demic, affecting everyone, and everyone needs to participate in some level of isolation in order to arrest its spread. In the midst of all this isolation there is evidence of profound connection. But beyond and before anything else, we are being given time to connect with ourselves.
*I had been feeling an unusual level of anxiety several weeks ago regarding my (and my cat’s) living situation. The anxiety was so puzzling, because the one thing I know in general is…everything’s gonna be alright. So to have life not at all seem like it was going to be alright, to feel like life was an actual emergency, was so disconcerting and puzzling. I felt a wave of compassion for those who live with anxiety on a daily basis—though it didn’t assuage mine. I did breathwork of every kind, I got a massage, I already do yoga at least once a day so I amped it up by attending a class, twice…but I still had anxiety. So when this crisis hit, when we were told not to touch our faces or shake hands, I felt liberated, vindicated. The anxiety had not been personally dysfunctional; it had been intuitive. I was relieved that my anxiety about where I and my cat were going to live was not some random, dys-functional, out of the blue regression. I was relieved that decades of yoga and meditation and breathing and loving my "enemy" had not inexplicably collapsed and had in fact empowered my resilience. Exhale.
My older friends and relatives are at risk. My living situation and lifestyle of ease and comfort is at risk. But. Also. I knew that moment of crisis heralded the fact that: now IS the time. This IS the paradigm shift. No doubt we are in the middle of a CORO-NATION. I’m a creator. You’re a creator. What do we want to create, individually and as a collective? How can we recreate a society that honors and supports every single person? As individuals, and as a collective, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are ripe. Let’s make it good.
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