From the ground floor of the COVID-19 pandemic:
I’m sitting here in my suburban house in the Austin, Texas area, my third day home in self-selected isolation. I am one who is in the higher risk category for deadly complications from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which is a potential symptom of an aggressive COVID-19 infection. In other words, if I find myself in the 20% group who contracts COVID-19 and ends up hospitalized with ARDS, I am likely to be in the 50% of those who don’t survive. But more than that, I am also in lifelong cancer treatment, and not being immune-compromised myself, I am very aware of the potential devastating consequences for others if I bring COVID-19 into the treatment room, not knowing I have it. For these reasons I have elected to self-isolate, which I began on March, 15, 2020.
I am not paranoid. I am not afraid. Death has been my companion, my lover, my teacher, my ally since I was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2003/2006. She is my lifelong companion. So when I speak of Death I do no speak from a place of fear, but of adoration and reverence. For it is only in gazing into the face of Mother Death that I have been able to find the sweetness of life.
I’ve been watching COVID-19 since it became an epidemic in China, back in early January 2020. I watched it crash through multiple countries, and knew it was inevitable that it would find it’s way to the United States. And yes, from within the walls of my home, and through the screen in my living room, I have been watching extremely closely since the first positive test was revealed in the United States on January 19, 2020, in the state of Washington. My ‘watching’ has not just been a steady and mindless media feed, but a constant conversation with all the layers of the things, with people, with Spirits, with COVID-19 itself, with Mother Death, and with God, the Creator of All.
And I’ve been reading all the things my spiritual community and my shamanic community have been writing and sharing about COVID-19. I’ve read a lot of stuff that’s felt out of alignment with what and who the writers are claiming to be, that’s been a display of arrogance, self-centeredness, that’s lacked wisdom and compassion. But I’ve likewise read and heard stuff that felt sound, was centered, looked to glean from this viral experience the inherent wisdom, the teaching. Some of this wisdom has centered around the Earth and how this global pandemic is revealing to us how inter-connected we are to one another, and thus to all things. And out of this awareness perhaps can come a sensitivity to our personal responsibility to one another and this amazing planet we’re all sharing. One thing for certain COVID-19 has asked of us is to consider the elderly and vulnerable among us and to care for and protect them as we would our own selves. It’s challenged us to let go of our selfish interests and consider the greater good of the whole.
I’ve seen people rising to the occasion and people faltering.
Which brings me to the work that I believe COVID-19 is actually soliciting from all of us. This notion that the wisdom of COVID-19 is that we’re all connected and bear a responsibility to one another and to our planet is legitimate and true. But it doesn’t go deep enough, because until we do the Shadow work and clear the root cause of why we haven’t been good caretakers, and why we haven’t cared for one another, the cycle continues. So my experience of COVID-19 is that it’s shining a light into the Shadows of our psyches. And what exactly is to be found there?
The absolute denial of death. Which is a defense against the fear of death.
This is at the root of our inability to be present with one another, to find global connection in our humanity, to honor and respect the planet and all her inhabitants, and at our sense of competition, scarcity mindset, and aggressions towards one another. And this is what COVID-19 is poking at, bringing the reality of death uncomfortably close.
I keep hearing and reading people talk of the “paranoia”, “panic”, and “hysteria” being caused by COVID-19. But I actually have seen very little of this personally. I do see people preparing. I do see people taking precautions. And I see a lot of people who still aren’t staying home. At least here in my little geographic territory. People who aren’t obeying what we’ve been asked to obey. I’ve seen and felt the frenzy, the ramping up of the number of people out in public, getting gas, buying groceries, stocking up, traveling. All this busy-making doesn’t feel like panic. It feels like avoidance. When we settle in at home, quiet ourselves, still ourselves, this invites us inward and what’s to be found there is this terrifying fear of death.
What I’ve seen far more of is denial and minimization and it’s playing out through dividing us rather than bringing us closer. Again, I’ve seen so many in my spiritual community online deny the virus is real, make arrogant claims about immunity, and shame people for even speaking of death, suggesting that by doing so they will somehow manifest this for themselves. So as this crashes through, country by country, city by city, and home by home, no matter how spiritual or religious or centered you may be, this is affecting a lot of people. It’s shaking everyone and everything to the very core.
But I want to invite you to the fire circle. Come over, sit close. Warm your heart here. COVID-19 has a message for you:
We do not overcome Death by might, by speaking Her out of existence, by turning our back on Her, hands covering our eyes. We overcome Her when we grab hold of our fear and in courage can look Her square in the face and become willing to give Her our very life. We befriend Her. Count Her an ally. It is in this we can find freedom. It is in this that we can individually rise above COVID-19 and make good choices that are based on prudence and reverence for Death, and respect for one another. It is in this reverence for Death that we find life. We find gratitude. We find love. We find respect for life. All life.
So I invite you to sit at Her feet. She will carve you out, hollow you out. And I can’t promise this won’t hurt, or you won’t want to run away. But I can promise you’ll be glad you didn’t. Find courage to gaze upon Her face so that She can teach you to live life more fully, more connected to others, and to love deeper.
“It is not universally human to fear death. The circle of your love of life exists because it ends, in the same way that we can appreciate the flowers in spring because we know they will not be there come fall.” – Stephen Jenkinson
And remember the words of my favorite writer/producer/director, M. Night SHyAMalAN: “Danger is real, fear is a choice.”
A Word For Healers and Spiritual Teachers
For those of you who are healers and spiritual teachers, please- people are afraid and anxious. This displays itself in a wide spectrum of ways, from emotional meltdown to total denial. All usual defense mechanisms are going to be amplified right now, even among spiritual people, your community members, your cohorts. Let us hold one another accountable, in love. As we go through this relationships will be challenged and strained. People may become abusive to one another. They may become depressed and suffer power loss. They may become reactive. You may notice these things coming up for you too. Check-in and self-care. Just observe- don’t judge. This is the time we’ve been preparing for, and we need to especially center ourselves, make certain we are hollowed out and not also reacting or projecting. And we MUST stay in our power. Ground yourself as much as you need, and spend time in nature. The Earth has been waiting for this moment too, and She is ready for us. Spend time outside daily, and make your offerings of gratitude as you draw on Her benevolence in holding you. This isn’t going to be easy, but I believe you can rise to the occasion.
March 29, 2020
As we have gathered to do shamanic works around this global pandemic, a beloved shamana sister I circle with has met with a Spirit elder of the lands near the Rapidan River area of Virginia. She brought back his message from the Spirit realm. His wisdom resonates with all that I too have been understanding, and his words are pointed and succinct. So I’d like to pass on his message to us all during this time we are finding ourselves in:
“It is interesting that you look outward when this situation arises. In my time, we became introspective. ‘What was our part in inviting this? What does this say about us as a people? What can we learn?’ There is a difference between guilt, blame, causality and reflection. It is a time to choose to change your perspective. And the cycle is such that those that would normally run from it, simply cannot. You will be forced to face the lesson. The lesson has little value if you do not strive to understand for yourself.
This entity [COVID-19] is part of a cycle and it is also brought to manifest by intention, if even unconsciously. There was a call, and this is the response. If you look at the past and other calamities, you will see the personality of the thing by who it targets and how it exists. In the previous cycle, the young and healthy were sought, for they would be the ones to fight a war that so many had wanted to end. I invite you to reflect on the how and who. You choose words like “battle”, “defeat” and “fight” — all outward focused, it will be a hard lesson to learn for you — the need to look inward rather than outward. We had respect for a harbinger of death.
Not long ago, your ancestors, of whom you still remember their names, experienced such a disease and yet, you know nothing of it. They feared that by voicing their words, they would invite it again. There is a vibration to speech and you must relearn to speak without the emotions that charge and give power to such entities. Think again on this disease. It kills its host. It proliferates quickly. Those affected cannot breathe. It limits your ceremonies of death and rituals of passage. It has created an ‘otherness’ between humanity.
Remember acceptance of what is, is not acquiescence. Time has slowed to help with this necessary introspection…to observe around and oneself. Then speak to one another and practice your words with control.”