When I first heard that the coronavirus affects the lungs, I tuned in. I was concerned for my mom because she is almost 70 and she has only one lung. When she was in her early twenties, she lost her mom, her dad, and her grandma within the span of a short time. Within a few years, she developed pneumonia so bad that she had to have her left lung removed. One could say that the grief was so great and she had to “carry on” that she couldn’t breathe. Over the last forty some years, I have learned from my wise and loving mom how to acknowledge grief, see it as a wise teacher, honor it, and allow it to both soften and open my heart. This has given rise to a “soft joy” within me that I call delight. It is from this honoring of grief that my life focus is on compassion, connection, and delight.
Recently, as my family came together to support my parents in helping my mom take early precautions in a world starting to wake up to the coronavirus, I started to think about the connection between this virus, the lungs, and how this experience has the potential to change our world.
Through my Tao of Trauma training with Alaine Duncan, I know that in Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with grief – our collective and personal grief. As a Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapist, I sit with clients who come to therapy wanting to address their anxiety or depression, and often what is underneath is unacknowledged grief – grief of losing someone we love as well as the everyday griefs of living in a culture of busy, competition, harshness, and loneliness. These griefs need the sacred space to be acknowledged – not just in words but mostly with our bodies. They need air to breathe so the loss can transform into a new inspiration for living and loving.
But too often in our culture of “busy” and prizing productivity over presence, we don’t give space for grief. We medicate it. We numb it with excessive alcohol, food, sex, exercise, and work. We avoid feeling the discomfort of sadness. We “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We are instructed to “keep calm and carry on.”
This virus is calling us to stop. It’s calls us to NOT “keep calm and carry on,” but rather to “pause, acknowledge, and grieve.” To make the guttural, primal sounds of loss trapped inside us, pounding on our ribs to be set free. To dance and shake and moan and pant. To not keep calm. To not carry on.
If that makes you uncomfortable – well, it’s time to be uncomfortable. Pause? Yes. Make sounds? Yes. Dance and shake? Yes. Pant and moan? Yes.
This virus is calling for our grief to be acknowledged, felt, and released so it can transform into inspiration…and even into delight.
This virus is turning the tables on our dominant culture of competition, productivity, exploitation, hate, division, scarcity, individualism, loneliness and isolation. This pandemic can inspire a new culture – one of compassion and connection.
To be tender and gentle
To give without expectation of
return or recognition
To love without holding back
And already we see people embracing this inspiration. We see people outside with their families in parks – getting fresh air to breathe. Families are sitting around the table and having dinner together. Strangers are smiling and waving to each other. People are reaching out to one another. People are learning to linger and be right here. Artists are sharing their craft online. Musicians are giving concerts online. Dancers and yogis are sharing their healing movements online. I have been and always will be sharing my poetry online.
We have wanted – no … longed for – this heart connection. We have longed for this time to pause and breathe. We have longed for inspiration to fill our lungs. We have longed for delight – that “soft joy,” that soft sense of contentment that arises when we are connected to our hearts and one another.
No, it is not always pleasant or easy. It’s hard to be together sometimes. It takes work to connect and understand one another, to listen, to hold space for another, to be in relationship with our own selves and one another. It’s painful to connect to our grief and loss.
But in the discomfort of choosing to connect, we are birthing a new way of being. This new way of being is heart centered. This new way of being is about love, compassion, and connection. It is about honoring one another and our earth. It’s about finding and savoring the small delights in life that we have often taken for granted or missed in our rushing competing, and producing. It’s about pausing and being right here.
So we have a choice here: will we run from our personal and collective grief – panicking and hoarding all the toilet paper and food and Clorox wipes? Will we continue to hoard wealth and feed into the scarcity mindset? Will we collaborate or compete with one another? Will we share our resources with another or hoard them? Will we collectively start to value connection over busy?
Will we see our children as precious? Will we once again regard our elders as valuable and prominent wisdom figures? Will we slow down? Will we BE more instead of do more? Will we risk being vulnerable and imperfect with one another and just love? Will we pause long enough to linger and appreciate the small delights in our life – the smell of fresh fallen rain, the softness of your puppy’s ears, your partner’s gentle kiss on your forehead, your toddler’s laugh, a moment of connection with your teenager, and the time to listen to your aging parents; stories? Will we cultivate quiet by listening – to our deepest hearts, one another, and our earth?
Be still and listen.
The earth is still singing.
Place your worries
here at her feet,
This virus is calling us into the heart center. It is ushering in a new way of being, doing business, and being alive on this planet.
The great leaders of the near future will not be those who bully, who are only self-interested, or who use fear and harshness to control. The great leaders who will thrive will be those who lead with heart and wisdom. They will be ones who are “emotionally intelligent.” They will be the meditators, the healers, the practitioners of compassion. They will be those who know how to be with difficult emotions – individually and collectively. They won’t run from the discomfort of grief, hurt, anxiety, or fear, but rather learn how to abide with it and learn from it – with wisdom and heart. They will honor what is sacred.
Dropping the Armor
One day —
maybe because it’s time
or because the weight has become too crushing —
you drop the armor around heart
so you can breathe
and love this world
First we grieve. We acknowledge our grief. We acknowledge the collective and personal sufferings. We empty out. We clear out. We exhale.
We then breathe in the fresh air of inspiration — from the divine within, from the earth, and from voices on the margins that historically have been silenced.
We breathe together. We create together. We wrestle with this together. We collaborate. We do not go at it alone. We don’t need more gurus. We need more “community.”
First the grief, then the inspiration. First the slowing down, then the rising. First the discomfort, then the delight. We are in this together.
** In these uncertain times, take time to “go within.” Take time to cultivate your inner capacity to abide with what arises. I have created a guided poetic meditation series to help you wake up in the morning and find that inner stability and to ride the waves of emotions and thoughts with love, compassion, and groundedness. Please come join me for Calm in the Chaos
BeUtifully and thoughtfully written. Yes, “prizing productivity over presence,” is a cultural norm that needed changing – and we are being forced by this virus to reverse that. I can’t be productive in the same way I’m used to. I can’t volunteer at the nursing home. It’s on “lock down.” Even to deliver a card or letter to a friend there, I have to ring the doorbell, and an aide comes to receive it from me outside. Likewise -my friends in the hospital are off limits. I can’t help at the library – it’s closed. So, learning to hit the pause button and just “be” is imperative. I am learning presence over productivity. It’s one of the areas of “good” that’s coming out of this pandemic. God be with us all … and help us keep positive and cautious, but not panic!