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REFLECTIONS ON COVID-19
From John Van Ness
Although we’ve never experienced anything like it, a plague like the COVID-19 pandemic is hardly unique on this planet. Wooly mammoths grew and died. Dinosaurs ruled the planet, then were wiped out. Since the last ice age, we humans have covered the earth, and fought innumerable life-threatening disasters.
During our domination of the world, we humans have spun tales of our beginning, sung of calamities that nearly destroyed us, and illustrated in caves and cathedrals our struggles to survive. This massive artistic outpouring always includes non-physical forces and beings interacting with human saints and scoundrels.
Indigenous peoples of the distant past as well as the present day, whose cultures rely on the specific land on which they live, all include such stories. The ones many of us know best come from the Hebrew Bible – Noah and the flood, Moses and the Egyptian plagues. Since the Greek, Roman and, especially in the last two centuries, Western cultures have covered the world with rational science, the non-physical forces and beings have often been ignored.
Our word “spirit” describes those forces, and our word “soul” refers to that within ourselves which responds to spirit. Today it seems that our fear of COVID-19 is crowding out our awareness of spirit, to the peril of our soul.
Certainly, we need every precaution to avoid the virus and to treat those who have been afflicted with it as well as other conditions.
But we also need to deepen spiritual practices – to bolster our resistance to the virus, to reduce our depression and anxiety which make us more vulnerable to the virus, to live through the disease if we get it, and to cross the threshold to the next world if we do not survive – a crossing we all will make eventually.
Spiritual practice resembles the physical practice that we do by walking, running, working out in the gym, etc. It involves silence or music, paying attention to our bodily sensations, noticing our minds’ busy-ness, focusing on a single word or image, watching the rhythm of breath as a carrier of spirit as we draw it in through our nose, and let it out through our mouth. “Breath” and “spirit” are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek languages, suggesting that conscious breathing directly blows that primal force throughout our whole being.
May you find health and peace as you strengthen your physical and spiritual practice, and as we all look forward to a transformed world as this pandemic recedes.
So follow the road that you hear in your Heart
When you’re standing alone and you’re filled with that spark
Don’t become fooled by the voices you’ll hear
That surround you and drown you and get you to act out of fear
From the song, Choices
by Tim Van Ness © 1996