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COVID-19 Wake Up Call
The current COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to understand all the contributing factors, and steps needed to protect ourselves and future generations from recurrences and the devastation.
Hopefully, soon, COVID-19 will peak and subsides. Its rapid spread and lethality have had a devastating and tragic effect on the most vulnerable people and the vital infrastructure of our society.
When the final analysis is done, what will be learned and taken away as practical ideas or as more profound wisdom? Some useful areas of interest and inquiry may focus on
Individuals and society need to be better prepared and organized the next time an epidemic or pandemic comes;
The failure of government and leadership and future need for more skilled, insightful and experienced people in leadership roles;
Scientist and industry needs to be better prepared to produce vaccines, and reserves of necessary health care resources and equipment;
The accountability for those that were in charge and supposedly operating in the public interest. Because of the tragic levels of death, destruction to the economy, loss of jobs, and the resulting turmoil in our society there will need to be an analysis and investigation as to what happened and why;
The implementation of the necessary changes so that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the same calamity in the future;
Deeper insights into the meaning and knowledge gained from the entire COVID-19 experience – what can be taken from the tragic events to bring about growth and transformation of society where respect and cooperation would be present;
The need for an increase in the vital understanding regarding how our behaviors can contribute to imbalances in nature that potentially unleashes destructive forces and pathogens;
Issues regarding scientific concerns about overpopulation and the march of technology faster than we can understand and manage;
The need for there to be a shift in public policies and ideology to allow for better preparedness and the prevention of future pandemics.
Optimistically, there will be the development of more profound respect for ourselves, others, and a lasting discovery of the intimate connection that we all have to nature and the natural environment around us. We all live in mutual dependence with nature and all the elements, which surround us.O
I learned this in an instant when my wife and I went out the door of our house, located in a wooded area. We both were fretting about the current news about the spread of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. All of a sudden, two black bears came bounding down the hill and stopped as we did in our tracks. It was a baby, and her mother bear. We stood still, and the nearest bear stood up to sense the air, took a look at us, then turned and followed his wise mother bear down the path away from us. I realized at the moment that we are all intimately intertwined with nature. You see the threat and do the safe social distancing required.
It seems that amid the current epidemic, although the viral threat is invisible, there are more telltale signs and warnings that are present in the environment and natural setting in which we live. It seems most people are so far removed from connection with nature and the natural environment, that most signs of danger get ignored.
The bears are a reminder of how we lose the close relationship with the subtle warning from our surroundings, because of all the layers of things or worries we have accumulated. In essence, life has become too complicated for many. To use a bad pun – all we need is the “bear” necessities.
The martial law and strict enforcement around social distancing and quarantine that was done in China showed how forced awareness could work. Of course, it is argued that only that government, as an authoritarian government, could put these measures in place.
"Bear" Logic on Social Distancing
Out medical people and scientists have laid out the risks and importance of social distancing and other necessary protective measures. Still, there remains poor appreciation of the threat for many in our population, and the virus continues its unrelenting spread. Of course, some of our government leaders and related partisan politics, have confused the message. So, for this and many other reasons, the warning isn’t as evident as danger signals are to a black bear in nature. But I’d say that many of the red flags that there is a danger gets ignored. We have lost our natural feel and connection with life and our environment.
Also, our misunderstanding and non-acceptance of the deep and profound interdependence and relationship that we have with the natural world have become problematic. The denial of the awareness of our needed cooperative relationships with our fellow human beings and our environment put everyone at profound risk in situations that develop and become a reality like COVID-19. We’re all in this together and need to work together for our mutual benefit and survival.
"Reap What We Sow" and "Karma"
There is some truth in the old saying that we as a people and a collective will “reap what we sow.”. The term Karma from eastern thought and philosophy perhaps is also relevant. One interpretation of the concept is that personal or collective actions will bring inevitable good or bad results.
Greed, selfishness, self-centeredness, fear, feelings of being separate, independent, or alone, are significant contributors. All of these and probably many other human traits or tendencies contribute to our fears of being vulnerable, not having enough, or lacking.
The outcome can be the need to be submissive or dependent on others, perceived authorities, institutions, or leaders. In the opposite direction, the same human tendencies can lead to the need to control or dominate others or our environment and resources. I would suspect that all these factors are operative and ultimately contribute to the current crisis and viral pandemic.
To survive now or in the future from natural disasters or pandemics, it is essential to be socially aware and connected intimately with our environment. There is a need for awareness and contact with all facets of our existence, including that which is undefinable, beyond our knowledge, and senses.
Being In and Outside the Box - All At Once
To give form and definition to what is beyond what we can know and define has been the pursuit of students, scientists, philosophers, theologians, spiritual seekers, and mystics. There are many people, without the intentional search of this type of wisdom or understanding, that have had profound experience and realization beyond the personal knowledge and ordinary consciousness. Many cultures and civilizations in the past have had organized ways of having and benefitting from experiences beyond our ordinary states of consciousness.
The value of such non-ordinary states of consciousness was for the success in mundane and essential human activities and achievements, but also survival against warfare between social groups or tribes, or natural disasters.
The benefits of these expanded states of consciousness were found to help regain the balance between the individual’s inner life and conflicts, with the essential peace, security, and contentment of the realized deep connection with nature and the serenity outside of our usual mind or mental life.
Often the ancient and the more modernized forms of these non-traditional, experiential practices would bring healing, balance, peacefulness, and feeling of greater connectedness and well-being. In the past, these experiential practices have often been a part of the shamanistic, tribal, religious, wisdom, or spiritual teachings of various cultures.
Understanding of the Past Informs the Present
Examples of some of today's forms of experiential and non-traditional therapies and practices can be seen in:
Experiential-based individuals or group therapies;
Breathwork, bodywork, holotropic breathwork, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness;
Flotation tanks, sensory deprivation, deep relaxation techniques;
Use of hallucinogenic drugs in some structured therapeutic settings;
Chanting, music, dance, and movement therapies;
Therapies to help trauma sufferers;
Integrating or holistic therapies and techniques to facilitate healing;
Facilitation of non-ordinary states of consciousness and experiences to free the stifling effect of being stuck in a constrictive mind space – where there has been a loss of spiritual perspective and connectedness.
Unfortunately, many people confuse spirituality with religion or religious groups. Some of the current interest in Eastern teachings, yoga, mindfulness, Buddhist, and more modern holistic teachings have been from the felt need to be more integrated and connected to one's inner world, mind, body, and spirit as well as to the other dimensions beyond the perceived boundaries of the personal self.
Value of Presence and Spirituality
Welcomed benefits of being more connected to nature and spirituality would be:
To be more constantly aware and present in the here and now;
The ability to more efficiently gain states of profound peace and relaxation, to access the feeling of connectedness, fulfillment, contentedness, and well-being;
To support human growth and potential, restorative, healing, and transformative experiences without the use of unnatural drugs and the sometimes-excessive baggage of a religious sect or organization with their own secular and political needs;
To enhance social connection and personal faith in one’s own religious affiliations and organizations.
Some of the ancient traditions now in a modern context in addition to man search for meaning, wisdom, and knowledge, has been in the desire for finding safety from unpredictable natural elements, disasters, or epidemics/pandemics. The success and helpfulness of the pursuits of the non-ordinary experiences, wisdom, or spirituality are well demonstrated. They are the basis for contemporary approaches to holistic, integrative health care, and psychotherapies.
Relief and Healing
The application of some of these approaches has the potential to bring comfort and healing to individuals and the current traumatized world. Maybe in doing some deep holistic healing for oneself, there might be a beginning to the repair of our larger society, of which we are an integral part.
Whatever has felt lacking or predisposing to our current tragic times may find some help in us becoming more aware, enlightened, and tuned-in to the multitude of issues and needs of our greater society and our environment. Some of these issues, to mention a few, some noted above, would be our lack of mindfulness, love, spirituality, self-absorption, greed, ignorance, and loss of connection with others and our environment.
Awareness of Duality
In past times and civilizations, there has been an awareness of duality – the way our minds compute or perceive things as distinctively one way or the other. The importance of this can be seen in the basic need for survival, where sensed items had to be distinguished as safe or dangerous, good tasting, or toxic. It is as the mental-defining of the two sides to a coin with the focus on heads or tail, rather than the whole currency.
Today an example of how this comes to the forefront is in partisan politics. As partisan democrats or republicans might see the opposition as an adversary instead of seeing the entirety (non-duality) of the governmental process and working together rather than in warfare of your favorite team against the defeat of others.
Focused on the part rather than the whole may be essential for routine life and decision. It may be necessary to pick a winning team. Still, in blind ignorance, hatred, and aggression, there is no winner, except for maybe giving an opening or advantage to a pathogen – a disease-producing agent – like an aberrant virus or ineffectual or dangerous political leader.
The most destructive or “pathologic” political leader of this century was Germany’s Adolf Hitler in the 1940s, who was instrumental in the killing of eleven million people, including six million Jews, during his dictatorship and reign of terror. He gained power during a time of economic decline and hardships with his promise to bring the German people back to prosperity and strength. See the article Remembering the Holocaust.
Escape from Ignorance
The way to prevent from being caught in blind-ignorance is by recognizing when you are caught in duality rather than being in touch or balance with a higher level of awareness and consciousness. Illustrations would be in the ability to:
See the entire reality of something, while being able to sense the incompleteness of the apparent smaller components;
Rise above the limitation of “small thinking,” “narrow-mindedness,” or biases;
Work from a place of total awareness and acceptance of all the elements in the totality of a situation;
Move forward with the loving receptiveness for all the involved parts;
Be intuitive and utilize expanded creative thinking;
Forgive the limitations or smallness in oneself and others;
Compromise to serve the needs of both one’s self and others;
Be a public servant or politicians and be above narrow-minded partisanship and the jockeying for personal advantage or gain.
Many historical religious or secular movements, teachers, inspiring public figures, and sages came to the forefront during times of significant upheaval or calamities in societies, significant shifts in needs, and inadequacy of prevailing ways in supporting human life and institutions. There always appeared to be the need and desire to be more connected or protected by a higher-order or essence than our individual, limited ways of perceiving, and doing things.
The vulnerable limitation again could be the entrapment in the limiting dualistic mode of reasoning and thinking – the basis for human decisions and actions but also the most significant contributor to the feeling of separation, inadequacy, lack, and vulnerability.
The early worship of many idols or gods might be interpreted to mean a parallel with the human condition of dualistic reasoning and mental processing, searching for multiple solutions to all the experienced elements of struggle, conflict, and vulnerability. In modern times the focus, rather than being on numerous gods and idols, has been on material acquisitions, technology, and science.
Regaining Balance and Integration
Interest has moved towards embracing the whole as well as all the known elements to restore balance and integration. Similar at least to my understanding of the unified field theory in modern physics, where the sum is greater than the parts.
In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there was the move from the dualistic nature of theology to monotheism – the embrace of a higher organizing principle or power beyond human existence, conflicts, and limitations. The unknown or unknowable was accepted in less defined concepts and terms, as the non-dualism percepts from the East, and as God in the West, know descriptively, as the Absolute, Supreme Being or Deity, the Almighty, and universal life force.
A relationship and experience of a higher reality, essence, or power were found accessible by various techniques, practices, or rituals. The influential eastern spiritual or religious movements became religious institutions in themselves, both in the East and West.
Inspiring Influences From Times of Need
The Buddha, as well as the following brief review of spiritual and secular movements, are illustrations of the powerful shift in public attitude and direction in times of need. Buddhism arose around the fifth century BCE. The transmission of early Buddhist ideas has inspired many subsequent generations of scholars and teachers. His work stood out as it evolved from other prior rich traditions in the east. A powerful message in his teachings was about the struggles and path to avoid pain and suffering, the inevitable in most people's life.
One aspect of the Buddha's teaching was the idea of sublimating or rising about the entrapments, tyranny of thoughts and senses, feelings, emotions, and perceptions. His followers hoped to gain the enlightening and transforming gift of non-dual experiential awareness, and wisdom.
Some of the taught practices were the training of the mind, the use of breathing techniques, meditation, development of inner concentration, observance of thoughts, living in ethical ways, and in community with others on the path of deliverance, liberation, and salvation. In the Buddha's time, the reference to the community was to his fellow Buddhist monks, the Sangha.
Proceeding and following the Buddha were the rich influence of Yoga, the Vedas and sacred Hindu writing, and the Chinese Taoists and Confucianism. Veda in Sanskrit means knowledge or wisdom. Yoga, meaning union or joining in the ancient Sanskrit, was a school of Hindu philosophy advocating physical and mental exercises to achieve control of the body and mind through a series of postures, breathing, and meditative exercises.
The goal of such practice was for attaining balance, health, well-being, peacefulness, clarity, liberation from the material world and conflict, spiritual attunement, and union of the individual self with the absolute Being, pure consciousness, or ultimate reality.
Taoism was the Chinese teachings and philosophy of the benefits of modest actions and minimalism and the value of a simple life close to nature. Confucianism was the teaching and philosophy of Confucius to be loving, treating others well, following good moral, and ethical way, as not profiting or taking advantage of others.
The historical development, philosophy, and teaching of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam grew likewise out of the different periods of discontent, peoples searching for deeper connection, and meaning. The demands of the day led to inspired teachers, valuable growth, and needed change.
Opportunity in Tragedy and Crisis
The opportunity in any tragedy, crisis, or cataclysmic events as the COVID-19 pandemic can be to find meaning and new direction as has occurred in the past. The emergence of new traditions and influential movements, like the few mentioned above, arose in their turbulent times of needs.
Crisis in history has led to significant new awareness, growth, and substantial shifts in the way people and their future generations live their lives. Now maybe it is the time to expand our knowledge and consciousness beyond the imbalance of over-focus on our personal needs and dualistic self-oriented thinking.
The Wakeup Call of COVID-19
Recreating balance in ourselves with all that exists in and outside of our individuality is the current challenge. The elevation into the non-dual or spiritual awareness and dimension has been what many prior generations of teachers and sages have sought to understand, master, and teach. The need to do so was particularly poignant in times of crisis or painful societal changes.
Now it seems such a time when there appears to be a greater need than our technology, science, and political solution have to offer. More is being sought to help us move through and prevent getting stuck in old ways and patterns. The need to open up to the truth, wisdom, and understanding about the current disaster, its contributors, and the preventable steps to stop future recurrence future is the wakeup call of COVID-19.
Thank you for your interest and review of this article. You are welcome to make comments below.
Ron Parks MD
If you or a loved one needs help or guidance about any mental, emotional, physical, or related spiritual health issues, consultation is available directly with Dr. Parks by telephone or telemedicine services like Skype or VSee. To schedule a session or if you need a question answered, fill in the contact form at https://parksmd.com/scheduling/. Hopefully, I will be able to correspond with you directly about questions or address them in a future article or in my periodic newsletters. see the post on Expert Mentoring
**The above is for informational and educational purposes only, not as medical or mental health advice. It is the reader’s responsibility to direct personal medical or mental health questions to their primary care provider and specialty physicians. The information and statements contained in this material are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or to replace the recommendations or advice given to you by your primary or direct care providers.
Your reliance on any information provided by Dr. Parks is solely at your discretion. You are advised not to disregard medical advice from your primary or direct care providers, or delay seeking medical advice or treatment because of information contained in this article. Management of severe mental or physical health problems should remain under the care and guidance of your primary care physicians, specialist, or psychiatrists.
Lead-in photo for the article: © Apatcha Muenaksorn/123rf.com - Wake Up Call
Other Reference and Books
Integral Meditation by Ken Wilbur, Shambhala, Boulder, 2016
Vedanta for the Western World by Christopher Isherwood, The Viking Press, New York, 2017
Buddhism, Its essence and Development by Edward Conze, Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, New York, 2003
The Essential Ken Wilber: An Introductory Reader, Shambhala, Boston, 1998
Holotropic Breath Work, A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy, by Stanislav and Christina Grof, State of New York University Press, New York, 2010
Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar, Harper Collins, 2006
Perfect Brilliant Stillness, beyond the individual self, by David Carse, Paragate Publishing, Shelburne, Vt.,2006
I Am by Jean Klein, Non-Duality Press, Salisbury, UK, 2006
Psychotherapy East & West by Alan W. Watts, New World Library; Reprint edition (February 14, 2017)
The Sivananda Companion to Yoga: A Complete Guide to the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises, Diet, Relaxation, and Meditation Techniques of Yoga, by Sivananda Yoga Center & Vishnu Devananda, Atria Books; 1st Fireside Ed edition, 2000
The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski, Flatiron Books, New York, Reprint edition 2019