Aren’t these interesting times?
However you feel about what’s going on, no matter what fears are being brought up, you have to admit at least that.
As I lay in bed yesterday, I had a realization that nothing has changed. The plants and animals, the bugs and microbes, the processes and physics of Nature – in their state of constant change, none of them have really changed. The only thing that has changed is our narrative, our stories about what is going on. Our stories are the primary component of our experience.
And there are so many stories! Obviously, the narratives swirling around the Coronavirus are really intense, and they bring up intense feelings within us. And these feelings guide us to whichever narratives most resonate with us, because there are so many competing and conflicting narratives!
How to make sense of it all? How do we know what is real?
How do we know who to trust?
How do we know how we should feel, and how we should act?
By now, most of us are living under “Shelter in Place” dictates. How do we feel about having one of the things many of us take most for granted, the ability to go where we please, become severely restricted?
Many of us report feeling:
- Fear for ourselves and our loved ones
- Fear of sickness and death – fear of being without essentials
- Fear of financial ruin – fear of lost opportunities
- Fear of lost liberties – fear of a very uncertain future
And these fears are all very understandable. They all arise very naturally according to whatever stories are running in our minds. In fact, the narratives we entertain correlate pretty closely with how we feel, for better or for worse.
Here are some narratives
that are currently quite popular:
“The Coronavirus is very dangerous and we should be fearful for our lives.”
“The Coronavirus is a glorified flu and our society is in a hysterical uproar.”
“The government is doing its best to keep us all safe.”
“The government is performing a grand social engineering scheme under cover of a manufactured crisis.”
“This will all blow over very soon, and things will be back to normal.”
“This is the new normal, and things will never be the same.”
“I am very concerned that I won’t have the stuff I need.”
“I am very concerned that my freedoms will be taken away.”
“Once they have a vaccine for this, we will all be okay.”
“Once they have a vaccine for this, we will all be finished.”
The one thing that all these narratives have in common is that they are victim narratives; they are all from the perspective of what is happening to us, not what we can do. What we have seen recently is that many people who usually feel empowered, have now assumed victim narratives. We have lost our sense of agency – we feel anxious, disempowered, adrift, fearful, even despairing. We are grieving.
And this is traumatic.
So what can we do?
Are we victims, or do we have some choices?
The answer is that we ALWAYS have the choice of what narratives to entertain in our minds. Shouldn’t we choose narratives that support us, rather than victimize us?
Let’s take a closer look at some of our prevailing narratives, and see whether we can gain any power over them. Let’s see if we can disempower some of these victim stories.
The narratives above fall into roughly two categories:
1) About our health
2) About how our society is responding to the crisis.
Let’s first look at the ones about health.
1) The Coronavirus Health Narratives
Is this Coronavirus super dangerous, or is it just a glorified flu?
How concerned should we be for our, and for our loved ones’, health and safety? Because according to much of the media, we should be very concerned. Is this true?
We have all seen numbers, such as 5% death rates in Italy. This seems frightening. But then we see numbers such as 0.6% death rates in South Korea, where virus testing has been much more extensive, and this seems … mundane? Consider that the average US death rate per year is about 0.8%. It is good to remember that up to 40,000 Americans die of the flu each year, yet there are no quarantines or lock-downs.
One major problem we have with health statistics, such as these mortality rates, is that they give the impression that we are all at equal risk, and that there is no agency involved. And we KNOW that this is not true. We KNOW that the effect that this virus has upon the health of a person depends upon at least this much:
a) Their underlying strength;
b) The steps they take once they get sick; and
c) Their mental attitude.
Some of us are not strong – this is true. Some of us are elderly, or have chronic diseases, or have underlying weaknesses. However, we can ALL do things to reduce the severity of this, or any other virus. We don’t HAVE to end up in the hospital (where the true problems of this virus are manifest.) Ayurveda has MANY tools in its toolbox to help us through illness or disease – we only have to use them.
So if you are concerned about your ability, or the ability of those you love, to weather this virus, please take the help of Ayurveda. New Leaf is prepared to offer anyone the tools they need at this time, or any other time. Please refer to our previous blog post for specific actions that might protect you from this virus.
Many of us relate that we are not afraid for our own health, but for the health of others. For our friend with respiratory issues, or for our aged parents, or our grandma. And that this person will not take any of our Ayurvedic or alternative health care advice. What do we do?
This is when having some sort of spiritual understanding can be very helpful. There are some basic truths that, even if we don’t like them, we cannot change. Among these are:
- Death will eventually come for everyone, and not always at the time of their choosing;
- Every person is responsible for their own actions; and
- As we sew, so shall we reap
If a person lives their life in such a way, through their food and lifestyle choices, and their neglect of preventative actions, that leads them to being in precarious health, then ultimately that is on them, much as we would wish otherwise. We should always offer our help, but it is not on us whether our help is accepted. We cannot control it.
One thing that is entirely under our control is our mental attitude. If our attitude is poor, if it is negative, if it is fearful, then the effect on our health will also be negative. How do we improve our attitude? A great place to start is to redirect our attention away from the “news”. That “news” belongs to someone else. What is your news? What would make you feel better? Step outside – be in nature. Nothing has really changed.
2) The Society Narratives
As if it weren’t enough to worry about our health, we are also being forced to witness massive changes in society around us. We are unable to do many of the things we usually do. This can be very destabilizing to our mental state, and very disorienting. Which, of course, negatively impacts our health.
- Many of us are losing income, jobs, businesses, investments. This is extremely stressful.
- We are being instructed to stay in our houses, losing human contact, keeping us away from friends, and from things we love to do and places we love to go.
- We do not know how long this state of affairs will continue, leaving us unable to plan for the future.
What can we do about this? How could we NOT feel badly?
How can we NOT feel victimized?
There is no simple answer to these questions. Everyone must navigate their own way. But here are some tips that might prove helpful.
1) The Glass Half-full Approach – All of a sudden, we can’t go to work. We can’t take our kids to school. We can’t spend hours shopping. What a blessing! All those books we’ve been wanting to crack open? All those recipes we’ve wanted to try? That daily yoga or meditation or journaling practice or garden we can’t seem to start? Those walks at the river we long for? Now is the time! We have been given a gift of that most precious of commodities – TIME. Let’s use it wisely.
2) The Unplug – Feel like being stressed-out, anxious and fearful? Turn on the TV news or open a news site. You will get your wish. DON’T feel like being stressed-out, anxious and fearful? Then DON’T turn on the TV news or open a news site. Are you afraid that you’ll miss something important? Don’t worry – everybody else in your life will be sure to let you know about it. In the meantime, enjoy creating your own narratives.
3) Nature – Seriously, get out into nature. Chances are, you live within 15 minutes of some relatively untouched nature. Rivers run through the whole Sacramento area. Get out by the river. Supposedly, we are meant to “Shelter in Place”, except for essential needs. So please consider your mental and spiritual health to be an essential need. If anyone bothers you about it, make up a good story. Get out into nature.
4) Meet the Narratives Head-on – So you really want to understand what’s going on. We don’t blame you – we really want to as well. So we will share some of our approaches, which we’ve been engaging for many years now – you might find some of it helpful.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Do – look beneath the surface. It is not paranoid to try to understand what is really going on. Every facet of our world works this way – there’s what’s visible, and there’s the reason for it. It is just as superficial to accept the world for how it appears, as it is to accept a person for how they appear.
Don’t – go to outrage. Outrage is usually not helpful. It clouds the mind and alienates people. The best way to see things the way they really are is to cultivate a certain level of detachment. This is not the same as being coldly unemotional.
Do – collect data. This is very important. There is A LOT of data out there. But we have to SEE it. Most of us are more interested in our own opinions.
Don’t – go immediately to theory. A theory is only as good as one’s data, and if all the data is not there, the theory will be incorrect.
Do – try to understand the “enemy”. By enemy, I mean those whose narratives differ from ours, and those who are planning and performing the actions we don’t approve of. Understand the actors and we can better understand what is going on.
Don’t – turn it into “Us vs Them”. We should always have compassion for the people in front of us. Everyone is trying to do what they think is best for them and those they love. But at the same time, everyone gets to experience the fruits of their actions, and of their narratives.
Do – take the long view. Look past next week. Look past next month. Look past next year. Look past next decade. Because if you don’t, you will just be living in reaction to what is happening right now.
Don’t – forget history. This is also very important. Most of us don’t even know the history we are meant not to forget. Learn what happened last year, last decade, last century. Because the playbook doesn’t change that much.
Do – watch for lies. If you catch a person or entity in a lie, doesn’t that call into question ANYTHING that comes from that person or entity?
Don’t – believe words. Believe actions.
Do – focus on what you can control or affect.
Don’t – adversely affect yourself. If your focus on what’s going on is bumming you out, stop focusing on what is going on. Life never stops being a miracle, just because a particular thing is happening.
New Leaf Ayurveda’s Perspective
Our particular view is that, while this Coronavirus pandemic is a real thing, and that some people will indeed get sick, and some of them will die, it is also being used to further certain agendas that have nothing to do with protecting the health of people. Some of these agendas involve the steady erosion of liberties we have always considered our innate right. One of our main concerns is the specter of mandatory vaccinations.
Americans consider this to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Are we free if we are forced to vaccinate? Are we brave if we allow ourselves to be coerced by fear? I can’t help but wonder whether those Americans who pushed back against the Cold War or Vietnam will wake up to their activist selves once again.
So, our recommendations?
- Keep yourself and your loved ones healthy through Ayurveda.
- Bolster your immunity.
- Eat well. Enjoy life. Walk, hike, bike.
- Take advantage of this current reality and use it to improve your life.
- But keep your eyes open and don’t glom onto whatever narratives are foisted upon you.
- Choose your own narratives. Or be open to the possibility that we have absolutely no idea what the future holds.
Let’s create a better future. Why not?