The way most of our nation states responded to the threat of covid19 gave a whole new meaning to the proverbial saying, “No man is an island”.
The title of a famous essay John Donne wrote in 1623, as he faced serious illness, it is also a manifesto against isolationism.
In what reads like a meditation on the cycle of life and death, Donne reflects on the interconnection of all things and how :
“Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind”
He tells of how nothing can actually control, and diminish this de facto human interconnection. For in times of emergency—notice the agency of emergence— such as the one we live in, the contingent situation distills for each of us in particular ways that the ‘we’ of sentient living is what really, truly matters.
‘Cela met en exergue' as we say in French or it creates space for truth to arise, to come to light.
In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, this expansive phenomenon is called an inhalation. As the whole body reveals itself to itself through the expression of this slowly emerging wave-like current it highlights areas of shadow and light, constriction and slack, health potency variations and tissue, fluid patterns.
Right now this is where I feel I’m at in my resonance with the wider perceptive field. In the relational field between my shaken “I” and the general Breath of Life, “I” have found the ground of stillness and “I” am shifting from seeking to settling, while my body’s emotional and physiological response is unveiling truth after truth, layers after layers in my being.
Our inherent Health naturally orientates towards a state of balance. This process can take some time especially when what we deemed ‘normal’ is thrown asunder and our busy, often stressful, daily routine suddenly crashed to come under stark review.
So how do we emerge from this derailment of the “I” to find our axis, to seek a renewed sense of our organising midline in an apparently streamed down world? How do we relate, reorient in these pretty much unprecedented circumstances?
How do we reconcile with this new set of ‘truths’ and trust our awareness to surrender to this state of ‘I don’t know”?
Did you know that an inhalation in French is called an “inspiration”? Let me tell you the story that inspired my inhalation, which I hope you will find inspiring.
Since the Irish government decided to close schools and universities and began to unroll isolating measures on 13th March last, I have danced between an overwhelm of information activating my sympathetic autonomic nervous system and a deep yearning for parasympathetic spaciousness, silence and settling into the resulting recess.
As my craniosacral work came to a standstill, it took me some time to recover from the initial loss of this essential resource and to hold with kindness and compassion the ensuing grief, anger, fear and doubtful disarray.
A treasured practice based on touch, personal presence and contact, was now paused for who knows how long and I had to reconsider, adjust and ultimately accept this new perceptive field.
I was shocked and overwhelmed by the immensity and scope of this new deal and felt quite disempowered at once by the lack and the excess of information available.
I did not know what to believe and how to navigate this unknown, and I could no longer write either, losing another clarifying and illuminating resource.
One of my first reactions was to throw myself into a powerful social media vortex, which confused and activated me even more, but also thrilled me for it offered the chance to ride this sweeping viral tsunami among family, friends and colleagues in my craniosacral and conscious dance communities.
I took comfort in the many free events and workshops transported from the physicality of place to a virtual worldwide zoom stage. I was in awe of the digital world swiftly demonstrating and exulting in its extraordinary resourcefulness.
The flip side of this ‘frenzy’ of online activity was my yearning for stillness, and parasympathetic down regulation.
I wished to immerse effortlessly in what resulted in a much simpler, much slower environment, with only the bare essentials. I longed to escape and disentangle myself from the grip of the ambient fear, anxiety and even panic of these early days of loss, adjustments and reevaluations.
For when I listened within, attuning to my “silent partner” —as Rollin Becker calls the internal motions, rhythms and patterns of our inherent health flow— I could sense my interoceptive awareness sharpening to a subtler elemental connection with a natural world itself adjusting to a quieter, stiller sense of place, its vibration enhanced and potentised.
It took Charles Eisenstein’s essay —which appeared about two weeks after the World Health Organisation officially declared covid19 a pandemic— to decisively ignite my midline and burst this ‘nervous’ bubble of enforced confinement where I floated between a social media spree and the solid earthly ground.
If you have not read it yet, please read The Coronation (https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/).
It is a call to action, to embrace what he sees as an initiatory time rich in possibilities for the worse and/or for the best to arise. A gestating time during which what we choose to keep or let die matters like never before. For this episode may lead to a birthing of unparalleled magnitude.
I sensed it like many of us did before reading Eisenstein, but my feelings of helplessness were compounded by the daily count of deaths and the soaring numbers of people affected by covid.
Away from the tragic data and the controlling and disempowering lockdown, beyond the right and wrong, the true and the fake, and the good and evil of this emergency, Eisenstein invites a sense of perspective in a world starved of it due to sheer lack of space.
His writing oozes calm and is beautifully forceful. He dares to ask, “what world shall we live in?” after this subsides.
He says,“There is an alternative to the paradise of perfect control that our civilization has so long pursued, and that recedes as fast as our progress, like a mirage on the horizon. Yes, we can proceed as before down the path toward greater insulation, isolation, domination, and separation. We can normalize heightened levels of separation and control, believe that they are necessary to keep us safe, and accept a world in which we are afraid to be near each other. Or we can take advantage of this pause, this break in normal, to turn onto a path of reunion, of holism, of the restoring of lost connections, of the repair of community and the rejoining of the web of life.”
This inspiring, clear, and hopeful plea is also triumphant in tone, with a language ascending along its own inhaling midline to a crowning conclusion: “Novel coronavirus pandemic” means “a new coronation for all.”
“A true sovereign does not run in fear from life or from death. A true sovereign does not dominate and conquer (that is a shadow archetype, the Tyrant). The true sovereign serves the people, serves life, and respects the sovereignty of all people. The coronation marks the emergence of the unconscious into consciousness, the crystallization of chaos into order, the transcendence of compulsion into choice.”
These words touched me as powerfully as a biodynamic craniosacral session. As primary respiration resumed I regained my resolve. I could relax in my resources, I began to write again and attuned to living with this evolving ‘normal’, surrendering to this potent transition.
I noticed on my daily walk how people replaced cars and local subsumed national on my street and in my town, allowing for a restoration of community as this slower pace of life brought “Us” to light.
I, within this renewed ‘we’ have settled into a different sense of time too, as life without a workplace unburdens itself of the stress of commute and traffic, creating space for something new, something else to emerge.
Like a field gone fallow to let the soil replenish itself naturally, let it rest and breathe at its own rhythm, we have indeed been given a chance to pause and reset.
This crowned virus is a portent to warn us that no matter how much we try to control, curtail and surveil, there is ultimately no one in charge but a greater mystery way beyond our grasp.
It is also a powerful portal through which reorganisation and reintegration of us humans within the greater web of life on earth can unfold, if we choose to listen deeply within and let go of our growth-fixated patterns.
Earth knows best, it always has and will continue to do so without us. But right now we belong here. We are not apart, we are an inherent part of this wild and beautiful enmeshment of the living.
This virus has shown us that we can die to our old destructive ways and awaken a creative and soulful engagement in harmony with the natural world.
We can trust in our innate capacity to heal together and let this time inspire us to become a co-creator within this powerful emergence.
In his creative response to the potentially isolating power of sickness, John Donne resonates with his relationship to land and mankind:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.”
Will this portal medicine inspire you to surrender to this new relational field with Mother Earth?
The fact that this virus affects our breathing, the common thread that unites all sentient beings is no mere coincidence in my view. It alerts us to the choking to death of our environment and points towards its antidote: the restoration of conditions that would facilitate a spacious and harmonious respiration with Earth.
Will we listen in to the wonderful ebullience of this Easter Spring time and dare to imagine and manifest a new kind of holding, one that facilitates the fuller expression of our Breath of Life in unison with Earth's?