As I write, the church bells across the plaza are clanging a noisy celebration of the rising sun; another day has begun here in Mexico, a little behind everyone else but with the same alegría, the same joy as any other dawn. It’s equinox, and I’m reflecting on equilibrium. That quality that allows us to hold fast onto the delight in the beauty of a sunrise at the same time that we contemplate the abyss.
We here in Guadalajara are running a bit behind our counterparts to the north; sunrise is at 7 am, the stores are still well-stocked and the quarantine doesn’t begin until tomorrow. Coronavirus memes are flying around – “When you hear the news of the Coronavirus, remember you are MEXICAN; you survived the swine flu, you survived the end of the Mayan world, and above all, you survived the PRI and the PAN (political parties); that makes you practically immortal.” For a while, people played with the idea of closing the border to the US to protect the country from the “foreign virus” — but only in jest, as the interconnectedness of our global community is far more evident here than in the North.
People are doing their best to stay positive, and that effort is reflected in the social media. One of my favorites: “Inhale love, exhale gratitude,” superimposed on a pair of lungs made of an assortment of flowers.
Inhale love; exhale gratitude.
My daughter Tara, an acupuncturist, reminded me yesterday of the Chinese medicine precept that connects ailments of the lungs with grief. While this is a very real ailment that nobody will argue resides on the physical plane, we wondered together if this moment is an invitation to reflect on the sadness we may not have had the time to process: Individual, personal traumas and losses, but also the collective grief we are experiencing as humanity watches, helpless, as our great forests go up in flames, as our oceans succumb to contamination, as our relatives from the South are caught up in ever more tragic situations in refugee camps and shelters around the world.
The more deeply we look into the origins of recent pandemics, the more we see that they are inextricably linked with our own tragic inability to cohabit in a mutually respectful way with the other species with whom we share this Earth. Around 60 percent of the emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic — meaning come from animals — and their incidence is increasing over time. This new coronavirus is believed to have crossed over from a bat to a scaled mammal called a pangolin, kept in stacked cages awaiting slaughter in a Chinese market. But lest we think that none of this could happen in the United States, remember swine flu? That pandemic is reported to have originated in Mexico – but it actually has its origins in US factory farms. And the habitat depletion that pushed ebola-carrying bats into contact with humans is a phenomenon that is occurring with frightening speed throughout the planet. It is clearly not a coincidence that ebola spread much more rapidly in areas that had recently been deforested.
These incidents may seem random and unconnected. But this coronavirus – to distinguish it from SARS, another coronavirus believed to have originated in animals — this particular coronavirus, COVID-19, is giving us the opportunity to slow down and think. And it’s giving us the chance to consider that this pandemic – and many of the others we have experienced in recent decades – might be an urgent call from nature to reflect on the ways we are cohabiting this planet with our fellow species. To examine the ways in which our industrialized, individualistic society has prioritized anything and everything besides the intricate web of life that sustains us. And, most importantly, to change.
Going back to traditional Chinese medicine, a healthy energy (or Qi) in our lungs is associated with clear thinking, openness to new ideas and good communication. So as we do what’s necessary to keep ourselves healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally – now is the perfect time to let go of those things that are holding us back from creating the world we know is possible. Can we use this moment for transformation – to transcend the fear, and to put forward our best thinking to see how humanity can organize ourselves to coexist within that web, regenerating it rather than destroying it? Our survival may depend on that.
Meanwhile, now is the time to explore new possibilities and to get organized for what comes next. Let’s detoxify our culture, beginning with our thoughts: exhale love, let go of the fear. Breathe out gratitude for that incredible web of life, for its resilience under our tremendous assault of this beautiful planet. Breathe in love; breathe out gratitude for the human spirit of those who are risking their lives at this very moment to help those who are ill. Breathe in love, and breathe out gratitude for those who have been working for generations to establish a new way of life on the planet, one that respects the sanctity of life and the interconnectedness of us all.
Let’s use this time to give some of them a listen, shall we? Yesterday I shared this beautiful piece from Leila Dregger, a self-described peace journalist from Tamera Ecovillage in Portugal who takes a deep dive into the epidemic of fear and transforms it into much-needed medicine for our ailing society.
“Above all, there is a message of hope and certainty for the future: that we’re part of a large community of people, animals, nature and divine beings who form a unified whole, who support, help, perceive, complement and love each other. The Earth and humanity can be healed, even at this stage, and in a short time, if we humans realize and accept our real task. Love and unity are the basic substance in the alliance of all living beings – that is the good news.”
Leila is just one of a large and growing network of thinkers and leaders showing us alternatives from the Global Ecovillage Movement; the Transition Towns movement; the regenerative agriculture and land management movement; and many others. Writers like Paul Hawken, like Albert Bates, like Rob Hopkins have practically given us a road map. Regenerative, solutions-oriented media sources like Resilience.org and Yes! Magazine are leading the way. Let’s listen to the voices of the original, indigenous caretakers of the lands we now inhabit. This body of wisdom and a plethora of practical, replicable models is readily available for us to learn and activate in our own communities, and to demand from our political leaders. Let’s take this time to see how we can do that.
I invite each of you to share your own sources of inspiration, solutions and hands-on practical knowledge that we can use as we forge ahead with a new way of being, one that prioritizes life in the comments below.
It’s long past time for a transformation, and most of us know that. Let’s breathe in hope. Reflect and learn. Find our allies. And let’s breathe out action.
This is the moment we were born for.