The Medicine of Silence
At these unprecedented times, we are being asked to do unprecedented things. We have been hearing a lot about big decisions being made that were never made before, such as: not coding those whose hearts go silent in the hospital if they have COVID-19 because the effects are futile and it’s better to use the physician’s talent and time on those who are salvageable. Personal protective gear that physicians need has to be re-cycled, worn over again, and in some cases, not even used at all because there is none. The Huffington Post reported on March 25th that in Spain, “out of 40,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, 5,400 — nearly 14% — are medical professionals.” Doctors are dying due to a lack of personal protective gear and overwork. Funeral homes are limited to 10 attendees in person, and the rest is “live-streamed.” This has led us into unfamiliar territory, echoing in almost Shakespearean style. We are asking things like: “To wear or not wear a mask out in public?” Wearing a mask means you’re taking it away from someone who really needs it – like a nurse in Spain. It’s the same thing with gloves, and do gloves stop you from touching your face? Then there’s the issue of groceries: how do you shop for them? In-person or delivery? Do you hoard and take away from others? Do you purchase with prudence to respect the needs of others?
Aside from the ten additional steps you have to take in your daily routine in terms of hand washing, food preparation and sanitization, taking your coat and shoes off at the door, sanitizing the doorknob and cell phone, taking your extra supplements for your immune system and staying abreast of the news – plus figuring out new technologies like zoom or how to work from home and home school your kids at the same time -that’s if you still have a job and haven’t lost it already – along with most of your retirement income. It’s been an exhausting few weeks at one level. Aside from the incredible financial losses, there have been big losses of celebration too – such as Olympians who planned their whole life long for this one event, senior prom, weddings, symphonies, and performances.
It’s also been a time of innovation, re-connection, and people offering service and support – at very low cost or free.
Legal, mandatory rules that restrict and slow down the things we need are being lifted while others are being put in place, such as the one we all share at this moment, “Shelter in Place.” Some restaurants have turned into community kitchens. There are free yoga classes and meditations online. Evictions are not allowed if someone can’t pay rent. The American Osteopathic Medical Board announced yesterday that they are waiving mandatory continuing medical education and board examinations for physicians in order for them to be licensed - faster. Labs for COVID-19 are being fast-tracked through the usual arduously slow process of approval by the FDA (more on that in future newsletters). Spiritual teachers are spreading their offerings in unprecedented ways. Normally relegated to a select few closed groups of spiritual devotees, they are opening their doors to the general public. There’s no holding back.
As we take things more seriously with social distancing, wearing masks, and the thousand-fold trip to the wash basin - let us also “wash our hands” of the things that no longer serve us as a human race.
Let’s take some responsibility.
There are millions of fingers pointing at the virus –how to kill it- and how to stop the spread. We are so good at pointing fingers. Of all the things I’ve listened to, I particularly enjoyed the epidemiologist Alanna Shaikh’s Ted Talk titled “Why COVID-19 is hitting us now and how to prepare”. Not a physician but a reporter with a Master’s in International Health who has for 20 years led epidemiology efforts ranging from the Ebola outbreak to the transmission of tuberculosis and influenza preparedness. In her talk she explains that the SARS-COV-2 virus that is the cause of COVID-19 disease exists because of “human behavior”. The human behavior she is speaking of is that in which we have invaded areas of wilderness where we shouldn’t. If we continue to invade nature in the way we have been, we will see more of these types of pathogens.
To listen to her 15-minute Ted Talk:
We must release our fear of “infectivity rates.” I have my own theory, which is not proven, but I will share it with you now because it makes the most sense to me. Viruses do one thing well – they spread. They embed in our DNA. In fact, they do this so well that we have a human virome, which is made up of 380 trillion viruses in our bodies. Human endogenous retroviruses comprise greater than 8% of the human genome. These viruses can remain dormant or become active. Take a moment to think about a disease we are all familiar with – shingles. From the Mayo Clinic, “Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.”
To get a glimpse of the extent of viruses that are already deeply embedded in our bodies listen to this video at the National Institutes of Health up to time 11:11 from Harvard physician:
You will see that not all viruses are BAD. In fact, some help our immune system as they relate to the complexity of our bodies.
In my research on viruses, the immune system, and pandemics, I came across the term “exosomes” as a particular way a virus, when agitated, begins to come out of the DNA it’s quietly and silently been resting in. Like a sleeping dragon that gets stirred awake, viruses can raise their fiery breath by forming exosomes which extrude as micro-vesicles outside the cell and spread.
After learning from the message of epidemiologist Alanna Shaikh, along with the exosomal phenomenon of viruses I was never taught in medical school but am just now exploring, I can see the link between our human behavior that has agitated the natural world and that of viruses in bats and other rare animals as the penultimate connector between the human population feeling the effects of our raping of mother earth. By “raping of mother earth” I’m alluding to chemtrails used in the sky as part of geoengineering. I’m referring to the invasion of genetically modified seeds into our agricultural systems and the unending addiction to oil, regardless of wind and solar alternatives. As Sayer Ji says so perfectly, “Both exosomes and viruses may actually be responsible for inter-species or cross-kingdom communication and regulation within the biosphere, given the way they are able to facilitate and mediate horizontal information transfer between organisms. When we start to look at viruses through the lens of their overlap with exosomes, which as carriers of RNAs are essential for regulating the expression of the vast majority of the human genome, we start to understand how their function could be considered neutral as “information carriers,” if not beneficial.” From Sayer Ji’s article in GreenMedInfo, here is a brief 3 min. video explaining exosomes.
Shift Your Attitude: With the recent prolongation of “Shelter in Place” and the awareness that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, many of us are being forced into a sort of Monkhood. We can’t reach for our vices anymore: sports games, theater, musical venues, bars, shopping, multiple travel adventures, being immersed in a workaholism, drowning in sensual delights of delicious restaurant-served cuisine. We are – at home- with our fears, our boredom, our fatigue, and our closest relationships. Whether COVID-19 came from a leak in bio-warfare or whether it came from the bat infected animal at a wet market or both, the truth is we as a human race have been aware of an imbalance between the natural life forms (record high numbers of species of animals have been becoming extinct in the past couple years) and our human activity. Our big concern before the coronavirus hit has been CO2 emissions and Global Climate Change as we have reeled from the effects of fires, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. If Greta Thunberg could’ve thought up the perfect witches’ spell to put on us – the Coronavirus would be it. We stopped – finally. So, no matter how COVID-19 gets solved, the truth is we needed to stop. This never happened before on the planet. So, go with it. Take this incredible time to look inward at the actions, behaviors, and thought patterns in your life that you must stop and what you can replace them with. What are those ways of being that restrict you, that zap your energy, that are unnecessary?
Silence brings deep restfulness, and from silence comes awareness, the door to awakening. Before you embark on the numerous decisions we have coming up to face, most of which are deeply practical and foundational, take some time while most of the world has stopped to do your own internal inventory, to come to a place of stillness, to deeply rest and be open to the birth of some way of being that you haven’t had the skill or permission to experience in your life.
Finally, from Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese poet and philosopher:
From the “Tao by Lao Tzu” – 16
Create emptiness up to the highest!
Guard stillness up to the most complete
Then all things may rise together
I see how they return
Things in all their multitude:
Each one returns to its root
Return to the root means stillness.
Stillness mean return to fate.
Return to fate means eternity.
Cognition of eternity means clarity.
If one does not recognize the eternal
One falls into confusion and sin.
If one recognizes the eternal
One becomes forbearing.
Forbearance leas to justice.
Justice lead to mastery.
Mastery lead to Heaven.
Heaven lead to TAO.
TAO leads to duration.
All one’s life long one is not in danger.
Resources I have found helpful at this time:
6 min. long sound meditations with spoken word: https://transformance.global/
My fellow Catholics: https://dailycatholicgospel.com/sign-up-daily-gospel
Non-denominational emotional/spiritual support: https://www.mirandamacpherson.com/