I am sitting in my car, driving home from my yoga class, shaking my head. The radio is tuned to NPR and there is (another) program on about the pandemic. There have been other programs before it, there will likely be many more as we struggle to overcome what has become a struggle not with just a virus, but with our humanity.
The mystics of old, as well as the mystery schools, teach us that we are all, in essence, one. We are each a piece of a larger consciousness. A consciousness that we become somewhat (but no wholly) separated from for a period of time to learn and grow back into the return of unity.
This is the prevailing concept that drives my life. This is why I turned to the mysteries. To yoga. To studying Life, as best I can, in each moment.
To me, the concept of “oneness” includes the knowing that at our core there is love. It is the force of love that drives life into being. It is the force of love that sustains the continuation of Life, and it is the force of love that unites our separation into unity.
Even though I grew up with a very scientifically structured childhood and adolescence, there were seeds of spirituality scattered throughout. Seeds of this idea of unity and of a conscious energy that flows through all life. In the closet were decks of Tarot cards, no longer used. On the shelves, books about the divine feminism and yoga. In my household there was the prevailing, underlying knowing of this greater consciousness, even if it was largely ignored.
I studied biology (and English) at Bowdoin College. A place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. My lust for understanding Life led me to read writing by philosophers, mystical poets, and scientific texts based on logic and theories that could be tangibly proven. After Bowdoin, I went on to study, for a brief time, at Brown University. Another place filled with brilliant minds and inquisitive students. Over the course of my years studying in the field biological sciences, I worked in four different research laboratories. I ran experiments in molecular genetics at Bowdoin, and in two different laboratories at Brown. Then, when I left Brown after deciding that a career in a laboratory wasn’t for me, I took a 1.5. yr temporary position under a neurogeneticist who was getting ready to retire at Massachusetts General Hospital. Why am I telling you all of this? Because during these years I met and worked with several brilliant minds all with a shared interest of studying and understanding Life, not for mere personal gain, but for a genuine and sincere interest in making the lives of others better.
Over the years I have moved into the more mystical side of science, yet “science” is ever-present in my life. It always will be. Science is integral to who we are. We are complex molecular structures woven into complex bodies of cells, muscles, and tissues that move and operate through a matrix of energy systems. We are science, but we are also more. Pervading through these bodies of cells and atoms is a life force that sustains us and will sustain our being after our bodies return to Earth.
Life happens. Things go wrong. We get sick. We mistreat our bodies. We mistreat each other. We are human beings having a human experience. We are imperfect. That is why we are here to learn and to grow…back into unity.
This is why I am deeply troubled, as I know many of you are, by the extreme polarity that persists in our world. That stuff that seeds war, racism, hatred, and mistrust is bothersome to me. All of these aspects of our minds that move us away from unity and the knowing that we are more alike than we are different. This polarizing movement away from the knowing that we are all, in essence, seeds of the same light.
We have our individual experiences, and hence we are different from each other. Experiences, which I believe, most often extend throughout many lifetimes. Yet are are not served well from these experiences if we do not explore their effects on us and on others.
I have a friend whom I consider to be deeply spiritual. She has studied Shamanism, as well as reiki and other forms of the more mystical aspects of life for many years. And she is also college educated, with two degrees, was brought up in a Jewish household, and considers herself a follower of both the mysteries and science. Although she has a deeply rooted fear of needles (not vaccines), which may seem illogical unless you follow the thread of experiences of past-lives, she pushed through her fears and got the COVID-19 vaccine. Even though she is health-compromised from fibromyalgia, I am happy to report she is doing fine post-vaccine. There were some uncomfortable side effects a day-and-a-half, but they have passed.
I am incredibly impressed by her strength and fortitude. I admire her ability to balance a life of science and mysticism while constantly keeping her fears in check through awareness. She believes in the prevailing goodness of humanity, even though she knows we are all imperfect beings having a human experience. My friend also believes in facts and data. She knows that “numbers don’t lie,” and that the deaths from this virus have far exceeded any fear she harbored about getting jabbed with a needle. In her case, she is not afraid of the vaccine, she is afraid of the mechanism that administers it.
And she owns it. In order to understand her fear she did not divine into a conspiracy. She did not search the irrational to find an excuse. She dove into herself. This is, in my humble opinion, what defines a good Life student. My friend sought to understand herself, and in doing so, uncovered the root of her resistance to getting the jab. And in doing so, she overcame it. Not just to help herself, but because she knows that we are all interconnected. She is aware that by vaccinating herself, despite the risks of her underlying health condition, she is helping others who may be susceptible to becoming ill, or worse, from a virus.
A couple of days ago, another friend of mine brought to my awareness a recent article titled “Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine Was My Act of Ahimsa.” Ahimsa is the yogic practice of living life with the intention of inflicting as little harm as possible on other beings. It is the principle of altruism based on a selfless knowing that we are all connected, and that all life has meaning and value. The author of the article wrote this assertion after her diligent research separating facts from conspiracies and speaking with experts in the field, “It brought me right back to my understanding of ahimsa. While the concept of ahimsa’s direct command is not to kill, its wider, and more positive meaning is simple: to love.”
Unlike my friend, the author of this article was at very low risk for having any side-effects from the virus or the vaccine, yet she decided to get the vaccine as an act of ahimsa. She thought not merely of herself, but of the wholeness of humanity of which she is a part. She weighed the risks against the benefits. She explored the intricacies of science and how viruses work, as well as the vaccines meant to keep them in check. And, she overcame her personal fears to do what she considers to be the right thing for the world.
Feeding mistrust divides us. A lot of controversy spun out of this article, which appeared in Yoga Journal. Some people were outraged. Others read through their personal fears and insecurities and saw the love at the core of it. They saw Ahimsa. Sometimes life requires us to surrender to trust and faith in the prevailing goodness that unites us. Yes, there will always be those that would do harm based upon their own life experiences, but the vast majority of beings walking this Earth are striving, ever-striving, towards that reconnection with Love. Including the scientists and healthcare workers that dedicate their lives toward ahimsa.
Before I get out of my car to enter back into my home, I listen to the words of the reporter on the radio, lingering for a moment in my garage. He is talking about all those thousands of people dedicated to saving lives. In particular, various healthcare workers who are emotionally and physically exhausted from months that have now stretched past a year of trying to save lives. And he is talking about some, more than a few, who are so exhausted they are considering giving up their careers. They simply have depleted their personal supply of constantly giving of themselves in the face of death and adversity. Giving up their careers is not turning away from ahimsa, it is, sadly, instead a result of too many people not practicing its principles. We cannot do it all alone, but we can, together, live in the belief of love.